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Jason Linkins


Bill O'Reilly Goes 5150 In Nashua, Unnerves Secret Service   |  Jason Linkins   |   January 5, 2008 at 10:04 PM

Petulant celebrity blowhard Bill O'Reilly went nuthouse at an Obama rally earlier today, shoving an Obama aide while trying to get the Illinois Senator's attention, no doubt to ask him if he had any "M-Fing iced tea." As a result, O'Reilly earned himself a talking-to from the Secret Service, and will probably lose any shot at gaining custody of Britney's children as well.

O'Reilly, speaking to Fox News, says that he had to "gently remove" Obama National Trip Director Marvin Nicholson after Nicholson supposedly blocked O'Reilly's cameraman from getting a shot of the candidate. O'Reilly denies there was either a scuffle or a rebuke from the Secret Service, but, according to reports, this isn't true. Eyewitnesses told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet that O'Reilly was "screaming" and "yelling", that he "grabbed Nicholson's arm and shoved him," and that the Secret Service "told O'Reilly he needed to calm down and get behind the fence-like barricade that contained the press."

According to reports, Obama didn't see any of this happen, and he and O'Reilly later exchanged pleasantries, all of which can be seen in CSPAN's official Zapruder film of Bill "No one on this earth is going block a shot on the O'Reilly Factor" O'Reilly wildly puckering up to the candidate's backside. Obama manages to extricate himself before getting too sexually harrassed.

Sam Stein


GOP Candidates Come To Bury Obama, And To Praise Him   |  Sam Stein   |   January 5, 2008 at 09:11 PM

In a sign of his new status as the ordained Democratic frontrunner, Sen. Barack Obama became a key topic of discussion in the Republican presidential debate on Saturday evening. Towards the end of the 90-minute forum, host Charlie Gibson pressed the GOP candidates to discuss how their agendas differ from Obama's.

The question presented a somewhat difficult quandary for the Republicans, in part because Obama has based his candidacy on his ability to draw bipartisan appeal, but mainly because Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has long served as the GOP boogeyman.

Nevertheless, they took their whacks -- but with several, sometimes subtle, compliments intertwined.

Mitt Romney quickly drew policy distinctions between himself and the Illinois Democrat. "Obama wants to let government to take over health care," the former Massachusetts Governor declared, "that will break the bank."

But Romney, who like Obama has turned his campaign into a referendum on Washington insiders, pivoted from there into a general commentary on Obama's appeal. "It's a message of change," the former Governor said. "I've lived it in the private sector. I've brought [change] to company after company."

Sen. John McCain quickly interjected, taking a swipe at his chief opponent in the New Hampshire primary. "Governor Romney, we disagree on a lot of issues," the Arizona Republican said. "But we agree on one issue. You are the candidate of change."

Romney responded by listing all the experienced Democrats in the presidential race who Obama "blew away in Iowa" and cautioned McCain that experience was not the end-all and be-all of the presidential election. "You are going to have to have a person..." Romney started to say, before McCain cut him off. "This isn't an Iowa Democratic Party we are talking about," said the Arizona Republican, a Cheshire cat-like grin on his face.

Rudy Giuliani then weighed in, offering his tested line: unlike him, Obama had no experience running a city, a government or even a business.

Finally Mike Huckabee, who has been framed as the Republican parallel to Obama's candidacy of change, weighed in. "I think there were would be significant differences [between us] on the second amendment, the sanctity of life," the Arkansas Republican declared. "I also think there would be fundamental difference on taxes, fundamental differences on national defense.... I can go through a whole litany of things."

But Huckabee then turned around and offered a bit of praise.

"We have to recognize that what Senator Obama has done is touch on a core of what America has done," he said. "America is looking for vertical leadership that looks up not down.... He has excited a lot of voters in this country and lets pay respect for that.

"We better be careful as a party if we don't give people something to be for, and not just things to be against, we are going lose the next election," Huckabee said.

