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  |   February 15, 2013    5:29 PM ET

The story revealing that FreedomWorks produced a video with an obscene scene featuring a giant panda, Hillary Clinton, and oral sex created quite a stir and, according to former officials of the influential tea party group, had staffers at the conservative advocacy group and super-PAC "freaking out," as one put it.

  |   February 4, 2013    9:42 AM ET

Message to the Republican Party: Be afraid, be very afraid.

MATTHEW LEE   |   February 1, 2013    7:42 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is leaving office with a slap at critics of the Obama administration's handling of the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. She told The Associated Press that critics of the administration's handling of the attack don't live in an "evidence-based world," and their refusal to "accept the facts" is unfortunate and regrettable for the political system.

In her last one-on-one interview before she steps down on Friday, Clinton told the AP that the attack in Benghazi was the low point of her time as America's top diplomat. But she suggested that the furor over the assault would not affect whether she runs for president in 2016.

Shame on You, Goldman Sachs. Now Here's Your Bonus

Robert Scheer   |   February 1, 2013    4:46 AM ET

Here's a get-out-of-jail-free card, and while we're at it, take this obscenely huge bonus for having wrecked the economy. As the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program pointed out in a devastating report this week, "excessive" compensation was approved by the Treasury Department for the executives of the three companies that required the largest taxpayer bailouts to survive.

In a stinging rebuke of Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department, the report "found that once again, in 2012, Treasury failed to rein in excessive pay." Whopping pay packages of $5 million or more were allowed by the Treasury Department for a quarter of the top executives at AIG, General Motors and Ally Financial, the former financial arm of GM.

But that's nothing compared with the $21 million for last year's work garnered by Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, which is now free of TARP supervision. In addition to his paltry $2 million in salary, Blankfein received a $19 million bonus for his efforts. Not quite the $67.9 million bonus he got in 2007 before the market crash that his firm did so much to engineer, but times are still hard.

Goldman was the training ground for Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, the two Treasury secretaries who did their best to grease the skids for Wall Street hustlers. It was Rubin under President Bill Clinton who pushed to get the law changed to allow investment banks like Goldman to become commercial banks, and it was Paulson under President George W. Bush who permitted Goldman to take advantage of that loophole and partake in the low interest Fed money available to the commercial banks. Throw in the AIG bailout that allowed the passage of billions of dollars to Goldman, and you get the picture.

What you may not know, and file this in the gallery of the terminally shameless, is the role of James A. Johnson, the longest serving director of Goldman Sachs and chairman of its compensation committee that awarded Blankfein his outrageous bonuses. Before being named a director at Goldman, Johnson served as the CEO of Fannie Mae when the once public-spirited federal housing agency joined forces with Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and other mortgage scam artists in initiating the great housing bubble.

Back in 1996, Johnson had named Mozilo to be chair of Fannie Mae's National Advisory Council, and together they cooked up a deal in which Fannie Mae came to rely on Countrywide's proprietary CLUES software for short-circuiting the mortgage qualification process. Thus was born the housing mortgage debacle that to this day has haunted the economy.

Countrywide announced its "Strategic Agreement with Fannie Mae" in a press release that all but predicted the subsequent housing crisis:

The objective is to expand markets to accommodate more customers and streamline loan processing in order to reduce the upfront cost of homeownership. This entails increased acceptance of Countrywide's proprietary CLUES underwriting technology, greater usage of short form appraisals, expansion of streamlined loan products, flow sales for expanded criteria loans, and guideline waivers.

That history became inconvenient back in 2008, when Democratic candidate Barack Obama picked Johnson, a lifelong Democrat, to head the search for a vice presidential candidate. Turns out Johnson was one of the beneficiaries of the new streamlined loan processing system, being what was known inside Countrywide as a "friend of Angelo," entitled to fast-track approval on loans. As a result, Obama had to drop him, but not so Goldman Sachs, where Johnson had landed as a director and remains today as the chairman of the firm's compensation committee.

