You know it's summer when . . .
The most interesting thing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has done lately is get a haircut (yes, we know, she's moving from left to right) . . .
While the most interesting part of an Obama event is that he shared it with two people on the long short list.
Team McCain casts Sen. Barack Obama as President Bush on foreign policy (no, really) . . .
While Sen. John McCain himself praises Obama (seriously).
McCain aides are tussling with reporters over camera shots . . .
But somehow not acting to can another rogue surrogate (when will Team McCain learn the technological wonder that is Google?).
And the Rev. Jesse Jackson's mouth. . .
Is causing as much trouble as Sen. Elizabeth Dole's brain.
A great day, all in all, to put out some pretty good fundraising news: Obama raised $52 million in June, his campaign announced Thursday morning -- a number that should quiet questions about whether rejecting public financing was a good idea, at least for the time being. (It was announced, naturally, as part of a fundraising appeal.)
For the scorekeepers among us -- per ABC's Jake Tapper, this far exceeds Obama's $22 million May -- as well as McCain's personal record of $22 million in June, not to mention previous reporting that put Obama's June in the $30 million range.
It also approaches the $55 million Obama raised in February -- but doesn't come close to the $100 million at least one Obama fundraiser was predicting. Given that this was the first (almost) full month that he had the nomination, was a record month impossible?
(And we'll need the actual report to see the burn rate, and to count the big Clinton names. .)
Money aside, what's happening in this slow summer stretch really does matter in a big way. By controlling the direction of the race's discussion, every day that goes by allows Obama, D-Ill., to answer some of the questions that surround his candidacy for himself.
In a race that's approximately five times more about Obama than it is about McCain, that may be all he needs to do.
Team McCain tries to answer some questions for Obama on Thursday, with high-profile surrogates holding a 3:30 pm ET press conference in Washington to unveil a new video: "The Obama Iraq Documentary: Whatever the Politics Demand."
Says a McCain aide: "The video doesn't lie, and taken together, it presents a candidate willing to let his political ambition dictate his position on what is obviously the most critical national security issue we face."
And the reception that awaits Obama in Iraq may be mixed: Abroad, at least, the details matter.
"There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq," Sabrina Tavernise and Richard A. Oppel Jr. write in The New York Times. "But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war."
Throngs will greet him in Europe, but that's only a start. "Regaining some of that international respect (and admiration) is one thing," Time's Karen Tumulty writes. "But just as crucial for Obama is whether all the diplomatic theater can persuade American voters that he is capable of taking the helm of a superpower. That depends, to some degree, on how comfortable Obama seems standing shoulder to shoulder among those he would be dealing with as this country's President."
"Obama is discovering that travel abroad can be both a broadening experience and potentially hazardous," Kathy Kiely writes for USA Today. "He has ruffled feathers in Jerusalem by telling U.S. Jewish leaders last month that he regards the ancient city as Israel's undivided capital -- and then amending his statement after Palestinian protests."
Cue some controversy: "Even as Sen. Barack Obama prepared for an overseas trip by convening a foreign-policy roundtable Wednesday, he already was making waves overseas," Amy Chozick and Marcus Walker write in The Wall Street Journal. "In Germany, politicians disagreed on where the Democratic presidential contender should speak during a stop there, while officials from Ireland and Lebanon complained they had been left off the itinerary."
Yet while his messaging in Iraq and the Middle East may wind up muddled, his foreign trip is building up to be huge: He'll be joined by all three network news anchors at stops along the way. (Does anyone think McCain could draw anywhere near that level of attention?)
"Barack Obama's upcoming swing through Europe and the Middle East is now guaranteed to be a major media event, certified by the presence of the three network anchors," Howard Kurtz reports in The Washington Post. "That means the Obama camp will have drawn the anchors halfway around the world by offering access."
"The extraordinary coverage planned for Mr. Obama's trip, though in part solicited by aides, reflects how the candidate remains an object of fascination in the news media, a built-in feature of being the first black presidential nominee for a major political party and a relative newcomer to the national stage," Jim Rutenberg writes in The New York Times. "But the coverage also feeds into concerns in Mr. McCain's campaign, and among Republicans in general, that the news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates, just as aides to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton felt during the primary season."
