McClatchy reports a "Democratic antiwar proposal that would have cut off funding for combat in Iraq by next June was blocked 70-28 in the Senate on Thursday. Twenty Democratic senators and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent Democrat, joined 49 Republicans in voting against shutting off debate on the proposal, effectively killing it." Even though "the 20 Democrats favor ending US involvement in the war, many have said they feared that shutting off money could harm the troops." Martin Kady II writes in The Politico (9/21, Kady) that "it was clear" that the amendment, authored by Sen. Russ Feingold, "was going to be rejected by a significant margin." But the bill had the effect of alienating "moderate senators who are looking for bipartisan compromise on changing the mission in Iraq. Only 28 Democrats voted for the legislation, meaning nearly half the caucus voted against Feingold."
Along the lines of similar media analysis the last few days, the AP reports that "despite a small group of challengers to the war, the GOP largely has stood behind Bush." The Los Angeles Times reports, "Slouching in a chair in his Capitol suite Thursday afternoon," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made little show of hiding his frustration over the defeat of Democrats' latest bid to rein in the Iraq war. 'The power of the White House was too much,' the Nevada Democrat said glumly." Although "Reid and other senior Democrats pledged to keep working on legislation to force an end to the 4 1/2 -year-old war, none offered any new ideas on how to outmaneuver a president who has derailed every effort this year challenging his wartime leadership."
The New York Times notes that "even before the vote on Thursday, the Democrats began articulating the message that is likely to be their mantra for months: the Republican minority in the Senate is defying the will of a majority of Congress and a majority of Americans by blocking legislation to hasten the end of the war." The Washington Post and Washington Times run similar reports. The Christian Science Monitor, meanwhile, quotes Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, saying of the Senate votes, "Now, Bush will wage the war as he sees fit right up until his last days, period."
Tribal Alliances With US Military Spreading Throughout Iraq USA Today reports on its front page this morning, "Most of the major tribes in a strategic province northeast of Baghdad have signed agreements to support US and Iraqi forces, a sign the alliance-building initiative that started in Anbar province is spreading." In Diyala province, "tribal leaders representing 20 of the province's 25 major tribes have signed agreements brokered by the local government, said Army Col. David Sutherland, a brigade commander there." The "shift has led to more tips from citizens and a reduction in violence, the US military says. Weekly attacks in Diyala province have declined from an average of 125 three months ago to 70 last week."
Moreover, the Wall Street Journal reports in its "Washington Wire" section that in an interview, Defense Secretary Robert Gates "observes the Mahdi Army may be making same mistakes that caused Sunnis to turn against al Qaeda. 'The excesses of force and violence...may have caused people to start to think,' he says. Though it's too early to tell whether that will happen in majority-Shiite country, he adds, "this is one of those things...just bubbling under the surface."
The AP reports the Senate yesterday voted 72-25 "to condemn an advertisement by the liberal anti-war group MoveOn.org that accused the top US military commander in Iraq of betrayal. ... The ad's headline was: 'General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House.'" The resolution, "sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, drew opposition" from Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd." Sen. Barack "did not vote on that measure." But "minutes earlier, he did support an alternative, by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that condemned the ad as well as previous attack ads that questioned the patriotism of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., both Vietnam veterans." The New York Times reports Sen. Barack Obama "issued a statement" calling the Cornyn resolution "a stunt," but skipped the vote. And the AP notes Sen. Joe Biden "did not vote on either resolution."
The Hill says the Cornyn resolution "put Democrats in a bind by forcing them either to endorse an attack on the commanding American officer in Iraq or else condemn a group that raises and spends a lot of money to benefit liberal causes and candidates, is close to the Democratic leadership, and is playing a big role in the presidential nominating contest." The 72-25 vote "split the party caucus nearly in half. Twenty-two Democrats joined every Senate Republican and one independent in denouncing MoveOn's newspaper advertisement against Petraeus, while 24 Democrats and one independent voted against the non-binding resolution." The Washington Times and The Politico run similar stories.
