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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

THURSDAY through SATURDAY, May 29 through 31, 2008

The Bush pinata is under new assault, now from a years-belated and self-serving book just out  by Scott McClellan.  He should now be given a battlefield promotion to General from those other Generals who decided to be comfortable before finding their principles.  GS

Rice says Bush clear about Iraq war

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer Thu May 29, 10:04 AM ET

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected allegations from a former White House spokesman who says the Bush administration misled the American public into going to war with Iraq.

Rice would not comment specifically on charges made by ex-press secretary Scott McClellan in a new book, but said President Bush was honest and forthright about the reasons for the war. She also said she remained convinced that toppling Saddam Hussein was right and necessary.

"The president was very clear about the reasons for going to war," she told reporters at a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm where she is attending an international conference on Iraq.

Chief among those reasons was the belief, shared widely before the war, that Saddam Hussein had or was developing weapons of mass destruction, Rice recalled, suggesting the international community shouldn't have backed harsh sanctions against Iraq if it doubted the threat.

"I am not going to comment on a book that I haven't read," she said, referring to McClellan's scathing memoir, "but what I will say is that the concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the fundamental reason."

"It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said, dismissing suggestions that the administration knew the intelligence was incorrect.

"The story is there for everyone to see, you can't now transplant yourself into the present and say we should have know what we in fact did not know in 2001 and 2002," she said. "The record on weapons of mass destruction was one that appeared to be very clear."

Those who were skeptical should have spoken up at the time and argued against U.N. sanctions such as the oil-for-food program, she said.

"The threat from Saddam Hussein was well understood," Rice said. "You can agree or disagree about the decision to liberate Iraq in 2003, but I would really ask that if you ... believe he was not a threat to the international community, then why in the world were you allowing the Iraqi people to suffer under the terms of oil-for-food."

McClellan writes that Rice, who was national security adviser earlier in Bush's presidency, "was more interested in figuring out where the president stood and just carrying out his wishes while expending only cursory effort on helping him understand all the considerations and potential consequences" of war. Rice "was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview," according to McClellan, but he predicts that "history will likely judge her harshly."

The heart of the McClellan book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 — at least a full year before the invasion — if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

However, McClellan wrote that he did not believe Bush or the White House "deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war — casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

The White House responded with surprise at McClellan's book.

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."

WEDNESDAY, May 28, 2008

The following is a recent exchange with a friend who knows from personal experience what he is talking about.  GS

The relative volume of suicides seems to be much worse among the Iraq War veterans then among the veterans of the Vietnam War. Although the Iraq War and the Vietnam War appear similar in the focus on fighting a home grown insurgency, I cannot account for the differences. It seems that the DoD’s lack of focus on this matter would lead one to conclude that they have no idea either.

I don't know either, but here are some ideas: 1) The "Millenium Generation" that was not raised to deal with true adversity; 2) The Reserves and especially the National Guard members who were totally abused - and disabused of their reasonable expectations for service; 3) the abject failure of the post-invasion leadership, thanks especially to Rumsfeld and his sycophantic generals; 4) the elimination of any predictability regarding duration of tours of duty, thanks to the bad faith of those same leaders; 5) that special weapon - the IED - against which they had no predictability nor protection...something that still baffles me; 6) the constant negative drumbeat, right from the beginning of deployment, as distinguished from the Viet Nam war that seemed noble for the first few years; 7) the terrible injuries, especially head wounds, that some would consider worse than death; 8) the lip service given to the care of the many established families that this unfair deployment left behind. 
 
Most of the above are matters of record on my Rapid Response section over the last five years as the situation unfolded.  When will we get leaders and legislators,,,and Americans...who are worthy of our troops?

TUESDAY, May 27, 2008

In the interest of offering accuracy instead of ultra-liberal spin regarding what is really happening in the Middle East at this time, the follow reports are offered in toto.  GS

McCain "sick at heart" over mistakes in Iraq war

By Tim Gaynor

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain sought on Monday to distance himself from President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war, telling veterans on Memorial Day he was "sick at heart" at mistakes made in the conflict now in its sixth year.

"As we all know, the American people have grown sick and tired of the war in Iraq," McCain told hundreds of veterans and their families gathered for a ceremony honoring U.S. service members killed in conflicts.

"I understand that, of course. I, too, have been made sick at heart by the many mistakes made by civilian and military commanders and the terrible price we have paid for them," he added.

The war is unpopular with voters, and in anticipation of facing Democratic front-runner Barack Obama in the general election in November, McCain has increasingly sought to disassociate himself from the administration's Iraq policies.

"We have new commanders in Iraq," McCain said to applause.