They do flock together, and so it makes perfect sense that Johnson would approve the enormous bonus for Blankfein. In the end, it doesn't matter whether these folks are Democrats or Republicans, nor whether they are operating at the highest levels of government or banking -- they take care of their own. It is the new model of crony capitalism that must have Adam Smith turning in his grave, for it has nothing to do with free-market performance.

The invisible hand of that primitive and pure free market so celebrated in the folklore of capitalism as the essence of efficiency and productivity has been replaced by the all too visible hand of the fixer, who can combine government power and corporate profits to game the system. Yes, visible. Just observe how easily folks such as Rubin, Paulson and Johnson move through the revolving door between corporate and government power undeterred by critical media notice. And now it is Geithner's turn.

PHOTOS: Hillary's Best Moments Abroad

Eline Gordts   |   January 31, 2013    3:21 PM ET

On Friday, Hillary Clinton is handing over the keys of the State Department to John Kerry, and at least in one respect, Mme. Secretary's legacy will be hard to beat.

Clinton is the most traveled Secretary of State in the department's history, having covered a record 956,7333 miles over the course of her four-year term.

CBS explains that Clinton broke the record formerly held by Madeleine Albright, who led the State Department from 1997 to 2001. Albright took 96 trips during her term, while Clinton made more than a hundred visits abroad.

And in those trips, there sure were some magical moments: Hillary hugging Sarkozy; Hillary surrounded by handsome Indian men; Hillary dancing in Malawi; Hillary dancing in South Africa; Hillary in Kenya -- dancing, again.

Take a look at Hillary Clinton's best moments abroad in the slideshow below. We wish her lots of sleep (and very little jet lag) in the coming years.

DAVID BAUDER   |   January 28, 2013    5:26 PM ET

NEW YORK — With limited time and the unusual nature of a dual appearance with President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CBS' Steve Kroft said Monday said he thought it important to focus on their professional relationship instead of specific questions about world events.

Kroft said CBS was surprised when the White House suggested the appearance a little more than a week ago. The interview was conducted Friday and aired Sunday on "60 Minutes."

Luke Johnson   |   January 23, 2013   11:39 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility," said Paul. "I think ultimately with your leaving that you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that."

"Had I been president and found you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable," he said, referencing Clinton's comments that she had not read all of the documentation surrounding the attack.

"I think we can understand you're not reading every cable," Paul said. He added that he didn't suspect Clinton of "bad motives" but said that it was a "failure of leadership."

Clinton responded, "I am the Secretary of State. And the [Accountability Review Board] made very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined was set at the Assistant Secretary level and below."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) rebuked Paul in the next exchange. "If some people on this committee want to call this tragedy the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4000 plus Americans lost in the War in Iraq under false pretenses."

All Good in the Hood: Hell's Kitchen

Yvonna Russell   |   January 11, 2013    1:27 PM ET

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Our 9th Avenue Stiles Market is closing. As luxury high-rise buildings grow around the ethnically, culturally and economically diverse Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, many small businesses have closed or relocated. We have some delicious newcomers: Casellula, Merilu Pizza al Forno, Totto Ramen, Bar Centrale, and Shorty's. But I want to give a shout out to the old spots in the hood. Amy's Bread has great breads and so much more. This time of year the line outside her shop goes down the block for her yummy fragrant soups, sandwiches and salads.

A great spot for watching games and kicking back burgers and beers, Mr. Biggs's is the neighborhood bar. The owner Scott Sternick annually hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone in need. Everyone has a favorite pie at Little Pie Company. Mine is the Apple Walnut Sour Cream pie heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Hell's Kitchen has many Thai restaurants, but I love the tiny Olieng Thai. Decorated in American memorabilia, The Cupcake Café is the place to sip cappuccino or coffee and indulge in the beautiful butter cream frosted cupcakes or cake. Tucked on the of side 51st Street near Tenth Avenue, Ezra Cohen presides over Azuri Cafe in his tiny space that seats 10 people max. Ezra serves the best and freshest falafel plates to a loyal following. Insatiable Critic Gael Greene stopped by recently.

