US Politics

  Democrat Biden Enters Presidential RaceJanuary 31, 2007 13:40 Sen. Joe Biden officially joined the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday, arguing that his years in public life had prepared him to navigate "an incredibly challenging time for our country."

The Delaware lawmaker, who has said for months he'd be a candidate in 2008, filed papers Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission to establish a campaign committee. It is the second presidential bid for Biden who pursued the White House in 1988.

"This administration's mishandling of the war in Iraq may be the greatest foreign policy disaster of our times," Biden said. "The next president ... is going to have to be prepared to immediately step in and act without hesitation to end our involvement in Iraq."
  Silence No Longer An Option, Says FondaJanuary 28, 2007 14:54 FOR HER next act, Jane Fonda has entered the fight against the Iraq war.

Towards the end of Saturday's anti-war rally Fonda stood onstage with the Capitol behind her and addressed the tens of thousands of protesters. "I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years," she said. But "silence is no longer an option".

Fonda, 69, was known in the Vietnam era for her outspoken opposition to that war, earning the derisive nickname "Hanoi Jane" from conservatives for travelling to North Vietnam during the height of that conflict.

With her daughter, Vanessa Vadim, and two grandchildren nearby, she was again front and centre as actress, feminist and opponent of war.

She thanked the sea of protesters - surprisingly there was no official crowd estimate - for standing up to a "mean-spirited, vengeful administration" and said she was glad to discover the soul of America "was alive and well".
  US Braces For A Two-Year ElectionJanuary 27, 2007 10:39 THE big news out of George Bush's State of the Union speech this week was that Hillary Clinton was given that extra bit of sitting room befitting a favourite for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Not just that. There was great symbolic significance, at least for some in the media, in the fact that Senator Clinton sat directly behind Illinois senator Barack Obama, the present star of American politics, who is shaping as her main opponent in the party's primaries, which get under way a year from now in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Indeed, Fox News spent what felt like a year examining Senator Clinton's demeanour, asking experts of many disciplines to determine whether she was scowling, sneering, half-smiling or simply concentrating during Mr Bush's speech. For some reason, Fox did not investigate the crucial issue of whether or not Senator Clinton had more backside room than Senator Obama.

  Lawyers Probe Fleischer'S Immunity DealJanuary 26, 2007 13:20 Attorneys for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby want more information about an unusual immunity-from-prosecution deal that government lawyers gave former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in the CIA leak case.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says that in early 2004, as his investigation was heating up into who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to reporters, Fleischer stepped forward with an offer to prosecutors: Promise no prosecution and he would help their case.

Fleischer acknowledged being one of the leakers, but he wouldn't say a word without a promise of immunity.

Prosecutors normally insist on an informal account of what a witness will say before agreeing to such a deal. It's known in legal circles as a proffer, and Fitzgerald said Thursday that he never got one from Fleischer, who was chief White House spokesman for the first 2 1/2 years of President Bush's first term.
  In Perjury Trial, Testimony By Cheney Aide Damages LibbyJanuary 25, 2007 18:01 The spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney told a jury Thursday that she informed Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., that the wife of a prominent critic of the invasion of Iraq worked for the CIA days before Libby contended he heard the information from a reporter.

Cathie Martin, who was Cheney's chief spokeswoman, was the fourth witness for the prosecution in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of Libby, who is charged with lying during an investigation of who leaked the name of the CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson, and why. Unlike the previous three witnesses, who worked at the CIA and State Department, Martin provided an insider's perspective, one from directly inside the office of the vice president.

The perspective she laid out under questioning from a federal prosecutor was damaging to Libby. She testified that both Cheney and Libby were intensely interested in Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson, who had been sent on a mission to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger for his nuclear weapons program.

Martin's testimony was damaging for Libby in two respects. She bolstered the prosecution's assertion that Libby was fully aware of Wilson's identity from a number of administration officials, and did not first learn about her from reporters, as he has claimed. Perhaps more important, she testified as a former close colleague of Libby's and demonstrated her familiarity with him by repeatedly referring to him by his nickname, Scooter.