And Wednesday brought another clear shot at defining himself: "Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized the Bush administration for failing to protect the American people from weapons of mass destruction and said he would take aggressive measures as president to lessen the threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and from cyber-terrorism," Josh Meyer and Peter Nicholas write in the Los Angeles Times.
"It sounds good on paper, but I get the sense that this is being put out to shore up his national security credentials," said Arthur Keller, until 2006 a CIA expert on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (Um -- ya think?)
But such is the veepstakes season that the event was most interesting in the sense that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and former senator Sam Nunn, D-Ga., joined Obama on stage in Indiana.
"It was a cross between 'The Dating Game' and '24' as Sen. Barack Obama was flanked by two potential running mates Wednesday while criticizing President George W. Bush's efforts to confront emerging forms of potential terrorism," John McCormick writes in the Chicago Tribune.
And they didn't say they didn't want the job . . .
Said Nunn: "Certainly I would talk to Senator Obama if he wanted to talk about it but I think the chances of an offer are pretty slim."
Bayh: "Well, I love serving the people of Indiana, and um any questions about the vice presidential thing, I think, are understandable and it's good for my ego but I should probably let Senator Obama and his campaign address those kind of questions," he said, per ABC's Sunlen Miller. As he left the room, he added: "General Sherman was from Ohio."
Combine that with some other companions . . . "Sen. Barack Obama campaigned in Indiana yesterday with a pair of potential vice presidential picks and will travel abroad with a third, the latest round of high-profile appearances coinciding with a search process that could be critical to his chances of winning the White House in November," Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza write in The Washington Post.
"Despite their differences in age and geographic base, Nunn, Bayh and [Sen. Jack] Reed all fit well in the experience column among contenders for the No. 2 spot on the ticket -- Washington veterans with deep résumés and credentials in government," they continue. "But Obama is also considering individuals who are more in his own political mold, fellow outsiders who would reinforce his message of bringing change to Washington."
As Obama talked national security, McCain focused his day on . . . education. "The two presidential candidates switched places Wednesday," Joseph Curl writes in the Washington Times.
Another McCain shift? "The promise to 'fully fund' No Child Left Behind was a departure; previously Mr. McCain has said he would freeze nondefense discretionary spending, including spending on education," Elizabeth Green writes in the New York Sun.
At the NAACP, McCain offered rare praise for his rival: "Don't tell him I said this," McCain said, per ABC's Ron Claiborne, "but he is an impressive fellow in many ways. He has inspired a great many Americans, some of whom had wrongly believed that a political campaign could hold no purpose or meaning for them. His success should make Americans, all Americans, proud."
And the reception was generous, if not thunderous. "He did not draw the crowd that greeted his Democratic opponent here Monday, where, as one organization official put it, 'even the overflow room had an overflow room,' but McCain received a respectful reception for his speech on education reform," Robin Abcarian writes in the Los Angeles Times.
It's a day to build a bridge to the 20th century: Big announcements by both Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Clinton's foundation "has signed pricing agreements with several suppliers involved in making a malaria-fighting drug in an effort to stabilize the medication's fluctuating costs and ensure more dependable availability," the AP's Sara Kugler reports.
As for Gore: "Just as John F. Kennedy set his sights on the moon, Al Gore is challenging the nation to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years, an audacious goal he hopes the next president will embrace," the AP's Ron Fournier writes.
"I have never seen an opportunity for the country like the one that's emerging now," the former vice president tells Fournier. "I hope to contribute to a new political environment in this country that will allow the next president to do what I think the next president is going to think is the right thing to do. . . . But the people have to play a part."
Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but we hadn't even heard the worst that you said?
This time, it's that other N-word, the really bad one: "Barack . . . he's talking down to black people . . . telling n--s how to behave," Jackson said, according a more full transcript of the infamous open-mic moment obtained by TVNewser.
The Chicago Tribune's Christi Parsons: "Jesse Jackson apparently was caught on tape using the n-word, the racial epithet he has railed against for years, adding an ironic new twist to the controversy over his recent remarks about Barack Obama during an off-air break in a televised interview."
