It's supposed to be Sen. Barack Obama's moment on the podium -- so why are the cameras trained on those who captured the silver and the bronze?
To the winner goes the spoils -- and this is fresh: With Denver approaching, and party unity elusive anyway, Obama's drama now includes the accumulated baggage of his failed opponents. (Surely he didn't think he could escape them in Hawaii. . . . )
Former Clinton strategist Mark Penn's words will live longer than his career in presidential politics: "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values," Penn wrote in an e-mail he thought was private, recording the words Republicans won't have to utter, per the bombshell scoop by The Atlantic's Joshua Green.
"Let's explicitly own 'American' in our programs, the speeches, and the values. He doesn't," Penn wrote. "His roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited."
(You may recall, as Politico's Jonathan Martin reminds us, McCain's now-abandoned tagline: "John McCain: The American president Americans have been waiting for.")
Then there's John Edwards -- confirming his narcissism in spectacular fashion, and doing Obama the courtesy of acknowledging his affair and lying in time to make sure he won't be within a few hundred miles of Denver in two weeks.
But not necessarily making all the questions go away: There won't be a paternity test, yet Edwards still has a timeline problem:
"Some people close to the woman involved, Rielle Hunter, say they believe Edwards is still not telling the whole truth -- in particular, on the key point of whether campaign money was used to give Edwards' mistress a job," ABC's Brian Ross reported on "Good Morning America" Monday. "With no previous filmmaking experience, Hunter was paid $114,000 by Edwards' political action committee to produce a series of films for the Internet, that included many scenes of the two in flirtatious banter."
Said Hunter friend Pigeon O'Brien: "The affair began long, long, long before she was hired to work for the campaign -- almost half a year before she was hired to work on those videos."
And here are the Edwards and Clinton storylines crashing together: If Edwards had come clean (or been caught outright) last year, "I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee," former Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson tells ABC's Brian Ross and Jake Tapper.
(Where does this notion take disappointed Clinton supporters in the run-up to Denver?)
"My instinct tells me that she probably would have done better had Sen. Edwards not been on the ballot in Iowa, but that wasn't the circumstances at the time," James Carville told Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday.
"It would have been an awful big mess had [Edwards] been the nominee," Carville added, understating it.
This week will belong to Sen. John McCain -- if he can indeed own it. He's got the field to himself (and Mr. Putin is planning a game that's made for him). Now his team needs to show it can run one play at a time.
"Mr. McCain's campaign promised to take full advantage this week of Mr. Obama's absence -- for starters, Mr. McCain was scathing about his rival in his weekend radio address -- but up close and personal, Mr. McCain sounded as though he would not mind some August beach time himself," Elisabeth Bumiller writes in The New York Times.
Obama is ready for combat, even from the beach. His campaign launches a new ad Monday morning turning the "celebrity" theme on its head (with clips from "SNL" and talk shows, and "Washington" equaling "George W. Bush" for the sake of the visuals).
"Lurching to the right, then the left, the old Washington dance, whatever it takes," says the ad (which -- unlike McCain's latest attack spots, isn't part of the Olympic rotation). "John McCain. A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games."
Said Gov. Bill Richardson, to ABC's Jake Tapper on "This Week" Sunday: "Senator McCain is the Washington celebrity here."
We will learn this week whether McCain possesses the ability to drive a message. That depends, in part, on whether any campaign apparatus can survive the White Tornado.
"Even now, after a shake-up that aides said had brought an unusual degree of order to Mr. McCain's disorderly world in the last month, two of his pollsters are at odds over parts of the campaign's message, while past and current aides have been trading snippy exchanges debating the wisdom of attack advertisements he has aimed at Mr. Obama," Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg write in the Sunday New York Times.
"For now, Mr. McCain's executive style looms as a potential obstacle to his hopes of getting to the White House," they continue. "His campaign has been rocked by personnel changes and often well-publicized differences. And for all the efforts to maintain discipline, he continues to be plagued by misstatements and apparent gaffes as he at times bucks what his own campaign is trying to do."