Sam Stein


GOP Candidates Snipe Over Foreign Policy   |  Sam Stein   |   January 5, 2008 at 08:07 PM

Read More: GOP Debate

Saturday's Republican debate at Saint Anslem College became extremely heated at the very onset.
Pressed to detail their positions on President Bush's foreign policy, the GOP candidates initially sought to one-up each other, with all the candidates -- save Rep. Ron Paul -- applauding President Bush's policy of preevptive war, advocating for expanded military spending, and warning of the "transcendent" threat of radical Islam.

But the exchange then tipped over into a passionate and personal tit-for-tat between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee - the second and first place finishers in last week's Iowa caucus respectively. Citing an articled the former Arkansas Governor recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, in which he highlighted missteps in Bush's policies in Iraq, Romney asserted:

"The president is not arrogant. The president is not subject to a bunker mentality. He has acted out of his desire to keep America safe and we owe him a debt of gratitude."

Moments later, Huckabee responded by accusing Romney of not having truly read his article before adding that Romney himself had once been favor of a phased withdrawal from Iraq, a position which he know disavows. The argument boiled over into a quick-witted exchange.

Romney: Governor don't try and characterize my position.

Huckabee: Which one?

(In the press room, "ohhhh"s and howls reverberated.)

Rudy Giuliani sought to outflank the rest of the GOP field by specifically calling for a drastic expansion of America's armed forces. Blaming President Bill Clinton for siphoning down the army's numbers, Giuliani declared that he would add at least ten combat brigades and 200 ships to the navy. "This president should do it now, if I'm president I will do it immediately."

But Giuliani saved his most forceful comments for religious extremism in the Muslim world. "They've perverted their religion into a hatred of us," he said. "Our foreign policy is irrelevant, totally irrelevant, if you read what they write if you bother to listen to what they say, this comes out of their own perverted thinking."

Taking up his repeated role as a thorn in Giuliani's side, Rep. Ron Paul took great umbrage with the former New York City mayor's assertion. "Why do they not attack Canada," he asked, "why don't they attack Switzerland?" Earlier in the night, Paul had been the lone candidate to criticize President Bush's foreign policy of preemption, something that former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson and others said they supported.

"The Bush doctrine of preemptive war is not a minor change, it is huge," Paul said. "This is the first time that as a nation we accept as a policy that we start the wars."

Through it all, Sen. John McCain, who has trumpeted his support for the surge of troops in Iraq and offered swooning praise for Lt. General David Petreaous, remained relatively silent. Occasionally a smile could be detected on his face and he would snicker.

As others gently tiptoed around whether the fully endorsed the policies of President Bush, the Arizona Republican noted the fact that there had not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. "I'd like to give President Bush a little credit," he briskly stated.

Thomas B. Edsall and Sam Stein


Dems, GOP Face Off In Key New Hampshire Debates   |  Thomas B. Edsall and Sam Stein   |   January 5, 2008 at 07:03 PM

Manchester, N.H. - Hillary Clinton went on the attack against Barack Obama at the Democratic presidential debate Saturday night, but she ran into a tough push back not only from the Illinois Senator but also John Edwards, who took Obama's side and lashed out at her as an agent of "the status quo."

For Clinton, the forum provided her only real chance to stall Barack Obama's momentum before the January 8 state primary. Initially she appeared very cautious, as all the candidates conducted a sober discussion of nuclear and terrorist threats in which there was much more agreement than conflict.

But then, when the discussion turned to domestic policy, Clinton shifted gears to accuse Obama of holding three different positions on federal health care, of voting for the Patriot Act after promising he would vote against it, and of failing to call for federal health insurance that would cover everyone with no exceptions.

Clinton cited a news story contending that Obama "could have three pretty good debates with himself" on health care. "You've changed positions within [the past] three years on a range of issues," Clinton said. In the second half of the debate, she tried to tarnish Obama's claim to be a candidate who will severely constrain the power of lobbyists, noting that Obama's New Hampshire co-chair, Jim Demers, lobbies the New Hampshire legislature in behalf of the pharmaceutical and financial services industries.

