John McCain and Hillary Win in Florida…

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For John McCain, this was the win he needed to overcome Mitt Romney. For Hillary Clinton, though there were no delegates on the line, it was an important win in an important battleground state, especially after her devastating loss in South Carolina. For Rudy Guiliana, this was his death blow; it was also a sign that skipping the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary was a horrible campaign strategy that future White House hopefuls will take note of. He is expected, though, to throw his support behind Arizona Senator John McCain tomorrow.

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Yesterday, in response to the endorsement of Barack Obama by Caroline Kennedy (JFK’s daughter) and Edward Kennedy, Hillary Clinton gained the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Kerry Kennedy. They expressed their support on the editorial page of the LA Times:

This is a wonderful year for Democrats. Our party is blessed with the most impressive array of primary candidates in modern history. All would make superb presidents.

By now you may have read or heard that our cousin, Caroline Kennedy, and our uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, have come out in favor of Sen. Barack Obama. We, however, are supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton because we believe that she is the strongest candidate for our party and our country.

While talk of unity and compromise are inspiring to a nation wary of divisiveness, America stands at a historic crossroads where real issues divide our political landscapes. Democrats believe that America should not be torturing people, eavesdropping on our citizens or imprisoning them without habeas corpus or other constitutional rights. We should not be an imperial power. We need healthcare for all and a clean, safe environment.

The loftiest poetry will not solve these issues. We need a president willing to engage in a fistfight to safeguard and restore our national virtues.

We have worked with Hillary Clinton for 15 years (and in Kathleen’s case, 25 years) and witnessed the power and depth of her convictions firsthand. We’ve seen her formidable work ethic, courage in the face of adversity and her dignity and clear head in crisis. We’ve also seen her two-fisted willingness to enter the brawl when America’s principles are challenged. Her measured rhetoric, political savvy and pragmatism shield the heart of our nation’s most determined and most democratic warrior.

She has been an uncompromising and loyal ally for each of us in our battles to protect the environment and to promote human rights around the world and juvenile justice in America. Hillary is a problem-solver, listening to people and then achieving solutions by changing attitudes.

Her transformational leadership was on display when she ran for the Senate seat in New York that had been held by our father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. She faced rabid, heavily funded attacks from the far right and the challenge of prevailing in traditionally Republican upstate New York. Traveling with her, we watched admiringly as she persuasively articulated an inspiring and unifying vision rooted in American values and history. Then, through patience, hard work, leadership and political acumen, she transformed many of those rock-solid conservative counties into solid Democratic strongholds.

We look forward to working beside her in the general election as she uses those same talents to change once rigid opinions and political affiliations across the nation.

Like our father, Hillary has devoted her life to embracing and including those on the bottom rung of society’s ladder — giving voice to the alienated and disenfranchised and working to alleviate poverty and injustice, while urging that we cannot advance ourselves as a nation by leaving our poorer brothers and sisters behind.

She’s been an equally effective champion for human rights and for women’s rights, a worldwide cause that will profit enormously by her elevation to the presidency. She has worked for peace in Northern Ireland and fought to bridge religious, racial and ethnic divides from Bosnia to the Middle East to South Africa. She has shown a rare understanding that American values can only be exported by moral leadership, by a strong home economy and by a detailed understanding of the history and cultural backdrops of the nations we engage.

She understands, as our current administration does not, the uses of power. The world, she says, is hungry for U.S. leadership but will not accept our bullying. She knows the difference and will reestablish America’s lost prestige and moral authority.

Hillary Clinton’s political career has been centered in comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable and reminding Americans what it means to be American. As a young lawyer, she focused on children’s issues and legal aid. As first lady of Arkansas, she brought healthcare to rural areas and helped reform the state’s lagging education system.

As first lady, she courageously took on healthcare reform. When a massive propaganda campaign by Big Pharma and the radical right derailed her efforts, she didn’t give up. She helped create the nationally acclaimed Children’s Health Insurance Program. That kind of persistence in pursuit of our highest ideals is the brand of leadership America now requires. Inspirational leadership comes in many forms.