Can McCain survive his own makeover? "Democrats, sensing a weakness, have started to chant that this year's John McCain is not the voluble insurgent who terrorized his party's establishment eight years ago," Nicholas Riccardi and Maeve Reston write in the Los Angeles Times.
"This debate over McCain's maverick-ness reflects a new challenge in his second bid for the presidency: the dilution of the McCain brand," they continue. "To win the GOP primary this year, McCain embraced party dogma in ways big and small, from switching his opposition to President Bush's tax cuts, which he had criticized as skewed to the rich, to making amends with religious leaders he once denounced as 'agents of intolerance.' "
Then there's hostilities in Georgia -- a corner of the world McCain knows well, involving a world leader he's long had a skeptical eye one. (McCain makes a 9 am ET "statement to the press" Monday in Pennsylvania -- starting the week off on his own terms.)
"The violence between Russia and Georgia quickly thrust foreign policy into the U.S. presidential election, with John McCain standing to benefit and Barack Obama facing a more perilous situation," Laura Meckler reports in The Wall Street Journal. "The candidates' responses to the crisis were initially very different in tone. Sen. McCain forcefully blamed Russia, a country he has taken a hard stand on in the past. . . . Sen. Obama's initial response was more measured, not blaming either side."
"McCain has called Russia's Vladimir Putin many things, few of them good. He's called Putin 'a totalitarian dictator' and famously said he looked into his eyes and saw three letters 'K, G and B,' " ABC's John Hendren reports. "And when hostilities erupted along the Georgia-Russia border, McCain was characteristically bold and quick to act."
Hendren continues: "Obama also condemned the Russian invasion. But he cast a wider net for advice -- including Hadley, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and his foreign policy advisors. When he spoke, he was characteristically circumspect."
"It has been a rough few weeks for McCain on the foreign policy front -- paging Dr. Maliki -- but he appears to have been ahead of the curve in his assessment that Moscow was the bad actor here," Politico's Jonathan Martin reports. "McCain aides feel encouraged that their candidate appeared to get it right first, and they are now working to remind reporters that he's long been wary of Putin's Russia."
"John McCain's presidential campaign and his supporters are pressing the argument that the escalating conflict in Georgia verifies the Republican's foreign policy judgment and gives him a boost against his Democratic opponent Barack Obama," The Hill's Walter Alarkon reports.
"We need someone like Senator McCain who will take a stronger view, a more experienced view when it comes to international security and protecting America's interest," Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., told Jake Tapper Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"For Mr. McCain, the crisis signals another opportunity for him to swing the presidential debate to the area where he is most comfortable -- foreign policy -- and away from the economy," Russell Berman writes in the New York Sun. "The Republican's campaign also attacked Mr. Obama's camp for making an issue of lobbying work conducted for the Georgian government by a top McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann."
But this is what happens when former lobbyists run your campaign: "John McCain's top foreign-policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, is a leading expert on U.S.-allied Georgia -- and was a paid lobbyist for the former Soviet republic until March, in the run-up to what has become a major battle between Georgia and Russia," The Wall Street Journal's Mary Jacoby writes.
It's left to the DNC and other Obama surrogates to do their own framing this week, and here's some help: "John McCain has often boasted that he led the way in the investigation that helped put Jack Abramoff in prison -- but apparently Abramoff's business associates are just fine for fundraisers," Eric Kleefeld writes at Talking Points Memo. "McCain is set to hold a fundraiser next week with none other than Ralph Reed, the Christian right leader and former [Abramoff] business partner whose 2006 bid for lieutenant governor of Georgia was derailed by the publication of numerous e-mails describing how Reed could launder money from Indian tribes to make it appear as if he wasn't actually working for pro-gambling interests."
More framing, on energy: "In recent months, with the price of gasoline on the minds of Americans, [McCain] has come a long way in persuading energy interests to open their wallets," Bennett Roth writes in the Houston Chronicle. "He has embraced one of their top priorities, increased domestic production, just as Democrats have stepped up their rhetorical assault on Big Oil -- and the result has been a spike in contributions to the McCain campaign."
