The “shock and awe” phase of the Iraq War commenced five
years ago last night over Baghdad.
** IS DRUDGE NOW FOR OBAMA?! Check the exclusives there in the last 15 minutes … Barack Obama’s passport file intruded into by State Department employees — two fired, one suspended. And a picture of Rev. Jeremiah Wright with Bill Clinton. At a White House gathering of religious leaders brought together to defend him during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
UPDATE: Hillary Clinton was at the White House gathering with Wright.
** PETRAEUS WANTS PAUSE IN IRAQ TROOP WITHDRAWALS. General David Petraeus, preparing for next month’s report on the situation in Iraq, wants a pause in withdrawal of surge forces. But some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — notably Army Chief of Staff General George Casey and Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway — are very worried about delays in scheduled drawdowns of US forces in-country. Their concern is about the effect of long deployments on units and families.
How long would any “pause” be? That’s what in discussion now.
Petraeus goes before Congress on April 8th.
** U.S. GOVERNMENT STABILIZES FINANCIAL MARKETS WITH BILLIONS IN LOANS. The Federal Reserve Bank is loaning billions of dollars to stabilize teetering investment banking firms. It’s the most expansive use of Fed authority since the 1930s. Needless to say.
** MCCAIN FLOATS ABOVE IT IN BRITAIN. While Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama struggles to dig out from under the load of Jeremiah Wright videos, and former frontrunner Hillary Clinton struggles with increased scrutiny of her claims to experience, John McCain was toasted today in London by the British elite.
After meeting for an hour at 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now the leader of Labour following the retirement of Tony Blair, McCain emerged to declare the “Al Qaeda is on the run” around the globe, and that the military surge in Iraq is succeeding in stabilizing the situation there.
He thanked Britain for its support in Iraq and strenuous efforts in Afghanistan. “I fully appreciate that British public opinion has been frustrated by sometimes our lack of progress in both areas, but all I can do is express my gratitude to the British government and people and especially the young people who are serving,” he said.
He also expressed appreciation for Brown and Blair’s leadership on climate change. “I want to make it clear again, we will not have a global agreement that is effective unless India and China are part of it,” he added. “I think that there will be sufficient International pressures and domestic pressures as well as the facts of the environmental challenges that will bring them into a global agreement.”
McCain went on to a fundraiser at Spencer House, which was built in the 18th centuries by ancestors of Diana Spencer, the late Princess Di. Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama have previously held fundraisers in London. From London, McCain is on to Paris to meet with new President Nicolas Sarkozy, and still newer French First Lady Carla Bruni.
** OBAMA HITS ON IRAQ WAR, NAFTA REVELATION. In a second day in a row of delivering a major speech on the Iraq War, now at its fifth anniversary, Barack Obama blamed the cost of and focus on the war for much of America’s current economic troubles. As the Democratic frontrunner did so, his campaign hit Hillary Clinton hard for claiming in the campaign that she opposed NAFTA when her just released, albeit heavily redacted, White House schedules revealing that she pushed for its passage as first lady.
But the major focus was on Iraq, and John McCain.
“When you’re spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you’re paying a price for this war,” Obama said in Charleston, West Virginia, a primary in which Clinton leads. “When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you’re paying a price for this war.”
Referring briefly to Clinton’s criticism this week of McCain on Iraq, Obama noted: “Her point would have been more compelling had she not joined Senator McCain in making the tragically ill-considered decision to vote for the Iraq war in the first place.”
“For what folks in this state have been spending on the Iraq War, we could be giving health care to nearly 450,000 of your neighbors, hiring nearly 30,000 new elementary school teachers, and making college more affordable for over 300,000 students,” Obama said.
Obama was introduced by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “He’s a man who’s worked for everything he’s achieved. That’s something I can’t say,” he quipped.
** HILLARY WON’T DENY HER CAMPAIGN IS PUSHING THE WRIGHT STORY. At a press avail today following her appearance in Terra Haute, Indiana, Hillary Clinton twice refused to deny that her campaign is pushing the Jeremiah Wright story to block superdelegates from coming over to Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama. As I’ve noted a number of times, the Clinton campaign, which was already running out of options, suffered major setbacks this week in not gaining do-over primaries in Florida and Michigan. Neither state would allow her to catch Obama in the popular vote — which in almost all measures does not include the record turnouts in caucus states — or earned delegates.
** RASMUSSEN NATIONAL TRACKING POLL: OBAMA SLIGHT EDGE OVER CLINTON, MCCAIN SIGNIFICANT LEADS OVER BOTH. The latest Rasmussen robopoll has Barack Obama clinging to a narrow lead over Hillary Clinton, 46% tp 43%. Obama had a 5-point lead over Clinton yesterday; 8 points before the endless loop of Rev. Jeremiah Wright incendiary comments.
In general election match-ups, John McCain leads Obama, 49% to 42%. And McCain leads Clinton, 51% to 41%.
** BIG CLINTON LEAD IN PENNSYLVANIA. A new Franklin & Marshall College poll gives Hillary Clinton a continuing big lead in the Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary. It’s Clinton 51%, Obama 35%.
Pennsylvania, which has its primary on April 22nd, has always been one of the most favorable states to the Clintons in the entire process. Witness her image score there: 65% favorable, 18% unfavorable.
The poll was taken March 11-16, which mostly coincides with the height of the furor around the Rev. Jeremiah Wright tapes, and of course prior to Obama’s speech. For Obama, tougher sledding that has gotten still tougher. He has a 47% favorable and 25% unfavorable rating. His favorable dropped 10 points since last month; his unfavorable rose nine points.
** WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.
Barack Obama campaigns in Charleston and Beckley, West Virginia. He has another major speech on Iraq, this time with regard to the US economy.
Hillary Clinton campaigns in Terre Haute, Anderson, and Evansville, Indiana. She keeps pushing for do-over primaries in Michigan and Florida, without which she has no hope of catching Obama in the popular vote.
John McCain continues his foreign tour of the Middle East and Europe. The maverick Western senator, now frontrunner for the presidency, is in London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Party leader David Cameron, and others, and a fundraiser at Spencer House.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST THIS AFTERNOON. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who yesterday floated the idea of shifting sales taxes away from goods to services, today continues his push for California budget reform with a meeting with Orange County local elected officials, law enforcement officials, and business and community leaders in Anaheim. He’s pushing what he calls his Budget Stabilization Act. The event will be webcast live at 1:15 PM.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil is trading in the $100 to $102 per barrel range. The oil price has dropped dramatically in the past few days on expectations of a global economic slowdown and possible recession.
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