Tuesday, January 01, 2008


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Miami Herald


Democratic National Committee
DNC: What They're Saying: Smooth Talking Mitt Romney's Credibility Gap

Posted on Mon, Dec. 31, 2007

Surely, this isn't how smooth talking Mitt Romney envisioned spending hisNew Year's Eve. In February 2007, a leaked 77-page strategy documentoutlined the Romney campaign's plan to avoid spending 2007 "facingskepticism about his conservative message." [Boston Globe, 2/27/07] Now,just days before the Iowa caucus, the reviews are in. Despite running "theleast honorable campaign of any major candidate," Romney is still being"dogged" by questions about his flip-flops and a lingering "candor gap" thathas left voters wondering "if there's anything at all at his core" andconvinced that he'll say whatever he thinks voters want to hear instead ofwhat he believes.

"After flip-flopping on just about every issue in this race and playing fastand loose with the facts, smooth talking Mitt Romney has failed to close thedeal on even his own credibility," said Democratic National Committeespokesman Damien LaVera. "The voters may have no idea where he really standson any of the challenges confronting our nation, but they understand that avote for Mitt Romney is a vote for a third Bush term not only on the issues,but when it comes to honesty and integrity as well."

"Mitt Romney" is to "Credibility" What "Day" is to "Night"

Union Leader: "The More Romney Speaks, the Less Believable He Becomes.""Like a lot of people in New Hampshire, we wanted to believe Romney. We gavehim the benefit of the doubt. We listened very carefully to his expertlyrehearsed sales pitch. But in the end he didn't close the deal for us. Now,two weeks before the primary, the same is happening with voters... GraniteStaters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them thetruth...Mitt Romney has not. He has spoken his lines well, but the peoplecan sense that the words are memorized, not heartfelt. Last week Romney wasreduced to debating what the meaning of "saw" is. It was only the latest ina string of demonstrably false claims -- he'd been a hunter "pretty much"all his life, he'd had the NRA's endorsement, he marched with Martin LutherKing, Jr. -- that call into question the veracity of his justifications forswitching sides on immigration, abortion, taxes and his affection for RonaldReagan. In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable hebecomes." [New Hampshire Union Leader, 12/26/07]

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CBS News


Analysis: Huckabee May Have Gone Too Far

DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 1, 2008

(AP) Mike Huckabee may have finally gone too far.

After running an unconventional, surprisingly strong and sometimes strangerace to the top tier of the Republican presidential campaign, the formerArkansas governor topped himself Monday with an eyebrow-raising campaignstunt.

He called a news conference to unveil a negative ad that he had justwithdrawn from Iowa television stations because, he told a room full ofjournalists recording the ad, he had a sudden aversion to negative politics.Quite a convenient epiphany.

"If people want to be cynical about it," Huckabee said, "they can be cynicalabout it."

If he loses Iowa's caucuses on Thursday, New Year's Eve will forever markthe day Huckabee blew it _ the day a group of reporters stopped laughingwith the witty Republican and laughed at him.

If he wins _ a possibility that even Huckabee now thinks he put at risk _ hesealed victory in a weird way Monday.

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New York Times


Editorial: In Office
The One Environmental Issue

January 1, 2008

The overriding environmental issue of these times is the warming of theplanet. The Democratic hopefuls in the 2008 campaign are fully engaged,calling for large - if still unquantified - national sacrifices and for atransformation in the way the country produces and uses energy. TheRepublicans do not go much further than conceding that climate change couldbe a problem and, with the notable exception of John McCain, offer nocomprehensive solutions.

In 2000, when Al Gore could have made warming a signature issue in hispresidential campaign, his advisers persuaded him that it was toocomplicated and forbidding an issue to sell to ordinary voters. For similarreasons, John Kerry's ambitious ideas for addressing climate change andreducing the country's dependence on foreign oil never advanced much beyondhis Web site.

Times have certainly changed. It is not yet clear to what extent Americansare willing to grapple with the implications of any serious strategy toreduce greenhouse gas emissions: more specifically, whether they are readyto pay higher prices for energy and change their lifestyles to reduce theirconsumption of fossil fuels.

Polls suggest, however, that voters are increasingly alarmed, and for thatMr. Gore is partly responsible. His film, "An Inconvenient Truth," raisedthe issue's profile. Then came four reports from the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel PeacePrize with Mr. Gore, predicting catastrophic changes in weather patterns,sea levels and food production unless greenhouses gases can be quicklystabilized and then reduced by as much as 80 percent by midcentury.

There is also a growing appetite for decisive action - everywhere, it seems,except the White House. Governors in more than two dozen states arefashioning regional agreements to lower greenhouse gases, the federal courtshave ordered the executive branch to begin regulating these gases, and theSenate has begun work on a bipartisan bill that would reduce emissions bynearly 65 percent by 2050.

