US Politics

  Hillary Falls To Earth In Poll RaceDecember 31, 2006 11:58 THE first vote is still more than a year away, but the campaign to replace President George W Bush in the White House is already throwing up surprises.
Unfortunately for Senator Hillary Clinton, long the front-runner in the Democratic drive to retake the presidency, most of them are coming at her expense.

A brace of Christmas opinion polls has left Clinton with a political hangover after a year that had appeared to cement her status as the Democrats’ best-organised, best-financed and best-connected contender for her party’s presidential nomination.

Despite winning re-election to the US Senate by a handsome margin in mid-term voting last month, Clinton has had little to celebrate as polls from the presidential primary battlegrounds signalled early trouble for her historic bid to become America’s first woman president.

In Iowa, the Midwestern state that will once again open the primary season with its caucus votes on January 14, 2008, Clinton slumped to fourth place with only 10% of the vote in a survey of 600 likely Democratic voters.

  Goode's Views On Muslims Seen Apart From GOPDecember 23, 2006 23:10 A top Northern Virginia Democrat and a local Islamic leader yesterday said Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.'s push to tighten immigration laws to stop Muslims from being elected and American values from eroding does not cast a negative light on the Republican Party.

"I think the remarks cast a negative light on Virgil, not the Republican Party," said Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. "People know that people like [Rep. Thomas M.] Davis meet regularly with Muslim Americans, and I am sure other Republicans must do so as well."

Makhdoom Zia, imam of the Mustafa Center in Annandale, agreed.

"We don't think this is reflective of anything on the part of the Republican Party, but do realize there are a lot of people in both parties that need to learn much more about Islam," he said. "We will stop short of calling [Mr. Goode] a bigot, but certainly encourage him to learn more about Islam."

  Senate In Turmoil As Bruno (R-NY state) Is Eyed In Federal ProbeDecember 20, 2006 11:57 The Republican majority leader of the state Senate acknowledged yesterday that he is the subject of a federal investigation concerning his business interests outside the Legislature.

Saying he was not aware of the "full nature" of the inquiry, Joseph Bruno said he is cooperating with FBI officials, who told him he was under investigation in the spring.

News of the probe comes at a pivotal point for Albany lawmakers awaiting a new governor, Eliot Spitzer, who is vowing to clamp down on Albany corruption. Just last Thursday, a Democratic senator, Efrain Gonzalez Jr., became the seventh member of New York City's delegation to Albany to be indicted on corruption-related charges in the last three years.
  Cheney Will Testify In C.I.A. Leak CaseDecember 20, 2006 10:36 Vice President Dick Cheney will be summoned as a defense witness in the trial of his former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, a defense lawyer said Tuesday in federal court. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney signaled that he would not resist the request for his testimony.

The decision to call Mr. Cheney was announced by Theodore V. Wells, a lawyer for Mr. Libby, whose trial is scheduled to begin next month.

“We’re calling the vice president,” Mr. Wells said at a hearing before Judge Reggie B. Walton in Federal District Court.
  In '09, Bush Will Get Extra ProtectionDecember 17, 2006 12:18 In a recent hand-scribbled note, President Bush insisted he is not giving much thought to life after the White House.

"Thanks for 'Second Acts' and your very kind letter," he said in a letter to Mark Updegrove, author of a new book about post-presidential life. "I'm not quite ready to take the stage for the 2nd act. After a two-year sprint, then I'll take the lessons of your book to heart."

Bush might not be thinking about the next act, but planners are. And they foresee an unprecedented post-presidency, due largely to the war.

The White House sought $5 million in the 2007 budget to begin hiring and training the Secret Service detail that will protect Bush after he leaves office. The money also will be used to protect 2008 presidential candidates.

Congress bumped the appropriation up to $16.5 million.
  Senate In The Balance?December 14, 2006 14:22 HOW much does it matter that Tim Johnson, a Democratic senator, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday December 13th after suffering a stroke? Perhaps a great deal. Before and after surgery, which doctors pronounced successful, politicians lined up to wish him well. His party’s leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, suggested that every member of the Senate wants to see him make a full recovery. Mike Rounds, the Republican governor of his state of South Dakota, was similarly considerate. Nobody doubts that the sympathy is sincere, of course, but many are likely to be troubled by political considerations too.

