If Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., gets nothing else out of her vote opposing war funding last month, the warm(er) reception she'll receive at this week's "Take Back America" conference will be payoff enough.
It was at last year's conference where her vow to stand against setting a timeline for troop withdrawal was greeted with boos -- a rare sound for any Clinton to hear at a Democratic gathering in the Bush era. And so this year's conference serves as a political bookend for a savvy politician who sensed the political winds and gave the left (for once, at least) what they have long wanted from her on the war.
She'll get some indirect chiding today from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who plans to remind conference attendees that he -- alone among the top tier of Democratic candidates -- opposed the war from the start. "I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this is a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged," Obama plans to say, per prepared remarks provided to ABC. "So many of us knew this back then, even when it wasn't popular to say so."
The anti-war base may never trust Clinton on the war -- not after she voted for it and still refuses to apologize for that vote. (Don't bet on her winning the liberal conference's straw poll.) But leaving aside the possibility that opposing funding was a vote of conscience (hard to accept given Clinton's commitments not to cut off money for the troops), perhaps she has done just what was needed to soothe sensibilities and maintain her spot atop the Democratic heap.
Yet isn't this the sort of posturing that voters are growing tired of? That's the subtext of Obama's message, with his call for electing a Democrat who can "change our politics." It's also what Mayor Michael Bloomberg's, R-N.Y., is hinting at as he contemplates an independent run for president.
In California yesterday -- he's there again today for a joint event with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif. -- Bloomberg had harsh words for the Ds and the Rs he sees as pandering to the public. "The country is in trouble," Bloomberg said, Josh Gerstein reports in the New York Sun. He also asserted that he'll be a full-time philanthropist when his term is up at the end of 2009, but answered the presidential question in the Al Gore present tense: "I'm not a candidate for president."
As for Clinton, she's about to break out the not-so-secret weapon: the former president himself will campaign by her side in Iowa July 2-4, her campaign announced yesterday. This is far earlier than the campaign had indicated that it would put Bill Clinton to work, and it comes at a time that her Iowa efforts need a boost. "Virtually no one expected him to campaign this early, under the assumption that Bill Clinton would do the most good for his wife's campaign if he helped to reinforce her standing with Democratic base voters late in the game," Marc Ambinder writes in his Atlantic blog.
Most of the rest of the Democratic field gets their turn at "Take Back America" today in Washington, and the whole slate is also speaking to a gathering of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Per ABC News, today's speeches are a chance to chart the Democrats' leftward migration: Iraq, healthcare, taxes, gay rights. . . .
Also in the news:
So sorry, Part One: Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., apologized to former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., for the anti-Mormon e-mail circulated by one of his Iowa staff members. A spokesman said Brownback was "clearly sort of personally hurt that this had happened in his team," and phoned Romney, who accepted his apology.
So sorry, Part Two: Obama apologized -- sort of -- for the "D-Punjab" memo that disparaged Clinton. Faced with anger among some of his supporters in the Indian-American community, ABC's Jake Tapper reports that Obama labeled the opposition-research document "stupid and caustic" and went on to blame his staff -- at least the third time in the past five months he has foisted blame for a campaign hiccup on his underlings. "Boy, it must be tough to be so continually disappointed with your staff," Tapper writes.
Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., used his speech at the liberal conference this morning to blast his Democratic rivals for supporting an Iraq withdrawal timeline that included "deliberate loopholes" that would leave troops in Iraq indefinitely, per the AP's Nedra Pickler. "Congress has been weak in trying to stop the war," Richardson said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., is attacking from the opposite direction -- and likely generating more ready-made GOP talking points. In a TV interview last night, he blasted those who voted against war funding by invoking his son, Beau, a judge advocate general (who has not been deployed to Iraq, at least not yet). Asked why he wouldn't vote against funding, he told New England Cable News: "Because my son may be dead, God darn it. That's why. That's why. Because if you wait two months how many people are going to die when you know the result will be no different, in order for you to be able to plead purity."
Are we seeing a new message emerge from former senator John Edwards, D-N.C.? Campaigning in Iowa over the weekend, he strongly suggested that having Clinton or Obama top the ticket could hurt the prospects of House and Senate candidates next year. "Who can go to other parts of the country when we have swing candidates running for the Congress and the Senate?" Edwards said. "Is the candidate going to have to say, 'Don't come here. Don't come here and campaign with me. I can't win if you campaign with me,'?" (Edwards didn't help John Kerry carry a single Southern state in 2004.)
Newsday's Craig Gordon has the back story of why former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., left the Iraq Study Group last May: He missed a pair of two-day meetings that conflicted with paid appearances and was told he would have to either start showing up or quit. "By giving up his seat on the panel, Giuliani has opened himself up to charges that he chose private-sector paydays and politics over unpaid service on a critical issue facing the nation," Gordon writes.
It turns out all those presidential "signing statements" have meant something very real: Federal officials have disregarded at least six laws that President Bush challenged via signing statements, a Government Accountability Office study found. "The report provides the first evidence that the government may have acted on claims by Bush that he can set aside laws under his executive powers," reports The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage.
This would crash our servers: Karl Rove sent or received 140,000 e-mails over five years from his Republican National Committee e-mail address -- more than half to or from an official ".gov" address -- despite rules requiring him and other White House aides to communicate via official channels, a House-led investigation found. Some 88 White House officials were supplied with RNC e-mail accounts, and "potentially hundreds of thousands" of those e-mails have been destroyed, according to Michael Abramowitz's Washington Post write-up.
And the Fred Thompson slow walk continues -- this time across the pond. He's set to deliver a foreign-policy speech in Great Britain this week, and will pose for photos with former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, "which his advisers hope will enhance his support among devotees of former President Ronald Reagan," Politico's Mike Allen reports. His formal announcement appears set for the first half of July -- calculated for the precise moment that the media will tire of all the pre-announcement silliness.
"It's like dying a slow death, watching him have to answer for my mistakes," Bernard Kerik, talking about the impact he's having on Giuliani's campaign.
"I didn't even buy them a cup of coffee," former senator Mike Gravel, D-Alaska, speaking about the creators of a pair of bizarre videos produced to promote his long-shot presidential bid.