"You've changed positions within three years on, you know, a range of issues that you put forth when you ran for the Senate, and now you have said you would vote against the Patriot Act. You came to the Senate; you voted for it. You said that you would vote against funding for the Iraq war. You came to the Senate, and you voted for $300 billion of it," Clinton declared.

Obama did not appear ruffled by the Clinton assault, stronger than her past rhetoric, and tried to discuss in detail the rationale for his position on health care, but then Edwards stepped in to make a much more aggressive defense both of Obama and himself:

"We [Edwards and Obama] have a fundamental difference about the way you bring about change. But both of us are powerful voices for change. And if I might add, we finished first and second in the Iowa caucus, I think in part as a result of that. Now, what I would say this: Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. That's exactly what happens," Edwards said, clearly identifying Clinton with the status quo.

In a second clear reference to Clinton, Edwards said, "I didn't hear these kinds of attacks when she was ahead."

"I want to make change, but I've already made change," Clinton countered forcefully. "I'm not just running on the promise of change, I'm running on 35 years of change."

As the tension rose, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who was largely on the periphery of the debate, remarked, "Well, I've been in hostage negotiations that are a lot more civil than this."

Watch the exchange:

With just 20 minutes left in the Democratic debate, Clinton revived her attack on Obama, this time challenging his credentials as a reformer:

"You know, the energy bill that passed in 2005 was larded with all kinds of special interest breaks, giveaways to the oil companies. Senator Obama voted for it. I did not because I knew that it was going to be an absolute nightmare....So, you know, words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action."

Clinton sought to contrast her record with Obama's. "I've been an agent of change. You know, you go back 35 years, you know, I worked to help make the case for the law that, thankfully, required that public schools give an education to children with special needs. I worked to reform education and health care in Arkansas against, you know, some pretty tough odds."

Obama did not directly address her accusations, and countered, instead, by asserting that words do matter: "I think we're in one of those moments right now. I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes; not incremental changes, not small changes.... the truth is, actually, words do inspire, words do help people get involved, words do help members of Congress get into power so that they can be part of a coalition to deliver health-care reform, to deliver a bold energy policy."

In a compliment that amounted to a backhanded slap, Obama said "I actually give Bill Clinton enormous credit for having balanced those budgets during those years. It did take political courage for him to do that. But we never built the majority and coalesced the American people around being able to get the other stuff done."

At the Republican debate that preceded the Democratic forum, Mitt Romney, who arrived determined to reverse John McCain's rise in recent polls of New Hampshire voters, found himself repeatedly on the defensive.

The former Massachusetts governor was ridiculed for his past changes of positions, forced to defend a Massachusetts program that requires people to buy health insurance -- the kind of government mandate anathema to many of the conservative Republicans Romney is trying to win over -- and accused of spending a fortune on negative ads "that are not true."

The stakes were high for Mitt Romney tonight, who, after getting walloped in Iowa, is struggling to slow McCain down. Romney will have a second shot at McCain during the FOX-sponsored debate Sunday.

Tonight did not go well for Romney.

First, after former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee charged that Romney has shifted back and forth between criticizing and supporting President Bush's policies in Iraq, Romney, seeking to take command, warned Huckabee, "Governor, don't try to characterize my position..." But before Romney could finish, Huckabee, famous for his one-liners, shot back, "which one?" as the audience and the rest of the Republicans on the debate panel burst out laughing.

Later on, Romney was put under cross examination by former Watergate counsel Fred Thompson, who questioned Romney repeatedly about the Massachusetts health care program enacted while Romney was governor.

"Will your federal plan mandate that people buy insurance?" Thompson asked, knowing that he had found a conservative weak spot in Romney's years in Massachusetts. Looking defensive, Romney said his federal play would "not require any state" to require people to buy health care, but, he said, he believes the only way to bring costs down is to make everyone who makes a lower middle class income or better to buy insurance.