Scentelate shelves carry the finest in aromatherapy, fragrances, incense and collectible Lampe Bergere. The go to guy for bike repair is Enoch at his 10th Avenue shop, Enoch Bikes. Fresh Cut owner Robert McKinnon designs beautiful floral arrangements for the table, event or terrace. Raconteur Jean Claude is the host of the glamorous Chez Josephine serving French, American and soul food cuisine in an opulent setting. Classic Frankie and Johnnie's Steakhouse is the place for a great macho dinner. Go to El Azteca for the lethal margaritas and shrimp tacos. Owner Pat Robustelli has the best New York slice at Pateriza.

Any diva or hairdresser will tell you Ray's Beauty Supply is the spot for hair products, equipment and worth the trip for sale bins of nail polish and beauty products. I almost hate to share Blossom Salon but love the chicas who excel at hair care with deep conditioning treatments, hair color and roller sets at affordable prices. Sea Breeze Market has the freshest seafood in the city. Westerly Natural Market stocks the best in organic and natural foods, supplements and products. Restaurant 44 & X is cool and elegant with delicious signature American cuisine and excellent wines. Check it out and add your suggestions below. I'm going out now. Writing this post has made Mama hongray!

  |   January 2, 2013    5:30 PM ET

BY JOSH LEDERMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been speaking with staff and reviewing paperwork from the New York hospital where she is recovering from a blood clot in her head, the State Department said Wednesday.

Doctors continue to monitor Clinton's progress and her response to blood thinners intended to dissolve the clot. Aides said there was no update Wednesday on her condition, but emphasized that the secretary remained engaged with staff in Washington who are handling U.S. foreign policy in her absence.

"She's been quite active on the phone with all of us," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Clinton was admitted Sunday to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment of a clot stemming from a concussion she suffered earlier in December. While at home battling a stomach virus, Clinton had fainted, fallen and struck her head, a spokesman said. Clinton, 65, hasn't been seen publicly since Dec. 7.

Clinton was photographed Wednesday getting into a black van with her husband, Bill, daughter, Chelsea, and a security contingent to be taken elsewhere on the sprawling hospital campus.

Doctors found the clot, located in a vein that runs through the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear, during a follow-up exam and began administering blood thinners. Her physicians said Monday that there was no neurological damage and that they expect she will make a full recovery.

Sidelined by her illness for most of December, Clinton was forced to cancel scheduled testimony before Congress about a scathing report into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and was absent on Dec. 21 when President Barack Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to succeed Clinton when she steps down at the start of Obama's second term, as had long been planned.

But Clinton had expected to return to work this week and had already started to resume regular phone contact with her foreign counterparts. On Saturday, the day before the clot was discovered, Clinton had a half-hour conversation with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy to Syria, in which the two discussed the state of affairs in that civil-war-torn country, Nuland said.

Also on Saturday, Clinton spoke by telephone with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, discussing recent developments in Syria, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

Clinton's doctors said they planned to release Clinton from the hospital after the proper dose for the blood thinners had been established, and doctors not involved with her care say it's likely she will have no long-term consequences from the clot. But it remains to be seen whether she will be able to return to work before she resigns as secretary of state.

The illness has also raised questions about Clinton's political future and how her health might influence her decision about whether to run for president in 2016, as prominent Democrats have been urging her to consider. Clinton also suffered from a blood clot in 1998, midway through her husband's second term as president, although that clot was located in her knee.

  |   January 2, 2013    4:31 PM ET



WASHINGTON, Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was discharged from a New York hospital on Wednesday after being treated for a blood clot near her brain and her doctors expect her to make a full recovery, the State Department said.