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New York Times


Op-Ed Columnist: Road to Nowhere

January 1, 2008

The most impressive thing about Mitt Romney is his clarity of mind. When heset out to pursue his party's nomination, he studied the contours of theRepublican coalition and molded himself to its forms.

Earnestly and methodically, he has appealed to each of the majorconstituency groups. For national security conservatives, he vowed to doublethe size of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. For social conservatives, heembraced a culture war against the faithless. For immigration skeptics, heswung so far right he earned the endorsement of Tom Tancredo.

He has spent roughly $80 million, including an estimated $17 million of hisown money, hiring consultants, blanketing the airwaves and building anorganization that is unmatched on the Republican side.

And he has turned himself into the party's fusion candidate. Some of hisrivals are stronger among social conservatives. Others are stronger amongsecurity conservatives, but no candidate has a foot in all camps the wayRomney does. No candidate offends so few, or is the acceptable choice of somany.

And that is why Romney is at the fulcrum of the Republican race. He'slooking strong in Iowa and is the only candidate who can afford to lose animportant state and still win the nomination.

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New York Times


Political Memo: What if Iowa Settles Nothing for Democrats?

January 1, 2008

DES MOINES - Iowa is packed with presidential candidates and hundreds ofcampaign aides, advisers and contributors. Twenty-five hundredrepresentatives of news organizations have been granted credentials to coverthe caucuses Thursday night, twice as many as in 2004. Rarely has apolitical event been so intensely anticipated as a decisive moment, at leaston the Democratic side.

But what if it is not decisive?

What if at the end of Thursday, the three leading Democrats - former SenatorJohn Edwards and Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama - areseparated by a percentage point or two, leaving no one with the clear rightof delivering a victory speech (or the burden of conceding)? A number ofpolls going into the final days have suggested that after all of this, theDemocratic caucus on Thursday night could end up more or less a tie.

In truth, amid all the endless permutations of outcomes that are beingdiscussed - can Mrs. Clinton, the putative front-runner, survive athird-place finish, or Mr. Edwards a second-place one? - aides are beginningto grapple with the frustrating possibility that all the time, money andpolitical skill invested here might prove to be for naught when it comes toidentifying the candidate to beat in the primaries and winnowing the toptier.

"It would be like a six-month trial and a hung jury," said David Axelrod, asenior adviser to Mr. Obama. "I think it is really possible."

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Washington Post


Doctors Cite Pressure to Keep Silent On Bhutto

By Emily Wax and Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 1, 2008; A01

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 31 -- Pakistani authorities have pressured themedical personnel who tried to save Benazir Bhutto's life to remain silentabout what happened in her final hour and have removed records of hertreatment from the facility, according to doctors.

In interviews, doctors who were at Bhutto's side at Rawalpindi GeneralHospital said they were under extreme pressure not to share details aboutthe nature of the injuries that the opposition leader suffered in an attackhere Dec. 27.

"The government took all the medical records right after Ms. Bhutto's timeof death was read out," said a visibly shaken doctor who spoke on conditionof anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Sweating and puttinghis head in his hands, he said: "Look, we have been told by the governmentto stop talking. And a lot of us feel this is a disgrace."

The doctors now find themselves at the center of a political firestorm overthe circumstances of Bhutto's death. The government has said Bhutto, 54, waskilled after the force of a suicide bombing caused her head to slam againstthe lever of her vehicle's sunroof. Bhutto's supporters have pointed tovideo footage, including a new amateur video released Monday, as proof thatshe was killed by gunfire.

The truth about what happened has serious implications in Pakistan. Theability of a gunman to fire at Bhutto from close range, as alleged by hersupporters, would suggest that an assassin was able to breach governmentsecurity in a city that serves as headquarters of the Pakistani military,bolstering her supporters' claims that the government failed to provide herwith adequate protection.

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Washington Post


Electronic Passports Raise Privacy Issues

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 1, 2008; A06

The federal government will soon offer passport cards equipped withelectronic data chips to U.S. citizens who travel frequently between theUnited States and Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. The cards can be readwirelessly from 20 feet, offering convenience to travelers but raisingsecurity and privacy concerns about the possibility of data beingintercepted.

The goal of the passport card, an alternative to the traditional passport,is to reduce the wait at land and sea border checkpoints by using anelectronic device that can simultaneously read multiple cards' radiofrequency identification (RFID) signals from a distance, checking travelersagainst terrorist and criminal watchlists while they wait.

"As people are approaching a port of inspection, they can show the card tothe reader, and by the time they get to the inspector, all the informationwill have been verified and they can be waved on through," said Ann Barrett,deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services, commenting on thefinal rule on passport cards published yesterday in the Federal Register.