When Romney tried to accuse McCain of providing amnesty to illegal immigrants, McCain shot back, "It (the McCain bill) was explained to you and you said it was reasonable and did not require amnesty....You can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, and it still won't be true."

Then, when Romney contended that the Associated Press has misquoted him in a story describing him as supporting the McCain bill, McCain said "well, when you change from position to position from time to time, you will be misquoted."

Later, as Romney portrayed himself as a candidate of change, McCain told Romney, "We agree on one issue, you are the candidate of change."

An hour before the first of two debates was to begin at Saint Anselm College, CNN and WMUR of New Hampshire released a poll showing Clinton and Obama locked in a dead heat, 33-33, with John Edwards well behind at 20 percent. Despite the poll, at campaign events, the momentum appears to be overwhelmingly behind Obama, who is drawing huge crowds of highly enthusiastic supporters, while Clinton's events are far more modest in numbers and energy by comparison.

A Concord Monitor/Research 2000 poll released just before the debate had very similar results, Obama 34, Clinton 33.

One of the biggest shifts in the CNN/WMUR survey conducted Friday and Saturday was in the ratings of Clinton and Obama's electability in the general election next November 4. Thirty-six percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said Hillary has the best chance of winning the general election in November, down nine points from her 45 percent score in a poll taken before the Iowa caucuses.

Obama virtually tied Clinton at 35 percent, but -- more significantly -- his electability rating had climbed 13 points from the pre-caucus survey.

On the Republican side, the CNN survey show McCain taking the lead, with 33 percent, and Romney, who for months had topped New Hampshire polls, now second, six points behind at 27 percent. The Concord Monitor poll was very similar, McCain 35, Romney 29.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was third in the CNN survey, but far behind at 14 percent, followed by Mike Huckabee, the Iowa winner, with 11 percent, and Ron Paul at 9 percent. Fred Thompson, who was once considered the savior of the conservative movement in the GOP, got only 1 percent, tying Representative Duncan Hunter.

Check out HuffPost's comprehensive on-the-ground New Hampshire coverage here.

Sam Stein


Bill Clinton's Controversial Role Is Subtext At Campaign Event   |  Sam Stein   |   January 5, 2008 at 04:51 PM

Amherst, N.H. -- As he took to the podium today in the Souhegan High School gym to advocate on his wife's behalf, questions swirled as to whether former president Bill Clinton was a campaign blessing or burden.

Following Sen. Hillary Clinton's third place showing in the Iowa caucus, much discussion has been devoted to what, exactly, had been at fault in her White House strategy. And as detailed in several media accounts, including the Associated Press and the New York Times, some of the blame has been cast Bill Clinton's way.

"The profile of Bill Clinton isn't necessarily an ideal backdrop for a campaign in which change is emerging as the coin of the realm and Hillary Clinton is swapping slogans by the week," the AP's version went.

Inside the school auditorium, the same topic was focus of much discussion. The consensus that seemed to emerge, from interviews with onlookers, political observers, and even former office holders, was that Bill Clinton could be both hindrance and help.

"Clinton has a love-hate relationship with the public," offered Jay Bradford, the former president of the Arkansas State Senate who had traveled to New Hampshire to campaign on Sen. Clinton's behalf. "When it's a love relationship he does nothing but help Hillary. When it is a hate relationship he should not be visible. Right now, in New Hampshire, it's a love relationship."

Don Saballus, a 69-year-old Democrat from Maryland who had come to New Hampshire to check out the scene, said: "It seems to be that he and Hillary may be diverging and that can be difficult to determine who is right and who to follow. He is the star. A lot of people would like to see him in the White House and probably would have voted for him for a third term if they could have. But now, it's eight years later. Do people still hold those feelings?"