  Libby: White House Wanted To Sacrifice Him For RoveJanuary 24, 2007 11:48 Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald described for jurors Tuesday a detailed Bush administration effort to beat back early criticism of the Iraq war and accused former White House aide “Scooter” Libby of covering up his role leaking the identity of a CIA operative.

I. Lewis Libby’s attorney countered with a White House effort of his own, one in which Libby was blamed for the leak to protect Bush political adviser Karl Rove’s own disclosures.

“They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling a conversation between Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, as the leak investigation heated up in 2003. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.”

As the trial opened with a preview of each side’s position, it was clear that the jury will be tasked with sorting through conflicting statements in a high-profile case that has opened a very public window on the behind-the-scenes Washington practice of leaking sensitive information to the news media.

The investigation began after syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed that a chief Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove was one of two sources for Novak’s story.
  Virginia Freshman Senator Responds To BushJanuary 23, 2007 19:00 Often referred to as the “Mommy party”, the Democratic party’s choice of Jim Webb – the newly-elected senator from Virginia – to respond to Tuesday night’s annual State of the Union address by President George W. Bush was designed to send a clear “Daddy” message to the public.

A former navy secretary in Ronald Reagan’s administration and a veteran of the Vietnam war, Mr Webb holds the ideal credentials to criticise Mr Bush’s “escalation” of the Iraq war while insulating the party against any charge of being soft on national security.

“Obviously Jim is a combat veteran who has very strong views on Iraq,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader. “During the [November mid-term] election campaign Jim spoke from the heart against the war and captured the mood of the American public.”

So strongly does Mr Webb feel about the Iraq war that he refused last month to have his picture taken alongside Mr Bush in the White House. The two also had a testy exchange when the president asked about Mr Webb’s son, who is serving as a marine in Iraq.

Mr Webb said that he wanted to bring the soldiers home. “That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?” Mr Bush asked again. “That’s between me and my boy,” the senator shot back.
  Lawyers Paint Libby As Sacrificial LambJanuary 23, 2007 18:55 White House officials tried to sacrifice vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to protect strategist Karl Rove from blame for leaking a CIA operative's identity during a political storm over the Iraq war, Libby's lawyer said Tuesday.

After Libby complained "they want me to be the sacrificial lamb," Vice President Dick Cheney personally intervened to get the White House press secretary to publicly clear Libby in the leak, defense attorney Theodore Wells said in his opening statement at Libby's perjury trial.

The new details of behind-the-scenes conflict at top levels of the Bush White House, along with some previously unseen blunt language from Cheney, were the high points of a dramatic day in which the prosecutor and the defense dueled in multimedia statements to the jury.

Wells also disclosed that Libby was preoccupied with many national security issues in July 2003, including possible al-Qaida threats to assassinate President Bush on a trip to Africa and the possibility al-Qaida had brought anthrax into the United States. Wells read about these threats from a court-approved summary of classified information to argue that Libby could honestly have forgotten what he told reporters about the CIA operative.

  How To Buy An ElectionJanuary 21, 2007 13:41 Former US house majority leader Tom DeLay provides a master class in political perfidy in this excellent documentary. In 1994, DeLay outlined his master plan: to "zero out" such high-spending left-wing frivolities as the departments of education, housing and urban development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts. How? By stacking Congress with sympathetic hardliners, natch.

DeLay hustled for big corporate money in his home state of Texas by selling his own "face time" to donors, poured money into the state election, won it and then redistributed the Texas electoral boundaries to get more Republican seats. Hey presto! A bigger Republican majority in Congress.