MoveOn, meanwhile, is apparently coming under some criticism from Democratic ranks. The Washington Post reports that in an e-mail to its members "last night, the group acknowledged that the content of the ad might have angered its own allies but argued that a larger issue is at stake. 'Maybe you liked our General Petraeus ad. Maybe you thought the language went too far,' they wrote. 'But make no mistake: this is much bigger than one ad.'" MoveOn "turned its criticism squarely back on the Senate, accusing it of 'spending time cracking down on a newspaper ad' after failing on Wednesday to pass a bill lengthening the home leaves of US troops fighting in Iraq, a bipartisan measure that some regarded as pressuring Bush into limiting the redeployment of US forces." The Post continues, "Many Democratic strategists were privately furious at the group for launching an attack on a member of the military rather than Bush, arguing that it gave Republicans a point on which to attack the Democrats and to rally around the administration's war policy."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports, "It looked for a while as if MoveOn.org had become one of Hollywood's favorite liberal advocacy groups, especially for those looking for a place to express their antiwar sentiments without incurring a lot of unfavorable publicity." But no more. Last week "when MoveOn ignited controversy by issuing an ad attacking...Petraeus," entertainment industry "politicos began to wonder if the group had gone too far and in fact become a liability for the largely Democratic Hollywood crowd."
Bush Stokes The Fires President Bush yesterday did all he could to keep the controversy alive. NBC Nightly News reported that while "otherwise subdued" during a White House press conference, "the President came alive when asked his views about that Moveon.org ad attacking General David Petraeus last week. ... Sensing he could use the ad to question Democrats' support for the troops, the President tried to keep the issue alive today, accusing Democrats of being too afraid of MoveOn to speak out." The AP notes Bush "criticized Democrats for not immediately condemning the MoveOn.org ad" against Gen. Petraeus, "which he called 'disgusting.'" ABC World News showed Bush saying, "I thought the ad was disgusting. And I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the US military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad."
During his press conference yesterday, President Bush reiterated his opposition to the Democratic proposal to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, also called SCHIP, by $35 billion. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Bush "favors a $5 billion expansion, which the Congressional Budget Office said would reduce current enrollment." What was different was the tenor of his comments. The President, says USA Today, issued his veto threat while "sharpening a political confrontation in a way that one Republican senator called disappointing." Said Bush, "Members of Congress are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they score political points in Washington." Moreover, said Bush, the Democratic bill would "raise taxes on working people." The President was referring to proposed increased in cigarette taxes.
The SCHIP bill has significant GOP backing. Among them, the most vocal in his criticism of Bush's remarks yesterday was Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The Hill notes Grassley said, "his voice rising with anger," that Bush's "understanding of our bill is wrong. ... I urge him to reconsider his veto message based on a bill we might pass, not something someone on his staff told him wrongly is in my bill.'" GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, who also "lobbied Bush to rescind the veto threat," said he "was still hopeful that the president would reconsider. 'They misconstrued what our compromise bill does,' Hatch said." Under the headline "Veto Threat Angers Republicans," the Washington Post quotes Sen. Gordon Smith, "I'm very, very disappointed," and Rep. Ray LaHood, who "said he is trying to get 20 to 30 House Republicans to vote for the compromise -- enough, he hopes, to persuade Bush to reconsider." Martin Kady II, in The Politico, also notes the GOP lawmakers' complaints.
With House and Senate passage considered more than likely, the question on everyone's mind is whether Bush will be able to get enough GOP support to sustain his expected veto. Yesterday, the Financial Times reported, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "said he was confident he could win enough Republican support to get the necessary two-thirds majority to override Mr Bush's veto."
The Financial Times notes Bush "signalled a 'philosophical divide' between Republicans and Democrats over federal health spending. He sought to portray the Democratic proposed expansion in children's health insurance as a Trojan horse that would lead to a European-style government-run health system." Said Bush, "Democrats have decided to pass a bill that they know would be vetoed. ... Democratic leaders want to put more power in the hands of government by expanding federal healthcare programmes. It's an incremental step towards government-run healthcare for every American."
Democrats were quick to hit back. The AP quotes Sen. John Kerry saying, "The president hides behind the word "federalization" because his political base opposes doing what is decent and humane." The Washington Times notes "Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, called Mr. Bush's veto threat 'a cruel threat to needy children.'" And House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said, "The question before the president really comes down to this: Will you stand with American children who through no fault of their own are uninsured, or will you go back on your own campaign promise and deny them coverage?"