Frank Luntz, the renowned Republican consultant and messaging guru saw a similar mixed bag with Bill Clinton's campaign presence.

"In almost every case there is a positive reaction in term of communication on her behalf," he told the Huffington Post. "But there is a little bit more of a split when they start talking about things they don't want to remember about the 1990s. In the end, he is a better communicator for her than she is."

Indeed, as Luntz and the AP hinted at, President Clinton propensity to delve into his own accomplishments - while in the process of championing his wife's - tends to prove problematic for her attempts to be framed as an "agent of change." On cue, during his roughly hour and ten minute address to the audience, the former president repeatedly referenced his own resume when touting Senator Clinton's.

Asked about the worsening situation in Kenya, he declared, "I worked with Kenya, I have a big project there;" before offering Hillary's position on ending the violence in the country.

When the topic of global warming came up, he said, "I was shocked when I found out she knew more about climate change than I did, since I was doing it for my foundation."

And when he lauded Hillary's economic credentials by positing that, economically, "she still think that arithmetic counts for something," he pivoted quickly to his own successes in balancing the budget.

But for all the back-and-forth focus on his years in the White House, Clinton did draw and captivate the crowd. More than 1,700 people showed up, according to Clinton's spokesperson Matt McKenna, and two hundred - including journalists Walter Isaacson and Joe Klein - were left outside because of a lack of seating.

Dozens of students sat on a bleacher in the back with their legs dangling off the ledge because no chairs were available. Ovations frequently interrupted his speech and question and answer session. This was the third of Clinton's five events during the day.

Bill Clinton did not directly mention Senator Barack Obama, his wife's chief competitor for the nomination. "I love this Democratic Primary," he said. "I don't have to be against everybody. We've all been elections were we held our nose and voted one way just because we didn't want the other candidate to win. I don't feel that way." But he did on occasion offer a subtle jab at the Illinois Democrat. "Do you want the feeling of change," he rhetorically asked, "or the fact of change?"

There was one sequence where he took what is perceived to be Obama's campaign rallying point - the ability to bridge partisan divides - and applied that attribute to his wife, noting her work with Republicans on issues such as reforming adoption laws, climate change and even defense policy.

In all, the crowd, still warm to Clinton from his go around in the New Hampshire primary in 1992, responded with enthusiastic and positive reviews.

"I think he helped her today," said Carrie Small, a 29-year-old native of New Hampshire. "I think she's a strong candidate herself and to have two strong leaders in the White House. You can't get much better than that."

Check out HuffPost's comprehensive on-the-ground New Hampshire coverage here.

Thomas B. Edsall


Hillary Faces Uphill Climb With Young Voters   |  Thomas B. Edsall   |   January 5, 2008 at 04:00 PM

Durham, N.H. -- Hillary Clinton had planned to address two of her liabilities today -- her dismal level of support among young, well-educated voters, and her image of impermeability -- by holding a Q&A session with University of New Hampshire students, but her campaign entourage was, uncharacteristically, two hours late, sorely testing the patience of the 20 or so students waiting for her.

When Clinton did finally pull into the parking lot in front of the Bagelry here, Clinton told the remaining assembled students: "I particularly want to give young voters a chance to ask the questions they have," noting that the debate tonight is sponsored by Facebook, the networking site heavily used by students.

Clinton sought to portray her campaign as a vehicle for idealism, offering young voters the chance to participate in a crusade similar to the one Barack Obama now is seen as leading: "One of the reasons I am running for president is I love this country and I don't want to see it sort of slip away from us," she said. Clinton described in detail her efforts helping to negotiate a peace agreement in Northern Ireland and her work encouraging provision of services for refugees in Macedonia.

Over and over again, the former First Lady returned to the theme of youth.

In a critique of the Bush administration's tax and spending policies, Clinton warned the gathering that "the way the Bush policies will play out, this [the deficit and national debt] is all going to be dumped on you, the young generation."