The only thing, it turns out, that stands between DeLay and his blatant democratic buy-out is Texan District Attorney Ronnie Earle. It's illegal to use corporate dollars to fund elections in Texas. The quietly steely Earle proceeds to chip away at the case, hunting for evidence to indict DeLay for funds laundering and conspiracy to violate the Texan election code.
  Clinton Leads '08 Dems; No Bounce For ObamaJanuary 21, 2007 12:47 Hillary Clinton's confirmation of her presidential aspirations comes with a bonus: early frontrunner status in the race for her party's nomination.

Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., who announced her candidacy Saturday, holds a substantial lead in initial support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents — 41-17 percent over her nearest competitor, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Obama, for his part, got no bounce by announcing his own interest last week; in fact his unfavorable rating has inched up from last month, and the race essentially is unchanged.

  Allard Says No To Re-ElectionJanuary 15, 2007 22:57 U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard said Monday he will keep his promise and not run for re-election in 2008.

Allard, R-Colo., was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and he said then and after his 2002 re-election that he would not serve more than two terms.

"When I first announced for Congress, I made a pledge to be a citizen legislator and serve in the Jeffersonian ideal of public service where you serve for a period of time and then return to live under the laws you have helped enact," Allard said. "I also pledged to the people of Colorado, that if elected, I would serve no more than two terms in the United States Senate. Today, I am honoring both of those pledges to the citizens of Colorado."

Allard said he intended his final two years in the Senate "to be my most productive of my congressional career ..."

  Democrats Go After 'Big Oil' Friends Of BushJanuary 13, 2007 21:02 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday introduced a bill that would rescind billions of dollars worth of tax incentives extended to U.S. energy companies and put the money into a fund earmarked for renewable energy.

Sponsors of the Creating Long-term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act, or CLEAN, said it will save U.S. taxpayers about $13 billion over an unspecified number of years, but industry groups said it could hinder U.S. oil companies' ability to find and develop new energy sources.

Going after "Big Oil" is a top priority of the House of Representatives' Democratic leadership, which says oil companies have earned record profits at the expense of U.S. motorists paying high gasoline prices.

As part of legislation they pledged to unveil in the first 100 hours of the new legislative session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and nearly 200 co-sponsors introduced a bill that repeals a 2004 tax deduction for energy companies.
  CIA Helped Bush Sr. In Oil VentureJanuary 11, 2007 15:38 Newly released internal CIA documents assert that former president George Herbert Walker Bush's oil company emerged from a 1950's collaboration with a covert CIA officer.

Bush has long denied allegations that he had connections to the intelligence community prior to 1976, when he became Central Intelligence Agency director under President Gerald Ford. At the time, he described his appointment as a "real shocker."

But the freshly uncovered memos contend that Bush maintained a close personal and business relationship for decades with a CIA staff employee who, according to those CIA documents, was instrumental in the establishment of Bush's oil venture, Zapata, in the early 1950s.
  Democrats Pick Denver As Convention SiteJanuary 11, 2007 10:47 It’s not exactly a “New York: Drop Dead” kind of moment, but the Democratic National Committee has decided to hold the party’s 2008 nominating convention in Denver, according to Democrats familiar with the decision, heading West in rejecting a bid from New York to hold it there.

The announcement will be made by Howard Dean, the party chairman, later today. Democratic officials had been drawn to Denver for political reasons – Colorado is becoming an increasingly hospitable territory for Democrats – but had held back because of concerns over the availability of hotel rooms and ongoing union unrest there. Democrats said they believed both potential problems had been resolved.

The last Democratic convention held in New York was 1992.
  Democrats Warn Bush On Iraq PlansJanuary 08, 2007 08:57 The newly-empowered US Democrats have warned President George W Bush he will have to justify any plans to boost troop levels in Iraq.
House leader Nancy Pelosi said there would be "no blank cheque" for Mr Bush.

The president is expected to outline a new strategy this week that may include 20,000 more US troops for Baghdad.

Reports suggest Mr Bush intends to attach strong conditions to any increase, such as specific targets for Iraq's security and political progress.