The $45 card will be optional and cannot be used for air travel. Travelerscan opt for a more secure, if more costly, e-passport that costs $97 andcontains a radio frequency chip that can only be read at a distance of threeinches. Privacy and security experts said the new passport cards thattransmit information over longer distances are much less secure.

"The government is fundamentally weakening border security and privacy forpassport holders in order to get people through the lines faster," said AriSchwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, whichsubmitted comments in opposition to the proposed rule, along with 4,000others, the vast majority in opposition.

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Washington Post


Electronic Voting Is Questioned

The Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2007; 4:18 PM

DENVER -- With the presidential race in full swing, Colorado and otherstates have found critical flaws in the accuracy and security of theirelectronic voting machines, forcing officials to scramble to return to thepaper ballots they abandoned after the Florida debacle of 2000.

In December alone, top election officials in Ohio and Colorado declared thatwidely used voting equipment is unfit for elections.

"Every system that is out there, one state or another has found that theyare no good," said John Gideon of the advocacy group Voters Unite."Everybody is starting to look at this now and starting to realize thatthere is something wrong."

The swing states of California, Ohio and Florida have found that security ontouch-screen voting machines is inadequate. Testers have been able todisable the systems and even change vote totals.

Florida's "hanging chads" in the disputed 2000 Al Gore-George W. Bushelection exposed the imperfection of paper ballot counting and helped leadto a $3 billion government initiative to bring voting into the digital age.The Help America Vote Act of 2002 effectively required that states haveelectronic equipment in place by 2010.

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Washington Post


Illinois to Enact New Public Smoking Ban

The Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2007; 6:01 PM

CHICAGO -- New Year's resolution or not, health experts are hoping Illinois'new smoking ban provides smokers the kick-start they need to ditch thehabit. Starting Jan. 1, the Smoke-Free Illinois Act will make it illegal tolight up in virtually any public place in the state. But experts cautionsmokers still need more than just willpower _ and a new state law _ to break
nicotine's hold.

"Some people can just make the decision and quit," said Andrea King,director of the clinical addictions research lab at the University ofChicago. "Other people need more support, need to make more attempts or needmore comprehensive treatment."

Would-be quitters have more methods than ever to help quit smoking, thanksto new research.

There are already two FDA-approved prescriptions to help smokers. Andresearchers are also studying a vaccine and other medications.

Authorities said combining therapies such as counseling, medication andnicotine-replacement often gives smokers the best chance to kick the habit.

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Washington Post


Huckabee Stands by 'Christ' Comment

The Associated Press
Monday, December 31, 2007; 12:31 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Mike Huckabee, a Republican relying on support fromreligious conservatives in Thursday's hard-fought presidential caucuses, onSunday stood by a decade-old comment in which he said, "I hope we answer thealarm clock and take this nation back for Christ."

In a television interview, the ordained Southern Baptist minister and formerArkansas governor made no apologies for the 1998 comment made at a SouthernBaptist Convention meeting in Salt Lake City.

"It was a speech made to a Christian gathering, and, and certainly thatwould be appropriate to be said to a gathering of Southern Baptists,"Huckabee said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He gave the speech the same year he endorsed the Baptist convention'sstatement of beliefs on marriage that "a wife is to submit graciously to theservant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits tothe headship of Christ." Huckabee and his wife, Janet, signed a full-page adin USA Today in support of the statement with 129 other evangelical leaders.

The former governor, who rallied Christian evangelicals to make him asurprise force in Iowa, has put his faith front and center in his campaign.His stump speech sounds like a pastor's pitch from a pulpit. Campaign adsemphasize faith and call him a Christian leader. He frequently quotes Bibleverses.

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Seattle Times


Tuesday, January 1, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

2008: A look ahead at the Iraq war

By Jamie Gumbrecht and Nancy A. Youssef
McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD - With security improved throughout much of Iraq, the constant fearof death is gone, many Iraqis say. The struggle now is how to live.

Buying food is hard. Lighting, cooling or heating a house isn't easy. Fixingthe car is a risk. Finding a doctor or a good teacher can be nearlyimpossible.

Increasing jobs and construction are a long way off for some areas in Iraq.In the north, violence by al-Qaida in Iraq is picking up. Kirkuk residentsdescribe a stagnating city in which Arabs and Kurds won't travel within eachother's neighborhoods while each tries to claim the city. Violence alsocontinues among rival Shiite factions in Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Karbala andBasra provinces in the south.

"We don't hear any clashes or car bombs. Nobody wakes up to find dead bodieson their stretch of pavement anymore," said Widad Hameed, a retiredschoolteacher who lives in Yarmouk, a Sunni Muslim-majority neighborhood inwestern Baghdad.