Seldom has history confronted America with such daunting challenges: a catastrophic foreign policy that has cost us our international leadership and aggravated the threat of terror; a misbegotten war that is squandering precious American lives and treasure; a healthcare system that leaves millions of Americans without coverage; irresponsible corporate power that is corroding our democracy and outsourcing our jobs, aggravating global warming and other environmental crises and reducing our economy to shambles.

We need a leader who is battle-tested, resilient and sure-footed on the shifting landscapes of domestic and foreign policy. Hillary Clinton will move our country forward while promoting its noblest ideals.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental advocate and Kerry Kennedy is a human rights activist.

In another much-ado about nothing story, at the President’s final State of the Union Address, Barack Obama apparently snubbed Hillary Clinton. Here is the picture:

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Here is the story from CNN.com:

It seems a snub is in the eye of the beholder.

The question swirling around Barack Obama Tuesday: did he, or didn’t he, deliberately snub presidential rival Hillary Clinton at the State of the Union speech?

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the Illinois senator said all the talk swirling around the moment the two crossed paths Monday night is much ado about nothing.

“I was surprised by sort of the reports this morning,” Obama told reporters. “You know there was the photograph in the Times about, sort of, me turning away. I was turning away because [Sen.] Claire [McCaskill] asked me a question as Sen. [Ted] Kennedy was reaching for her.”

“Sen. Clinton and I have very cordial relations off the floor and on the floor. I waved at her as we were coming into the Senate chamber before we walked over last night,” he continued. “I think that there’s just a lot more tea leaf reading going on here than I think people are suggesting.”

The moment came at Monday’s speech when Clinton headed to shake hands with a congressman seated in front of Obama. CNN’s Jessica Yellin reports that Kennedy, seated directly next to Obama, then moved to shake Clinton’s hand. As the two senators spoke, Obama turned to look at the back of the room. It was only after Obama turned away, Yellin reports, that McCaskill struck up a conversation with Obama.

McCaskill also commented on the incident Tuesday, calling it “one of those accidents that just happened and got caught on film.”

“There was a wave and there was a friendly moment,” she said at an Obama campaign press availability. “And I think that, as somebody who watched the whole thing, I was amazed when I woke up this morning and I was part of it, I didn’t even realize. I mean, it was one of those things that all of a sudden it’s being blown into something that it frankly just wasn’t.”

The real story to me is that nobody is talking about Bush’s speech. Instead, everyone is focused on this non-event.

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Relaxed, confident and unapologetic, President Bush delivered his seventh and likely final State of the Union address Monday, giving a triumphal appraisal of the war in Iraq and citing a list of modest proposals that came with two barbed veto threats.

The president opened the speech to the joint session of Congress with an appeal to bipartisanship, noting that the two parties had cooperated in recent days on proposed legislation to rescue the economy from a feared recession.

“In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them,” Bush said. “And let us show them that Republican and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time.”

But he quickly moved on to better-trod partisan ground, threatening to veto any tax increase and castigating Congress for what he considered wasteful funding for pet projects known as earmarks.

He said he would veto any spending bill that does not cut the cost of earmarks in half and would order his administration to ignore future earmarks attached to legislation at the last minute. “The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks,” he chided.

Some Democrats took offense. “I found it to be very combative and confrontational,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) said. “Right out of the box, he started off with everything he’s going to veto. His whole last two years has been about stopping change and stopping progress.”

Bush devoted the largest section of his speech to the Iraq war, and his tone contrasted sharply with that of a year earlier — when he used the address to acknowledge insurgent violence was on the rise and announce a “surge” in troops.

This year, with violence waning, Bush returned to the soaring rhetoric more typical of his State of the Union speeches. “We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated,” he proclaimed. “We must do the difficult work today, so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.”

Throughout the 53-minute address, Bush connected his themes by using the word “trust” as a rhetorical refrain to herald the conservative idea of small government.

“In all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures,” he said.

In the audience were the Democratic front-runners who are fighting fiercely to succeed him: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois. The two sat a few feet apart but appeared to be avoiding each other.

“Tonight, for the seventh long year, the American people heard a State of the Union that didn’t reflect the America we see, and didn’t address the challenges we face,” Obama said.