The New York Times puts the debate in the context of a wide spending battle between Bush and Congress. With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, "Mr. Bush and Congressional Democrats are headed for a showdown over spending similar to the one that preceded the government shutdown of 1995." Democrats, meanwhile, "are trying to force Mr. Bush into the uncomfortable position of vetoing a bill covering 10 million children before any spending bills reach his desk." Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said yesterday, "They thought they were going to get a fight on spending appropriations, and what they're getting is 10 million children's health care. ... Sept. 30 is the deadline on kids' health care. We're going to meet that deadline and he's going to get a chance to side with 10 million kids or not."
All three network newscasts reported on the SCHIP debate, with coverage that tended to reflect poorly on the President's position. The CBS Evening News, for example, focused on Christina Brassi, who "is taking her baby daughter to a doctor at Harlem's Milbank Health Center in New York. The 10-month-old is one of more than 6 million poor kids nationwide covered by the state children's health insurance program, or SCHIP." Speaker Pelosi was shown saying, "The President is alone in his opposition to this legislation. ... The President is saying, I forbid 10 million children in America to have health care." In a similar report, ABC World News profiled Susan Dick, who "depends on the so-called SCHIP program for her two sons, both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance too high for Medicaid."
The Chicago Tribune (9/21, Silva, 607K) suggests Bush's remarks come a response to healthcare proposals by a leading Democratic White House hopeful, "Just days after Sen. Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a splash with her own health plan," Bush "abruptly called a press conference to strike back against Democrats' assertions that he is indifferent to children's health needs." The "increasingly vocal fight over health care, in Washington and on the campaign trail," reflects the public's "growing anxiety over the cost and availability of medical coverage."
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Five Democratic candidates gathered yesterday in Iowa to debate issues of concerns to seniors at a forum hosted by the American Association of Retired Persons. Notably absent from the event was Barack Obama. The AP reports the candidates "pledged during an AARP forum Thursday night to spend more on health care and bolster retirement programs crucial to politically potent seniors." All five "pledged to protect Social Security, revamp Medicare's prescription drug program and expand home health care programs. They also promised to provide universal health care but rejected a Canadian-style single payer plan."
The Wall Street Journal says the Democratic hopefuls "agreed far more than they disagreed. ... Universal health care seems all but assured of being a priority in Washington should a Democrat win the 2008 election."
The Politico, however, reports the candidates "took a few pointed shots at each other," even as they "refused to take a stab at one of the major looming factors of the event: the absence of Sen. Barack Obama." Sen. Chris Dodd "moved to blunt Clinton's claim that her previous experience put her ahead of her rivals. 'It's not enough to talk about efforts that were made and failed,' he said. 'It's not required on-the-job training.'" The Washington Post reports Obama's absence left "the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), to draw fire from the rest of the field." The "sparks flew" as "Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) warned that Republicans will attack any new Clinton health-care plan with a campaign similar to the 'Harry and Louise' ad blitz that helped sink her 1993 effort." The Post adds, "With less than four months left until the first ballots are cast in the Democratic primary contest, the candidates are running at full throttle. Perhaps the boldest move was Obama's. By skipping the debate to raise money and campaign elsewhere, he risked the ire of Iowa voters and particularly seniors, who typically make up most of the state's 100,000 or so caucusgoers."
The New York Times notes Gov. Bill Richardson "called for improved preventive care, especially for diabetes and Alzheimer's disease." The Chicago Tribune reports Biden "was most outspoken in challenging his rivals. At one point, Biden criticized Richardson for touting his record as governor of a small state as a way to predict what he could do as president, contending it was the equivalent of saying, 'I played halfback when I was in high school, [so] I can play in the pros. It's a different deal.'"
The Cedar Rapids Gazette also says "there are few major differences" between the candidates' health care proposals, and quotes Biden saying, "It's not the plan. ... It's the man or woman pushing the plan. If you look at all of our plans, there's not much difference.'" The Gazette notes "debate organizers did not invite Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel to the forum because neither has an active campaign in Iowa." A similar forum for Republican candidates "is set for Oct. 25 in Sioux City."