The Democrats took over Congress for the first time in 12 years last week, giving them a shift in power which could lead to challenges to the authority of the White House.
  Harriet Miers ResignsJanuary 04, 2007 13:01 White House legal counsel Harriet Miers, once nominated by President George W. Bush for the U.S. Supreme Court, is resigning from the administration, Press Secretary Tony Snow said.

Miers, 61, a longtime Bush confidante and adviser, will leave her job on Jan. 31 after six years at the White House. No successor has been named.

``She informed the president yesterday, and he has regretfully accepted her resignation,'' Snow said. Asked why Miers is leaving, Snow said, ``She's been here for six years. It's hard duty.''

Bush nominated Miers for the Supreme Court on Oct. 3, 2005. She withdrew from consideration a little more than three weeks later amid opposition from Republican senators who questioned her qualifications for the nation's highest court -- she had no previous judicial experience -- and her views on core issues such as abortion rights.

Bush subsequently nominated federal appeals court judge Samuel Alito Jr. He was confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 31, 2006.
  Massachusetts Swears In Nation's Second Elected Black GovernorJanuary 04, 2007 12:57 It's only the second inauguration of an elected black governor in U-S history.

Deval Patrick took office today in Massachusetts, with his hand resting on a Bible given to John Quincy Adams by the Amistad slaves he helped free.

The unusual outdoor ceremony, made possible by springlike weather, drew a crowd of thousands stretching into the Boston Common. Among them was Douglas Wilder, who became the nation's first black elected governor in Virginia in 1990.

Others in the audience helped propel the 50-year-old political rookie into an office vacated by Republican Mitt Romney, who now is working on a presidential campaign. Patrick is the first Democratic governor in Massachusetts since Michael Dukakis left office 16 years ago.
  Nancy Pelosi Becomes 1st Woman Speaker of the HouseJanuary 04, 2007 12:52 "I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people.

"In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country. We stand united in our pride and prayers for our men and women in the armed forces. They are working together to protect America, and we, in this House, must also work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

"In this hour, we pray for the character, courage, and civility of a former Member of this House - President Ford. He healed the country when it needed healing. This is another time, another war, and another trial of our American will, imagination, and spirit. Let us honor his memory, not just in eulogy, but in dialogue and trust across the aisle. Let us express our condolences and appreciation to Mrs. Ford and the entire Ford family for their decades of service to our country."

  Romney Moves To Explore White House BidJanuary 03, 2007 09:08 Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Wednesday he's taking the first step in a 2008 presidential bid, joining an increasingly crowded field of Republican hopefuls.

"We've filed exploratory papers today, so the process is moving forward on that front," he told reporters Wednesday, his final day in office.

A spokesman for Romney later said the paperwork officially would be filed late Wednesday afternoon in Washington with the Federal Election Commission. The formation of an exploratory committee allows Romney to raise and spend money for a presidential run.

Romney's confirmation of his plans comes after a 10-day period of contemplation during a family vacation in Utah and follows several years in which he acknowledged he was considering a White House run but hadn't made a final decision about pursuing the presidency.

If elected, Romney would be the nation's first Mormon president.

  Democrats Inherit Agenda Dominated By WarJanuary 02, 2007 11:48 Now the majority party, Democrats will inherit an agenda dominated by the war in Iraq when the new Congress convenes Thursday, increasing their exposure to what has mostly been a politically damaging issue for Republicans.

In the weeks ahead, the new Democratic Congress will be confronted with President Bush’s new plan for Iraq and a White House request that lawmakers authorize an estimated additional $100 billion to pay for the war.

Democrats also may be asked to support a plan lifting restrictions on reserve deployments to ease the strain on active-duty troops.

While Democrats may try to deflect as much attention as they can toward Bush - citing the president’s ownership of the war and congressional limitations on foreign policy - they no doubt will find themselves playing a starring role in a debate that cost Republicans votes in the midterm elections last fall.