Clinton complained that Bush did not acknowledge “that the economy is not working for middle-class families. Unfortunately, what he offered was more of the same — a frustrating commitment to the same failed policies that helped turn record surpluses into large deficits, and push a thriving 21st century economy to the brink of recession.”

Bush’s speech was a mix of tried-and-true themes for the president, sprinkled with a few new proposals modest enough to have a chance of being enacted this year.

Many are ideas cherished by Bush since he took office but rejected or ignored by Congress. Among them were a call to make his first-term tax cuts permanent, a plea to reauthorize his No Child Left Behind education plan, and a proposal to change the way healthcare premiums are taxed.

Among the new, less ambitious ideas were proposals to extend education benefits and federal hiring preferences to military spouses, and a $300-million grant program to help inner-city families who want to send their children to private or parochial schools.

Throughout most of the speech, Republicans roared approval and demonstrated their fervor with standing ovations. When Democrats didn’t like what Bush was saying, they sat in stony silence. During the speech, one Republican surreptitiously read a magazine, while lawmakers on both sides stifled yawns.

Many Democrats singled out the president’s comments on the economy for criticism. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said: “The president touched so lightly on the state of the economy. I don’t think he has any idea the difficulty Americans are facing.”

The economic stimulus package is perhaps the most successful compromise Democrats and Republicans have forged since control of Congress shifted to the Democrats last year. The House is expected to approve the nearly $150-billion measure today.

However, there are signs the Senate will not go along with the proposal.

Just hours before Bush spoke, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Finance Committee chairman, unveiled a different plan — a $500 rebate that would reach millions more taxpayers, including seniors living on Social Security and the wealthy. His plan would extend unemployment benefits.

On Iraq, Bush’s sanguine account of events contrasted with the more measured tone of top military and administration officials in recent weeks.

He offered no new details about plans for troop withdrawals. The administration is awaiting a new assessment from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, scheduled for March.

Bush also did not mention what has been widely cited as the major failure of the surge: the failure of the Iraqi government to take major steps toward national reconciliation.

“The Iraqis still have a distance to travel,” Bush acknowledged. “But after decades of dictatorship and the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place — and the Iraqi people are taking control of their future.”

In other foreign-policy areas, Bush struck a familiar tone in portraying a struggle between the forces of “freedom and peace” and those of extremism.

He described the war in Afghanistan as a success, without mentioning the resurgence of the Taliban and foreign militants. He said that “a nation that was once a safe haven for Al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.”

Bush took a hard line against the Iranian regime, which he said embodied “the forces of extremism.”

While he praised Iranians as “good and talented people,” he said the United States would negotiate with the government only if it “verifiably” suspended nuclear enrichment. “And to rejoin the community of nations, come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, and cease your support for terror abroad.”

Bush did not address the effort to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a push that has faced obstacles. He made no mention of North Korea, whose promise to abandon its nuclear program is in question.

On Mideast peace, he promised “America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year.”

Perhaps the most contentious part of the speech, at least for lawmakers, was Bush’s pledge to crack down on earmarks. Democrats noted scathingly that Bush’s action is coming only after the opposing party took control of Congress. “The number of earmarks exploded under Republican leadership in the House, and for six years President Bush did nothing to slow their growth,” said the House’s No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Some fellow Republicans who have railed against pork-barrel spending said they wished Bush had gone further. “But hey, it’s something,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Earmarking is under scrutiny because the practice has exploded, from 1,439 earmarks in 1995 to more than 13,000, costing $19 billion, in 2005.

Bush had just one item for social conservatives: a call for an unspecified amount of funding for stem cell research that involves skin cells rather than embryos. “On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries,” Bush said.

This is Bush’s last scheduled State of the Union address. He is unlikely to give another in his waning days in office in 2009, although a few outgoing presidents have done so.

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From the LA Times:

Obama’s misuse of history
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Despite the candidate’s claims, Lincoln and Kennedy were seasoned politicians before they became president.
By Sean Wilentz
January 26, 2008

‘God alone knows the future,” Ambrose Bierce reputedly wrote, “but only an historian can alter the past.” Although Bierce was undoubtedly right about historians, he should perhaps have added politicians and their ardent supporters as well.