Roth continues: "The key moment was the Republican candidate's June 16 Houston speech to cheering energy executives, during which he embraced offshore drilling, a position he previously opposed. Of the $976,350 in oil and gas money raised by the McCain Victory fund since March, 61 percent, or $594,700, was collected between the day of the Houston speech and the end of June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group."
Not that the GOP isn't feeling good on energy: "Republican leaders are vowing to continue through the August recess their daily protests on the House floor to demand votes on oil drilling, believing that they have struck a chord with a public fed up with high gas prices and Congressional gridlock and have Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the run,"Roll Call's Steven T. Dennis reports.
"We're going to continue to be here day after day until the Speaker calls us back," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
And yet: "The protest has largely been blown off by the party's standard-bearers, President Bush and the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain," Dennis writes. "McCain has used House GOP talking points on calling for Congress to come back to pass an offshore drilling plan but has not appeared with House Republicans in the Capitol. Bush left town for the Olympics in Beijing, ignoring GOP calls that he use his power to force Congress into an emergency session, prompting Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) to label him 'Beijing George' in a harsh blog post."
The Democratic National Convention schedule is filling out (slowly): Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kan., a convention cochair, holds a 10 am ET conference call Monday to discuss the latest.
As expected, Michelle Obama gets Monday night, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton gets Tuesday, and President Clinton is expected to share the spotlight with Obama's running mate Wednesday.
Does this mean she'll give an interview? "Hillary Clinton wants to be introduced by her daughter Chelsea at the Democratic National Convention, and party insiders say Barack Obama has signed off on the idea," Thomas M. DeFrank reported Saturday in the New York Daily News. "An official close to both the Obama and Clinton camps told The News that having Chelsea usher her mother onstage would be another symbolic gesture to Hillary's female backers, many of whom remain bruised by her loss and still haven't sworn their allegiance to Obama."
Still no answer to the big question -- a roll-call vote and the logistics it would involve.
It's going to get loud: "Frustrated [supporters] of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) are planning multiple rallies at the Democratic convention in Denver, coupled with television and print advertisements," The Hill's Bob Cusack reports.
"Forces beyond the two campaigns are also at play in the Clinton-Obama drama," Linda Feldmann writes in the Christian Science Monitor. "The city of Denver has issued a parade permit to a group called Colorado Women Count/Women Vote for Aug. 26 -- the day of Hillary Clinton's speech and the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage. The group plans to march through Denver to show appreciation for Clinton's campaign effort and to urge a roll-call vote on her nomination. Another group, 18 Million Voices, is planning a pro-Clinton rally in Denver as well."
The New York Sun editorial board goes a big step further: "Could Senator Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination at the last minute by taking advantage of buyer's remorse among Democratic super-delegates who are dismayed by the performance of Senator Obama's campaign so far? . . . What if, by the time the convention rolls around, Mr. Obama isn't just running neck and neck with Mr. McCain but is lagging by, say, five percentage points, or if Mr. Obama makes a big blunder with his choice of a running mate, or some other campaign stumble?"
But both sides need to pursue peace: "Politics is the art of turning the sanguinary into the sanguine," Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes. "Obama could use the Clintons' help, even if he is reluctant to admit it, and the Clintons need to cheerfully join the team (or do a good job of faking it) if they do not want to be dismissed as whiners -- or blamed as Machiavellian backstabbers if he loses."
Said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on "Fox News Sunday": "I think Bill is hurting."
Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., doesn't want a roll call: "I hope that doesn't happen, but Senator Clinton is a major leader in the party," Richardson told Jake Tapper on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "We as Democrats have to come together. So I don't believe a roll call would be helpful."
Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., doesn't mind one: "Would a roll call be productive? I'm not sure. Would it be destructive? Absolutely not. We all know Senator Obama will win the roll call," Rendell said on CNN's "Late Edition."
Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., doesn't know what to say: "I am not a great student of all the procedures and mechanics of things that should happen or shouldn't happen in the rules of the convention, and so I'm going to leave that to the convention tacticians," Kaine said on CBS' "Face the Nation." I'm just a guy who's trying to be a good governor and trying to spread the word about Barack Obama to the general electorate." (That's it?)