Jackson's response: "I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barrack (sic) Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public. There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me."
Not done with Obama yet: "A former campaign and legislative aide to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has sought government-affairs clients in Washington by reminding potential prospects: 'Should 'CHANGE' occur in November as polls indicate, we should see a lot of people from Illinois moving to Washington D.C. and taking key spots in an Obama administration,' " Politico's Mike Allen reports.
"Obama's campaign called the e-mail 'inappropriate,' and the former aide said he'll be more careful in the future," Allen writes. "The pitch by Dan Shomon, who was political director of Obama's successful 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate, reflects the effort by some supporters and associates of the senator to leverage his political success -- and the possibility that he will be president of the United States a scant six months from now."
On the McCain side: "A Catholic group is demanding the dismissal of Deal Hudson from Catholics for McCain National Steering Committee because he allegedly solicited sex from an 18-year-old female student when he was a professor at Fordham University in New York in 1994," ABC's Ron Claiborne reports.
Said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds: "He's a name on a list, a volunteer, so when are we going to start talking about gas prices, jobs and the issues facing Americans? The McCain campaign is all done with the gotcha games."
While we're on the subject -- there's a big name missing from McCain's list of bundlers. "Midland oilman Clayton Williams is nowhere to be found," Richard S. Dunham writes for the Houston Chronicle. "Williams, 76, was disowned by the McCain campaign last month after the GOP White House hopeful said he had just discovered that Williams had told a tasteless joke about rape during his unsuccessful 1990 campaign for governor."
"Before the controversy erupted, Williams told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that he had raised more than $300,000 for the Arizona senator's presidential bid. McCain's campaign flatly rejected Democratic demands that he return donations solicited by Williams," Dunham continues. "The McCain campaign issued a statement saying that Williams 'isn't listed on our list of current fundraisers' because 'he's not raising money for the campaign.' " (Huh?)
The bundlers' list does include Juan Carlos Benitez, "a lawyer and lobbyist whom Mr. Abramoff had championed for a Bush administration post," per The New York Times' Leslie Wayne. "According to a 2006 report of the House Committee on Government Reform, Mr. Abramoff had urged the appointment of Mr. Benitez as special counsel for immigration-related unfair employment practices."
From the department of the just dumb: Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., wants to add Jesse Helms' name to the big anti-AIDS funding bill. That would be the same Helms who, in 1995, was urging less government spending on a disease he said was spread by "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."
"That is bizarre," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., tells ABC's Jake Tapper. "The idea that anyone would want to do that is ludicrous. . . . I would try to think of something that would be less appropriate, but even with my disregard for convention it would be hard to do that."
What's $45 million between friends? "Mitt Romney, whose prospects of becoming John McCain's running mate appear on the rise, is preparing to formally declare he will not seek donations to repay $45 million in personal loans he made to his failed presidential bid - the biggest ever made by a candidate in a primary campaign," Michael Kranish reports in The Boston Globe. "The move could clear away the last remnants of a divisive primary race, ensuring that he and his financial supporters are focused on helping McCain, but it could also put him at odds with McCain's campaign reform message."
What Romney, R-Mass., wishes wasn't on tape: "I think Barack Obama would be able to do to John McCain exactly what he was able to do to the other senators who are running on the Democratic side," Romney said on the campaign trail in January, per ABC's Matt Stuart. "I frankly don't think that Senator McCain, despite his service and his length of experience, that that's going to be able to stand up to the message that Barack Obama has brought forward."