In recent weeks, some of the presidential candidates and their surrogates have been evoking history more insistently than ever. Not surprisingly, those evocations often have been flimsy and faulty.

On the Republican side, the misuse of history has mostly centered on the presidency of Ronald Reagan; indeed, the GOP contest has at times looked like an “American Idol”-style competition over who can deliver the most convincing imitation of Reagan. At the Fox News debate on Jan. 5, the GOP candidates invoked the former president’s name 34 times — yet, on closer inspection, their evocations have more to do with nostalgia for a happier time for conservatives than with historical accuracy.

The more grievous abuses of history, though, have come from the Democrats, and particularly from the Barack Obama side, including his many avid supporters in the media and the academy. (Perhaps this is a good place to note that I am on record as a supporter of Hillary Clinton.)

Few will disagree that it is very rare for a candidate with as little experience in politics and government as Obama to capture the imagination of so many influential Americans. One way for a candidate like this to minimize his lack of experience is to pluck from the past the names of great presidents who also, supposedly, lacked experience. Early in the campaign, Obama’s backers likened him to the supposed neophyte John F. Kennedy. More recently, some have pointed out (as did New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, among others) that Abraham Lincoln served only one “undistinguished” term in the House before he was elected president in 1860.

These comparisons distort the past beyond recognition. By the time he ran for president, JFK had served three terms in the House and twice won election to the Senate, where he was an active member of the Foreign Relations Committee. In total, he had held elective office in Washington for 14 years. Before that, he was, of course, a decorated veteran of World War II, having fought with valor in the South Pacific. Kennedy, the son of a U.S. ambassador to Britain, had closely studied foreign affairs, which led to his first book, “Why England Slept,” as well as to a postwar stint in journalism.

This record is not comparable to Obama’s eight years in the Illinois Legislature, his work as a community organizer and his single election to the Senate in 2004 — an election he won against a late entrant, right-wing Republican Alan Keyes, in a state where the GOP was in severe disarray.

The Lincoln comparison is equally tortured. Yes, Lincoln spent only two years in the House after winning election in 1846. Yet his deep involvement in state and national politics began in 1832, the same year he was elected a captain in the Illinois militia — and 28 years before he ran for president. He then served as leader of the Illinois Whig Party and served his far-from-undistinguished term in Congress courageously leading opposition to the Mexican War.

After returning home, he became one of the leading railroad lawyers in the country, emerged as an outspoken antislavery leader of Illinois’ Republican Party — and then, in 1858, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate and engaged with Stephen A. Douglas in the nation’s most important debates over slavery before the Civil War. It behooves the champions of any candidate to think carefully when citing similarities to Lincoln’s record. In this case, the comparison is absurd.

But on to the founding fathers. The historian Joseph Ellis, writing in the Los Angeles Times, likened Obama to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in a hazy way, as an advocate of nonpartisan politics. Yet Ellis had to sidestep what even he admitted is a large, inconvenient fact: Jefferson and Madison were not nonpartisan — they actually founded what has evolved into the Democratic Party. Through highly selective and misleading quotations, Ellis then described them as nonpartisan at heart, ignoring Madison’s recognition, in 1792, that “in every political society, parties are unavoidable,” or Jefferson’s pledge, as president, to sink the Federalist Party “into an abyss from which there shall be no resurrection for it.”

Returning to more recent history: The Obama campaign, in asserting a supposedly innovative post-partisan politics, has endorsed a partisan Republican account of the post-Reagan years that is at odds with the facts. Obama has asserted that the GOP has been the “party of ideas” over the last 10 to 15 years — that is, since 1993 or so. In other words: the old (and long discredited) right-wing bromides repackaged as the “Contract with America” in 1994, the Republican attack on Medicare that led to the government shutdown a year later, the endless recycling of supply-side economics (especially ironic, given the current meltdown), and the other ideological agendas pushed by Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, have made the GOP the party of intellectual daring and innovation.

Historians cannot expect all politicians and their supporters to know as much about American history as, say, John F. Kennedy, who won the Pulitzer Prize for a work of history. But it is reasonable to expect respect for the basic facts — and not contribute to cheapening the historical currency.

Spreading bad history is no way to make history.

Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author of “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln,” among other books.

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