Similarly, she told the students -- far outnumbered by members of the press and her staff -- that "if you look at the income data, this is the first time young people are on a trend to not do as well as their parents....we've got to get the economy producing jobs again."

With only three days to go before the New Hampshire primary, Clinton faces an uphill struggle, with long odds against making substantial inroads into Obama's support among young voters, if the Iowa results are any guide. As an indicator of the generational divide at work, Obama got his degree from Harvard Law School in 1991; Clinton graduated from Yale Law School in 1973.

Network entrance polls from the January 3 Iowa caucuses showed Barack Obama crushing Clinton by a 5 to 1 margin, 57-11, among voters aged 17 to 29, a development that has become particularly damaging this year, with Iowa demonstrating that young voters are turning out in far higher percentages than in past contests.

Sam Stein


Ailing 9/11 Workers Confront Giuliani In New Hampshire   |  Sam Stein   |   January 5, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Finishing a disappointing sixth in the Iowa caucus and staring down a similarly poor result in New Hampshire, Rudy Giuliani has yet another problem on his hand.

Before Saturday's GOP debate, several members of the 9/11 recovery effort will be stationed outside the forum petitioning the former New York City Mayor to discuss the mishandled health safety issues following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The protest coincides with and promotes a new short video by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, which uses the testimony of these 9/11 workers to detail the dangerous conditions and serious illnesses encountered at the recovery site.

Still today, many suffer from violent coughs, severe asthma, and pulmonary and mental health issues. Giuliani, the workers note, is not responsible for their sicknesses, but he did not sufficiently warn about the hazards at the site and, more importantly, has done next to nothing to help the thousands who are suffering from recovery-related ailments.

"The hypocrisy of running a campaign on a 9/11 agenda and you have these people still dying and becoming much sicker then they were a year or two years prior is really insulting," Alex Sanchex, a janitorial worker, says in the film.

Greenwald told the Huffington Post: "These first responders are not blaming Rudy for being sick, they are asking why he has done nothing to help them since they got sick. They want to meet with him and ask what he is going to do to help them. They have tried to call and meet with him. Nothing. He who is Mr. 9.11 has abandoned the real heroes of 9/11."

More than 2,000 New York City firefighters have been treated for serious respiratory problems following their work at the World Trade Center recovery site. Toxic dust from that area has been directly linked to sarcoidosis, a debilitating disease that FDNY members now develop at five times the rate they had previous to working around the toxins.

Following the Democrats takeover of Congress in 2006, hearings were held to determine what went wrong in exposing these firefighters to such porous conditions. Much blame was laid at the feat of the then-EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman. Subsequently, several investigations have called into question the extent of Giuliani's knowledge and handling of the hazardous 9/11 site.

According to the New York Times, in the aftermath of 9/11 Giuliani "seized control and largely limited the influence of experienced federal agencies" during the clean up effort, but "never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators." Moreover, the paper added, Guiliani "warned companies working on the pile that they would face penalties or be fired if work slowed."

But what has drawn the ire of the recovery workers is not what Giuliani did in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11, but rather how he has seemingly forsaken their plight in favor of focusing on his business and political careers. Giuliani, Greenwald notes, has offered no assistance to other New York elected officials in efforts to lobby the federal government for funds for victim treatment. He won't even meet with the victims themselves.

"The fact of ignoring those who sacrificed the most while he profits and profiteers from 9/11 is a scandal and is disgusting," the filmmaker said.

The remarks echoed those made in the film by Mike McCormack, a USAF Auxiliary Civil Air Patrolman: "After he left office, you may have to turn in your key to the city. But I don't believe turning in your moral compass and responsibility to people who trust you. That shouldn't fall at the wayside."

This is the third Giuliani movie made by Greenwald and Brave New Films. The first looked at Giuliani's decision to put New York's terrorist response center in the World Trace Center complex - a known and obvious terrorist target. The second focused on Giulaini's failures to upgrade the faulty radios used by FDNY members on 9/11.

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