One big undecided voter: "Both campaigns have reached out to her, apparently to court her support. But in a statement to Variety provided by political adviser Trevor Neilson, [Angelina] Jolie says that she is waiting to make up her mind," Variety's Ted Johnson reports.
"I have not decided on a candidate," Jolie said in a statement. "I am waiting to see the commitments they will make on issues like international justice, refugees and how to address the needs of children in crisis around the world."
One big decided voter: Two economists estimate that Oprah won Obama a million primary votes. "Their conclusions were based partly on a county-by-county analysis of subscriptions to O: The Oprah Magazine and sales figures for books that were included in her book club," Brian Stelter writes in The New York Times. "Those data points were cross-referenced with the votes cast for Mr. Obama in various polling precincts. The results showed a correlation between magazine sales and the vote share obtained by Mr. Obama, and extrapolated an effect of 1,015,559 votes."
Veepstakes alert: McCain campaigns Monday and Tuesday in Pennsylvania with former governor Tom Ridge, R-Pa., with stops in cities including Ridge's hometown of Erie on Monday, ABC's Jan Simmonds reports.
The trip "will begin in Erie as originally planned -- with Ridge at McCain's side -- and then head to Harrisburg," Josh Drobnyk reports for the Allentown Morninc Call. "Details are still sketchy, but the tour is tentatively scheduled to then head to York and Lancaster on Tuesday."
Drobnyk continues: "McCain has visited the state more than a half-dozen times since the general election campaign began -- three times as often as Democratic rival Barack Obama -- but next week's trip will pair the Arizona senator with Ridge for the first time in months."
Obama's public schedule is empty, as his Hawaii vacation continues. A perfect week for some convention news, as the Denver schedule gets finalized.
The president and first lady arrive back at the White House Monday evening, after cramming a few days of sports and diplomacy into a Beijing stop.
Dying to find out who Obama will choose for his ticket? All you have to do is text-message the campaign to be "the first to know."
This is about slightly more than communications strategy: "Once Election Day comes around, the campaign can contact voters less likely to head to the polls via their cell phones to boost turnout," Reid Wilson writes for Real Clear Politics."The offer highlights another aspect Obama's campaign thinks will help them win, the enthusiasm gap."
"The more ways the campaign has to contact supporters or potential supporters, the better chance it has of maximizing its vote in the fall," Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza writes. "But, the email should serve as a reminder that a vice presidential decision from either Obama or John McCain could come any day between now and the end of the month."
Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., is wrapped up in the same money mess McCain has found himself in: "Jihan Nassar, a homemaker in Corona, Calif., is listed as a $500 donor to the campaign of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. But she insists she never gave a dime. 'I can't make any donations, financially,' Nassar said Friday,"per The Miami Herald's Scott Hiaasen, Evan S. Benn and Beth Reinhard.
"Nassar and her husband, Waleed, are among more than three dozen California donors listed as giving to Crist's campaign on June 19, 2006 -- donations bundled by a controversial Delray Beach defense contractor now under scrutiny for contributions to GOP presidential candidate John McCain."
Friends from across the pond stir the pot: "Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee who has endorsed John McCain, is being vetted as a potential running mate for the Republican presidential hopeful, according to an adviser to Mr McCain's campaign," Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports in the Financial Times.
Gov. Jindal may not be McCain's running mate, but he could have a critical role: "The possibility of a keynote address raises the inevitable question: Is the GOP grooming Jindal to be the anti-Obama?" David N. Bass reports in the American Spectator.
Not . . . him . . . too! "When you come to Minneapolis for the convention, send some of that good . . . " Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., told Glenn Beck last week, per the Pioneer Press' Bill Salisbury. Pawlenty, a South St. Paul native who works and lives in St. Paul, knows that twin (cities) don't like being confused for each other.
Also in the news:
More from the forthcoming Atlantic article: "The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men," Joshua Green writes, per Politico's Mike Allen. "[H]er advisers couldn't execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. . . . [S]he never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles' heel."
Other tidbits: Top Clinton aides weren't focusing on the delegate count until 12 days before Iowa, Green reports. Bill Clinton himself pulled the trigger on the "3 am" ad. And there's this quote, attributed to Howard Wolfson: "When the house is on fire, it's better to have a psychotic fireman than no fireman at all."