But, Hameed said, she and her family have only one or two hours ofelectricity each day. Kerosene rarely is available in her neighborhood, evenon the black market. She wore three sweaters, a house robe, two pairs ofsocks and a scarf to warm herself in the winter temperatures last week. Fourof her 13 grandchildren left Iraq to attend college.

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USA Today


Pelosi's year marked by advances, frustrations

By Erica Werner, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Nancy Pelosi crashed through a glass ceiling when she becamethe first female House speaker a year ago. That turned out to be the easypart.

The reality of leading a bitterly divided Congress at odds with a RepublicanWhite House is that victories are difficult and disappointments many. Chiefamong them for the liberal San Francisco Democrat was failure to deliver onher biggest goal: ceasing U.S. combat missions in Iraq and getting troops ontheir way home.

The House's final days before winter break were reflective of Pelosi'sup-and-down year: a major success - an energy bill including the firstincrease in vehicle fuel economy standards in 32 years - and two bitterdefeats.

Hamstrung by Republican opposition and veto threats from President Bush,Pelosi had to abandon her promise to not add to the budget deficit when theHouse agreed to a $50 billion tax-relief bill without making up the loss tothe Treasury. The House's final vote was on legislation giving Bush $70billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no withdrawal deadlinesattached.

"The war in Iraq is the biggest disappointment for us, I mean the inabilityto stop the war in Iraq," Pelosi, 67 and in her 11th House term, said in arecent round-table interview.
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Boston Globe


Poll: Obama, Huckabee leading rivals

By David Espo, AP Special Correspondent
January 1, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa --Presidential contenders rang in the 2008 election yearwith near-constant campaigning on Monday as a poll showed Democrat BarackObama and Republican Mike Huckabee leading their rivals with three daysremaining before the Iowa caucuses.

Anonymous phone calls and a negative campaign commercial that vanished intothin air also spiced the race, and not even New Year's Eve was off-limits tocampaign oratory.

The poll by the Des Moines Register showed Obama, an Illinois senator, withthe support of 32 percent of those surveyed, compared to 25 percent for Sen.Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and 24 percent for former Sen. JohnEdwards of North Carolina.

Among Republicans, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, had the backing of32 percent of those surveyed, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had26 percent.

Other polls have shown far closer races in recent days within both parties,and the leading candidates are engaged in a virtual nonstop round ofpersonal appearances across the state that provides the first test of therace for the White House.

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Los Angeles Times


CAMPAIGN '08: Democrats angle for second place

On Iowa caucus night, backers of candidates who don't make the cut will befreed up. The front-runners are ready.

By Peter Wallsten and Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
From the Los Angeles Times:
January 1, 2008

DES MOINES - The top three Democratic presidential candidates have begunfocusing intensely on becoming the second choice among supporters ofless-popular candidates such as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and New Mexico Gov.Bill Richardson, in a behind-the-scenes battle that could decide the outcomeof Thursday's Iowa caucuses.

The effort, in which the top campaigns are deploying an array of strategies,focuses on the brief and unpredictable moment that will occur just after thefirst votes are cast in the state's 1,781 caucus meetings.

Under the unusual rules of the Democratic caucuses, candidates who do notwin a minimum level of support in a precinct are eliminated fromconsideration there, freeing their supporters to back other candidates. Morethan 15% of caucusgoers are thought to be backing candidates likely to beeliminated in many balloting locations -- turning their supporters intopotential king-makers in the close contest among Hillary Rodham Clinton,Barack Obama and John Edwards.

The Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns are focusing on what their localcaptains should do once this large bloc of voters becomes available -- inthe few moments when victory may rest on the ability to swing voters, inface-to-face appeals and cajoling, toward their second choice.

Trying to leave little to chance, Clinton's campaign has given its localprecinct captains paper cards that lay out arguments targeted to supportersof each of the candidates who might be eliminated in the first round ofballoting.

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Houston Chronicle


As clout fades, Bush targets unfinished business
His to-do list includes Middle East peace, education measures and tax cuts

Associated Press
Jan. 1, 2008, 1:16AM

CRAWFORD - President Bush's final-year agenda is a stripped-down list ofwhat he can realistically hope to get done, since the clout he once toutedis fading away.

Bush will venture to four other continents, get more involved than ever intrying to forge Middle East peace, and continue to command two wars thatassure his relevancy to the end. As Iraq improves, he must now deal withrenewed violence in Afghanistan and upheaval in Pakistan.

At home, Bush will try to extend two domestic achievements that are dear tohis legacy - the No Child Left Behind education law and tax cuts thatotherwise expire in 2010.

Long gone are the big ideas of Social Security and immigration reform, which collapsed on Capitol Hill. His final State of the Union speech in lateJanuary is expected to reflect today's policy reality, eschewing newinitiatives in favor of unfinished proposals.

As at any time, Bush has forces pushing against him. But the ones in 2008are stronger.

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