Clinton, who has not been seen in public since Dec. 7, was at New York-Presbyterian Hospital under treatment for a blood clot behind her right ear that stemmed from a concussion she suffered in mid-December, the department said on Sunday.

The concussion was the result of an earlier illness, described by the State Department as a stomach virus she had picked up during a trip to Europe that led to dehydration and a fainting spell after she returned to the United States.

"Secretary Clinton was discharged from the hospital this evening. Her medical team advised her that she is making good progress on all fronts, and they are confident she will make a full recovery," Philippe Reines, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said in a statement.

Reines said Clinton was "eager to get back to the office."

Earlier, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily briefing Clinton had been talking with her staff by telephone and receiving memos.

Clinton also spoke to two foreign officials - the U.N. envoy on Syria and the prime minister of Qatar - on Saturday, the day before the State Department disclosed the blood clot and her stay at the hospital.

In a statement released by the State Department on Monday, Clinton's doctors said she was being treated with blood thinners and would be released from the hospital once the correct dosage had been determined.

  |   January 2, 2013    3:21 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is speaking with staff and reviewing paperwork while she continues to recover from a blood clot in her head.

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Clinton has been "quite active" on the phone Wednesday with State Department aides. She says doctors will continue to monitor her progress.

Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday and is being treated with blood thinners to dissolve a clot in the vein behind the right ear. Doctors found the clot during a follow-up exam stemming from a concussion she suffered in early December.

Clinton's doctors say there was no neurological damage and they expect she will make a full recovery.

UPDATE -- 4:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this post cited reports that Clinton had left the hospital. NBC News confirms those reports are untrue. This post has been updated to reflect that the Secretary of State is still in the hospital.

  |   December 28, 2012    1:24 PM ET

On Dec. 15, two doctors for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement through the State Department saying that she was ill:

Nick Wing   |   December 27, 2012    1:34 PM ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should testify on Capitol Hill regarding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on the anniversary of Sept. 11 earlier this year that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"Last month, while on a trip to Peru, Secretary Clinton said she that she took full responsibility for the events in Benghazi. I take her at her word," Rubio wrote in an op-ed on Fox News. "As the nation’s top diplomat, she should therefore appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in both open and classified hearings."

Clinton had been scheduled to testify before Congress earlier this month, but after she came down with a stomach bug and eventually fainted and suffered a concussion, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted that Clinton's aides take her place.

Kerry and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have since both announced that they still expect Clinton to testify before their respective panels sometime in January.

Two deputy secretaries of state, Thomas Nides and William Burns, testified before both Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees last week, following the release of a scathing report that blasted the State Department for "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies," and debunked a number of right-wing allegations of gross negligence by the administration as the crisis unfolded. After Clinton issued a statement thanking the board for its "clear-eyed, serious look at serious systemic challenges," Nides and Burns described to the congressional panel a list of steps the department planned to take in response to the report.

But Rubio writes that the release of the report and subsequent testimony by State Department officials on its findings should not excuse Clinton from being asked to testify on the incident. Clinton is expected to step down from her position sometime in early 2013, leaving Kerry, Obama's recently announced nominee for secretary of state, to take the reins if the Senate confirms him, which it is expected to. Rubio said he wants some clarification from Clinton before that happens.

"She should explain why her department failed to adequately secure the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi and what her personal level of knowledge was of Libya security deficiencies, warnings about which Deputy Secretary of State William Burns testified were circulated to the highest levels of the State Department, presumably including Secretary Clinton," Rubio wrote. "More importantly, Secretary Clinton should elaborate on how the State Department plans to fix the broad systemic failures that the Board identified."

Realigning American Politics: Towards a Mass Party of the Center

Van Gosse   |   December 23, 2012    3:05 PM ET

Like a fog slowly clearing, we can perceive the slow-motion realignment of American politics towards a mass party of the center. This emerging formation, the Clinton-Obama remaking of the Democratic Party, will almost certainly dominate politics and policy at the federal level and in most major states for the long-term. If this is the new reality, the left had better adjust its sights. Above all, let's stop the furious agonizing about an ultra-right, Christian Right, Tea Party, Koch-Brothers-and-Karl-Rove take-over: it ain't happening, get over it, move on.