Obama's Absence Called Missed Opportunity In a blog posting on the website of the Des Moines Register, David Yepsen chides Obama for failing to appear at the debate, expressing dismay at "a guy who is as articulate and poised as he is" failing to debate. "That's not a smart move for a guy who is locked in a close race for first place in the caucuses and who trails in national polls of the race. He's acting like a frontrunner when he's not."
No Clear Health Care Winner Seen In an analysis piece in the Sioux City Journal, Todd Dorman writes that the forum "didn't give caucusgoers a clear answer" as to which candidate was most likely to be able to midwife a universal health care program, adding, "No candidate emerged as a hands-down winner or loser in Thursday's 90-minute, televised forum. The contenders exchanged compliments more times than they exchanged shots. And on one of the central issues of the night -- how best to expand health care insurance coverage to all Americans -- it seemed at times like the rivals had exchanged notes."
Rudy Giuliani will test his appeal to GOP-leaning groups that are not necessarily inclined to support him when he addresses the National Rifle Association today. ABC News reported on its politics blog that Giuliani said yesterday he "plans to focus on the subjects they both agree upon. 'The reality is, that there are certain agreements and disagreements with every single group. So tomorrow when I go before the NRA I am gonna emphasize the areas in which we have a great deal of agreement,' said Giuliani. ... Giuliani said he planned to share with the NRA's members the details of his plan to reduce criminal gun use. 'I think right now the best approach is to focus on what can be done on the state and local levels to deal with criminals who use guns,' explained Giuliani."
It might be a tough sell, though. Long Island Newsday reports that Giuliani's "past record as the Republican Party's biggest gun-control booster will make it almost impossible for him to win broad support, activists say. In fact, a scheduling coincidence Friday shows just how hard it is for Giuliani to escape his past: He speaks to an NRA meeting...the very same day his 2000 lawsuit against gun-makers goes before a federal appeals court in New York.
One of Giuliani's opponents is looking to make hay on the issue. The AP reports John McCain "lobbed a thinly veiled attack" at Giuliani yesterday, "describing the former mayor's 'devious' attempt with a lawsuit 'to bankrupt our great gun manufacturers.'" In his speech prepared for delivery to the NRA today, McCain "refers to a lawsuit by Giuliani and other mayors against the gun industry, to Giuliani's shifting Second Amendment position and to Giuliani's use of the term 'extremists' in relation to the NRA." McCain says in those remarks, "My friends, gun owners are not extremists; you are the core of modern America."
Three new polls out from key states this morning show Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton on top of their respective primary field. The Miami Herald reports that a new Mason-Dixon telephone survey of 400 likely Florida GOP primary voters conducted Sept. 17-18 shows Giuliani leading the GOP field with 24%, followed closely by Fred Thompson with 23%. Mitt Romney is in third with 13%, followed Sen. John McCain with 9% and Mike Huckabee with 6%. The results from the Democratic race were not released.
In Michigan, the Detroit News reports that a Mitchell Interactive statewide survey of 441 likely Michigan Democratic primary voters shows Clinton leading the Democratic presidential field with 33%, followed by Sen. Barack Obama with 20% and John Edwards with 17%. The News notes, "Among card-carrying unionists, Clinton was favored by 28 percent, while Obama netted 23 percent and Edwards 22 percent. Among nonunion members, Clinton also came out on top with 35 percent backing, compared with Obama's 19 percent and Edward's 15 percent." No results were released for the GOP race.
The AP reports that a Public Policy Institute of California telephone survey of 455 likely California Democratic primary voters shows Clinton leading the Democrats with 41%, followed by Obama with 23% and Edwards with 14%. On the GOP side, the survey of 353 likely California Republican primary voters shows Giuliani leading with 22%, followed by Romney and Thompson with 16% each and McCain with 15%.
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Jay Leno: "When asked about that tasering incident the other day, John Kerry said first he was for the tasering but then he was against it."
Conan O'Brien: "Yesterday, at a campaign fundraiser, Hillary Clinton criticized Vice President Cheney and called him 'Darth Vader.' That's right. Yeah, Cheney...denied it and said, 'Darth Vader is evil, half machine, and always wears a cape. And I don't wear a cape.'"
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