More with Rielle Hunter, from Newsweek's Jonathan Darman. (And what's your sign?)
The past tense is appropriate, surely for this cycle, at the very least: "Edwards had been expected to help presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama win votes among union members and low-income workers. He might have been a contender for a Cabinet position such as attorney general," USA Today's Jill Lawrence writes.
Some 527 action: "A Democratic-leaning California group is planning to spend some $10 million before November's election," Politico's Ben Smith reports. "PowerPAC.org, which aided Obama in the Democratic Primary, is launching a voter registration drive in the African-American south and a media campaign targeting Hispanic voters in four Western states, said the group's president, Steve Phillips. He said the aim was to capitalize on Obama's momentum to benefit progressive causes and candidates around the country."
Watch the field: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is opening campaign offices in Indiana, North Carolina and Alaska, using his financial edge to challenge John McCain in states previously written off by Democrats," Bloomberg's Jonathan D. Salant and Timothy J. Burger report. "Obama, an Illinois senator, also is concentrating much of his campaign-ad spending since clinching his party's nomination in June on states won by President George W. Bush in 2004, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin in Madison."
You've seen the TV ads -- now read the book. " 'Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise' is coming out Sept. 9 as a paperback with an announced first printing of 300,000 copies and a list price of $13.95," per the AP's Hillel Italie. "It comes out at the same time as Bob Woodward's fourth volume on the Bush administration, one of the fall's most anticipated releases."
The Democratic Party's 2008 platform is set. "In a nod toward supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the platform declares that the party is 'united behind a commitment that every American man, woman and child be guaranteed to have affordable, comprehensive health care,' " per ABC's Teddy Davis. "The platform stops short, however, of proposing, as Clinton did in her campaign, that all individuals should be required to have health insurance."
The Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons profile someone you don't read much about: "[Mike] Strautmanis, now 39 and a senior counsel to Obama's presidential campaign, has emerged as a member of a circle of Chicagoans positioned in influential roles on the Illinois senator's team," they write. "Strautmanis, a genial political diplomat with an easy manner and a ready smile, has a connection with the candidate that stretches back as far as nearly anyone involved in the operation. . . . That history has been an asset for someone who, in Obama's U.S. Senate office, served as an ambassador of sorts in the capital to key Democratic constituencies, such as African-American leaders, unions and other liberal interest groups."
Newsweek's Holly Bailey profiles McCain's "court jester" -- who only sometimes wears a bikini T-shirt on the campaign plane. "[Steve] Duprey, a New Hampshire real-estate developer who's been in Republican politics for decades, never thought he'd spend a year traveling almost full time with the GOP nominee. A former New Hampshire state-party chairman, he began advising McCain back in 2006 and stuck close to his friend of two decades, even when his campaign nearly went belly up last year. Duprey ferried McCain around in his own Chevy Suburban, driving him to town halls and events all over New Hampshire. After McCain won the primary there, the senator and his aides invited Duprey to stay on for the ride."
McCain still has a friend in Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. "I think the guy calls 'em as he sees 'em, and as president would call 'em as he sees 'em, and would make people mad all over the place because it wouldn't fit anybody's playbook," Feingold tells the Milwaukee Journal's Craig Gilbert. "He would be very original."
Mark your calendars (unless someone is crossing off dates for them): "Salem State officials [in Massachusetts] say they expect the Sept. 23 'conversation with John and Elizabeth Edwards' to go forward, but they are consulting with the corporate sponsors who helped pay the Edwardses' undisclosed speaking fee to ensure the couple will still make an appearance," Scott Allen reports in The Boston Globe.
Two years ago, Sen. George Allen said the word "macaca," and you the rest. Actor Kal Penn on Monday celebrates the anniversary in Northern Virginia at Toby Chaudhuri and Ruby Roy's house, for an event they're calling "Hakuna Macaca."
"I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen." -- John Edwards on Bill Clinton, February 1999.
"I went from being a senator, a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences." -- John Edwards, on John Edwards, to ABC's Bob Woodruff Friday.
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