The mass party of the center, birthed 20 years ago by Bill Clinton triangulating his way into a "socially-liberal" version of neoliberalism (or what used to be "liberal Republicanism" in the days of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney) has been brought to fruition by Barack Obama's savvy Chicago apparatchiks. Consider what they have achieved:

The Democratic Party has won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections;

It has reduced the Republican Party to a pathetic replica of the pre-New Deal Democrats, relying on white votes in the Solid South and the rest of rural America where Dixie flags and country music dominate, along with poverty and nativism (with the obvious difference that the Obama machine is making that America a lot less solid);

At the presidential level, Democrats now have a lock on nine of the top 15 states defined by GDP (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Washington, Maryland), and of the remaining six, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia are turning blue, while Texas and Georgia alone remain deep red (North Carolina seems to be the purple wild card right now);

Forget states, whole regions are gone for the Right. Except when they get lucky or run RINOs, the entire Northeast is Democratic, as is the West Coast. Since Reagan, their white hope has been the Midwestern heartland, but Obama again shut them out of every Midwestern state other than the traditionally borderish Indiana and Missouri.

Anyone can read these numbers. Indeed, the Democratic tilt of major states, regions, the cities, and most of suburbia has been growing ever more obvious for some time, but no one has had the nerve to call it a realignment. Why not? What is realignment, anyway, and why should you care?

The term derives from the eminent political scientist Walter Dean Burnham, who argued long ago that the American political system since the 1790s has pivoted on a handful of "realigning" elections, when huge swathes of the electorate moved in one direction, undergirding long-term majorities for one party -- Republicans after 1896; Democrats after 1936, and so on.

For decades, the not-so-New Right has pursued its own realignment, and rightward-trending and just trendy pundits have bought into their propaganda that the big shift was about to happen. In fact, it was always just about to happen, whether in the defection of the vaunted Reagan Democrats to the Gipper, or Rove's grand plan to sew up Latinos and so-called "soccer moms." But at no point has the U.S. ever come close to a lasting realignment to the Right. Each of their big victories -- in 1984, 1994 and 2004 -- was followed immediately by sharp defeats (losing the Senate in 1986; Clinton's crushing Dole in 1996; the Democratic sweep of 2006). Now, in the aftermath of Obama's sequential system-wide victories, encompassing every region and popular vote majorities, we see the real realignment towards a socially progressive, center-right, post-Fordist party, with one foot in neoliberal orthodoxy (think Summers and Geithner), and the other in what's left of the "functionally social-democratic" base (think Ohio and Michigan, where nationalizing the auto industry in 2009 secured national victory in 2012).

So where does that leave those of us who define as left, whether in, out, or in-denial regarding the Democratic Party? Begin with a basic premise: the tectonics of generational and demographic change have decisively moved U.S. politics to a new kind of center, commanded by those who now lead the Democratic party. Carefully marshaling an array of constituencies, from Ph.D.'s to janitors, these new men and women of power have decisively trumped the ultra-right's hopes of rolling back the twentieth-century's progressive gains. And with powerful financial machines of their own and nationwide networks of personal loyalty, the Obamaites have also largely displaced the older party and union structures that got out the Democratic vote. Remember the "Friends of Bill" back in the 90s? They were merely the precursors of the thousands of dedicated organizers recruited into Obama's permanent campaign since 2006.

Is there any room for the left as we have known it, other than as dutiful acolytes, tiptoeing around the table of power, or impotent critics, standing on the sidelines? Certainly Occupy points the way to how savvy, spectacular protest can galvanize the national discourse, but surely we can do better than that. What would an American Left look like? That's the real question. Stay tuned.