Carly Fiorina's latest charge: Ambassador to former Clinton supporters. Fiorina "met with the former Clinton backers at a private home for more than an hour and a half," Christopher Cooper and John Emshwiller report in The Wall Street Journal. "Fiorina said in an interview that over glasses of iced tea and finger food, she fielded questions from Democratic women she described as 'intensely uncomfortable with the notion of a President Obama.' "
For the dreamers: "Hillary Rodham Clinton's former campaign manager, now on Barack Obama's team, says she could easily work for her old boss again if Clinton were on the Democratic ticket," Deanna Bellandi reports for the AP. "She says the move to Obama came with 'very complicated emotions' because of that past. So she checked with her old boss before joining Obama's team. 'She's a friend of mine and I just wanted to, both on a personal and professional level, let her know what I was doing and make sure that she was, you know, good with it. And she was,' Solis Doyle said." Democratic consultant Dan Payne weighs in on Obama's short list -- emphasis on "short." "Barack Obama's short list of vice presidential prospects is much shorter than he'd like it to be. It's down to Senator Evan Bayh (D-Borrring), Senator Joe Biden (D-Rather-be-Secretary-of-State), Wesley Clark (D-Not-Afraid-of-McCain), Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Governor Brian Schweitzer, Democrat of Montana (!)."
McCain holds a town-hall meeting in Kansas City, with a round of local interviews wedged in, and overnights in Detroit.
Obama is down, but Michelle Obama campaigns and raises money in Washington state.
President Bush attends Tony Snow's funeral Thursday morning, then heads to California to be briefed on the wildfires and raise cash.
Al Gore's big announcement comes at noon ET in Washington.
Bill Clinton's is at 12:45 pm ET at his Harlem foundation office.
Get the full political schedule in The Note's "Sneak Peek."
Also in the news:
It's not likely, but it's fun to ponder: ABC's Jennifer Parker runs through the 269-269 scenario. "Under the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, if one candidate does not get 270 votes, the decision gets kicked to the House of Representatives, where each state gets a vote -- a formula that would likely guarantee an Obama victory," Parker writes.
Wondering about the odd silence from the candidates on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? So was The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman: "Their responses made sense in political and economic terms. The risks of intervening in the firms' rescue are high, the rewards are scant, and the tentacles of the government-sponsored enterprises reach into both campaigns."
Karl Rove sees an opening: "Now with Fannie and Freddie at greater risk, Messrs. McCain and Obama need to think like would-be presidents instead of senators," he writes in his Wall Street Journal column.
Like father, (un)like son: The Los Angeles Times' Edmund Sanders looks at Barack Obama, senior and junior. "Although the lives of father and son scarcely intersected beyond a few letters and a 1971 visit in Hawaii when the younger Obama was 10, friends and family see similarities in the men's charisma and eloquence, even if their lives took dramatically different turns," Sanders writes. "Both achieved success at a young age. Both advocated change. And both displayed a self-confidence that friends described as bordering on cocky."
Obama is planning to celebrate his birthday in Boston next month. (Will he learn how to pronounce "Massachusetts" in time for the big day?)
Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr creates some mischief for McCain: "John McCain is warning conservatives that control of today's finely balanced Supreme Court depends on his election. Unfortunately, his jurisprudence is likely to be anything but conservative," Barr writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Where's the love? "Few House Republicans have contributed to Sen. John McCain since he clinched the Republican nomination at the end of February," The Hill's Alexander Bolton and Michael O'Brien report. "Only 21 House Republicans have given to McCain from their personal campaign accounts since he became the presumptive GOP nominee four and a half months ago, according to an analysis of House fundraising reports made public Wednesday."
Does Meghan McCain have a new friend? She was spotted lunching at The Ivy with "The Hills" star Heidi Montag, Perez Hilton reports.
And yes, Hillary Clinton has a new 'do: "Hillary Clinton is moving to the right," Bill Hutchinson writes in the New York Daily News. "The longtime lefty is making a dramatic change -- not in her policies -- but in her hair style."
"It's a punch in the groin disguised as a word. . . . It is divisive, it is painful. One cannot sanitize this. So whether it is degrading or self-degrading, whether it is hate or self-hate, it is wrong." -- Jesse Jackson, in 2006, on the N-word, after actor Michael Richards was caught on tape using it at a comedy performance.
"There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." -- The late senator Jesse Helms, R-N.C., in 1988, opposing an AIDS research bill.
"The service monkeys perform a variety of tasks, including retrieving dropped items, turning on the television or loading a compact disc" -- Rep. Don Young R-AK, on why legislation allowing the interstate transfer of monkeys is his highest priority right now (Roll Call).
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