The Democrats had expected to return to the Senate in January with a 51-49 majority, as the new group of senators elected in November’s elections take their seats. With the majority comes coveted committee chairmanships, control of the Senate’s agenda and a very real measure of power, especially as the House will become Democratic as well. But if, in the worst case, Mr Johnson should die, Mr Rounds would have the right to name his replacement. The Republican governor would be likely to name a Republican senator, leaving the Senate tied 50-50. If so, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, would have the power to cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate, effectively handing control of it back to the Republicans.
  S.D. Sen. Johnson In Critical ConditionDecember 14, 2006 10:44 Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was in critical but stable condition Thursday after late-night emergency brain surgery, creating political drama about which party will control the Senate next month if he is unable to continue in office.

Johnson suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said, describing the surgery as successful. The condition, present at birth, causes tangled blood vessels.

"The senator is recovering without complication," the physician, Adm. John Eisold, said. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."

Eisold said doctors had to drain the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stop continued bleeding.

Democrats hold a fragile 51-49 margin in the new Senate that convenes Jan. 4. If Johnson leaves the Senate, the Republican governor of South Dakota could appoint a Republican - keeping the Senate in GOP hands

  Obama Seeks To Settle Racial DoubtsDecember 13, 2006 12:39 If the Democrats choose Sen. Barack Obama to be their presidential nominee in 2008, will his skin color and his name cost him enough votes to lose the election?

Signaling that he knows this worry is on some Democrats’ minds, Obama addressed the issues of skin color and identity during his tour of New Hampshire last weekend.
  Democrat Rodriguez Wins House Seat In Texas RunoffDecember 13, 2006 12:07 In the last race to be determined for the 110th Congress and a final slap at the GOP, Texas's Ciro Rodriguez defeated Republican incumbent Frank Bonilla in a runoff election held Tuesday.

The race pitted two Hispanic Texas politicians, each of whom has already served in the House of Representatives, for the San Antonio-based 23rd District. A runoff was required because of the eight candidates on the Nov. 7 ballot, none gained more than half of the vote that Texas law requires.

Ironically, Mr. Bonilla came the closest in that vote with 48 percent of the votes, while Mr. Rodriguez had just 20 percent. Given his leftover war chest from the November race and a district that was crafted to his needs by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Mr. Bonilla was generally considered the favorite in the runoff.

  N.H. Crowds Warm To ObamaDecember 11, 2006 09:45 Sen. Barack Obama needed no more than a light coat to brave the mild winter day in New Hampshire on Sunday, and his inaugural visit to the state drew a warm welcome from sold-out crowds gathering to gauge his presidential promise.

But the Illinois Democrat knew he was introducing himself to a tough new audience, one he said will "put us through the paces."

This is the Granite State, whose early primaries make it a major part of the nation's candidate screening system, and its voters are as weathered and rugged as the craggy boulder on their state seal.

"If I decide to run, these people will know me pretty well," Obama said. "They'll have a good sense of whether I'm qualified to serve or not. . . . One of the values of retail politics is that, by the end of the process, they know where you stand and have a sense of who you are."
  Conservatives Attack Use Of Koran For OathDecember 09, 2006 16:59 When Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat whose election last month will make him the first Muslim in Congress, announced he would take his oath of office on Islam's holy book, the Koran, he provoked sharp criticism from conservatives and some heated discussion on the blogosphere.

The discussion has revived the debate about whether the nation's values and legal system are shaped only by Judeo-Christian heritage or if there is room for Islamic and other traditions.

"America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress," Dennis Prager, a conservative talk radio host in Los Angeles, wrote on Prager, who is Jewish and serves on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said Ellison should not be allowed to take his oath on the Koran.

"This has nothing to do with the Koran. It has to do with the first break of the tradition of having a Bible present at a ceremony of installation of a public official since George Washington inaugurated the tradition," Prager said in an interview.

But Ellison, who could not be reached for comment, would not be the first member of Congress to forgo a Bible. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) took her oath in 2005 on a Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, that she borrowed from Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.).
  Blogger: Why I Left The Conservative MovementDecember 09, 2006 00:07 A recent article by Dennis Prager is a prime example of why I no longer consider myself a Republican and consider myself outside of the current conservative movement. I would like to lay out for you why I believe he is dead wrong, and show the history of oaths and affirmations in a different light.
Dennis Prager says a Muslim elected to Congress should not take the oath on the Koran. Not only that, but he says allowing it is un-American.

  Senate Confirms Gates As Next Defense SecretaryDecember 06, 2006 16:44 The U.S. Senate has confirmed Robert Gates by a 92-2 vote to be the next secretary of defense, with opposition Democrats expressing hope he will steer a new course in the war in Iraq. When he takes the oath of office - expected later this month, Gates will succeed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has come under criticism from members of both political parties for his handling of the war. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

A day after the Senate Armed Services Committee approved his nomination, the full Senate late Wednesday easily confirmed Robert Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Senator John Warner of Virginia, the outgoing Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Gates would provide President Bush with a fresh and honest perspective about Iraq and other pressing concerns:

"I am confident he will indeed be fearless, absolutely fearless, in providing expert advice, professional advice, his own deep most inner-most personal feelings, about the complex issues that face our nation and indeed the world," he said.

Lawmakers of both parties praised Gates' candor during confirmation hearings Tuesday, when he testified that he did not believe the United States was winning the Iraq war. Although he said he did not believe the United States was losing the war, he warned that the conflict could lead to a regional conflagration if Iraq is not stabilized over the next year or two.
  Bush Administration To Be CartoonDecember 04, 2006 15:07 Comedy Central has ordered "Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States," a cartoon satire that re-imagines President Bush and key executives in his administration as elementary school misfits.

The title character is surrounded by close pals like Lil' Cheney, who grumbles unintelligibly, and Lil' Condi, who pines for Lil' Bush and does his homework for him.

"Bush" is not without its risque moments. When Lil' Bush's school serves falafel instead of hot dogs for lunch in one episode, he and his pals torture the cafeteria employees with methods made famous during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Six episodes from writer-producer Donick Cary ("The Simpsons") have been ordered to air on Comedy Central next year.

"Bush" got its start in September as six five-minute clips offered by Amp'd Mobile, a U.S.-based wireless service that packages video entertainment programming with cell phone service.

"Bush" represents an unlikely reversal of the one-way flow of programming from television to other digital platforms, where networks and studios are attempting to extend franchises in search of new revenue. That said, many a programmer has cited the Internet and mobile arenas as potential breeding grounds for fare that could translate back to TV.
  The End Of The Bush DynastyDecember 04, 2006 11:58 Interesting article recounting the Bush family tree and the reasons why George W. Bush may be the last prominent Bush politician.

Does this mean Jeb and George P. won't get their shots at the White House?

  Growing Group Of Women Gets Used To Being U.S. SenatorsDecember 04, 2006 11:50 On a mid-November afternoon, the women of the United States Senate filed into Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office to celebrate a sweet 16 of sorts.

With two newly elected women this year — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. — the total of women senators come January will hit a record-breaking 16.

Mikulski, D-Md., their dean and the senior woman senator, says she and her colleagues are no longer a rarity, but they still face the challenge of balancing legislation aimed at women with broader issues ranging from national security to the economy.

"When I came . . . we were a bit of a novelty in the Senate," Mikulski said. "I think what we see now is that we're not viewed as a novelty; we're not viewed as celebrities. We're viewed as senators."

The slow-but-steady rise in the number of women senators is a pattern that has become commonplace in the last 14 years, but some remember a time when it wasn't so.

  Bolten Sees Bush Reaching Out To CongressDecember 04, 2006 11:34 As we thought... the Republican strategy will be to make the Dems fight for any progress during Bush's last 800 days. What a pity.

White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten graciously offered his desk chair to President Clinton's chief of staff Leon Panetta when he was touring the West Wing with interns a few days after the election.

Seeing Panetta behind Bolten's desk, Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, did a double take.

"God, I knew we lost the election - I didn't think you were taking over the White House," Panetta recalls Rove saying.

Since the election, Bush is having to share the seat of power with the Democrats. And Bolten has become his bridge to Capitol Hill.

"The election was not a happy event around here, obviously," Bolten said, sitting on a couch in his spacious corner office where light streams in through tall windows. "Everybody's disappointed, but I haven't seen a single discouraged person."