He continued with a veiled swipe at Bush: "They are following a counterinsurgency strategy that we should have been following from the beginning, which makes the most effective use of our strength and doesn't strengthen the tactics of our enemy."

Obama and Democrat Hillary Clinton have promised to withdraw all 155,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq as soon as possible.

McCain criticized these plans, saying, "It would strengthen al Qaeda, empower Iran and other hostile powers in the Middle East, unleash a full scale civil war in Iraq that could quite possibly provoke genocide there, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions."

Earlier this month he said he believed the Iraq war can be won by 2013, leaving a functioning democracy there and allowing most U.S. troops to come home.

McCain last year backed a decision to send a further 30,000 troops to Iraq to halt a slide toward sectarian civil war in Iraq, and said the surge was "succeeding where our previous tactics failed."

He spent much of the holiday weekend at a vacation home in Arizona with three Republicans who have been mentioned as possible vice presidential running mates: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

U.S., Iran and Arab neighbors to meet on Iraq

By Anna Ringstrom and Susan Cornwell

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The United States will prod Sunni Arab states to offer more support to the Iraqi government at a conference in Sweden this week as a way of countering the growing influence of non-Arab Iran in Iraq.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will chair the conference on Thursday, aimed at assessing progress in implementing a plan adopted at a meeting in Egypt last year to help Iraq rebuild after five years of war.

Analysts are watching for any contacts between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who will be attending the meeting, though U.S. officials say none are scheduled in Stockholm.

"If we don't get it right in Iraq, if we leave Iraq prematurely, then we're going to empower Iran," Rice said on Friday in an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo.

"We're getting exactly what we had hoped: the emergence of a functioning government in Iraq that is making strides towards democracy and reconciliation, that is providing better security for its people, that is beginning to be integrated again into the region," she added.

Washington accuses Tehran of trying to destabilize the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government by training and arming local militias, a charge Iran denies.

The United States has been pressing Sunni Arab governments to shore up the government of Nuri al-Maliki by forgiving debts and opening diplomatic missions.

No ambassador from any Sunni-led Arab nation has been stationed permanently in Baghdad since 2005. The Sunni-led Arab governments cite security concerns.

VIOLENCE IS DOWN

Figures by the U.S. military released on Saturday indicated that violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years, though officials say the progress is still reversible.

Analysts say the Iraqi government's reliance on the U.S. and other foreign troops and perceived collusion by the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government with fellow-Shi'ite Iran may also lie behind the reluctance to normalize ties.

Saudi Arabia wants the Maliki government to reach out to the Sunni Muslim minority politically. The main Sunni Arab political bloc quit the national unity government last August, demanding the release of prisoners and more say on security.

Ekaterina Stepanova, project leader at the Armed Conflicts and Conflict Management Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said it would take a more representative Iraqi government for Arab neighbors to strengthen ties with the country.

"Any lasting solution to this endemic problem of state weakness in Iraq would require full, not just symbolic, Sunni political participation in the government," Stepanova said.

The Maliki government has committed to economic and political reforms under the International Compact with Iraq process, which aims at increasing the international engagement in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The commitments are the quid pro quo for support that the international community has in return committed to.

"Clearly this kind of meeting has some potential but it probably should not be overstated," said Rick Barton, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, adding debt relief and distribution of oil funds would be high on the agenda.

(Editing by Sami Aboudi)


MONDAY, May 26, 2008

Time for a periodic update on this country's schizophrenia regarding the abomination of abortion.  GS

Gallup Poll Shows 62 Percent Say Abortion a Factor in Their Presidential Vote
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- A new Gallup poll shows abortion hasn't been a huge factor yet in the in the presidential race, but 62 percent of Americans will use abortion as a factor when they consider which presidential candidate to support. Abortion is one issue on which John McCain and Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have big differences. The Gallup survey, conducted May 8-11, found 13 percent of voters say a presidential candidate must share their views on abortion to get their vote. Another 49 percent say abortion is one of many factors they will use to determine which candidate to support. Only 37 percent say abortion is not a major issue and two percent said they have no opinion. As has normally been the case, the abortion issue favors pro-life candidates as pro-life advocates are more likely to say they will vote for a candidate based on their abortion position. While just 11 percent of pro-abortion voters say a candidate must share their views, 15 percent of pro-life voters say the same thing, giving pro-life candidates a four percent advantage. Full story at LifeNews.com.

John McCain Continues Electoral College Lead Over Barack Obama
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- Eventual Republican presidential candidate John McCain continues to lead Barack Obama in the electoral college vote. While McCain would defeat Obama in a general election matchup, he would lose by a significant margin to Hillary Clinton should she manage to overcome long odds and become the nominee. Looking at the McCain-Obama matchup, McCain comes in with 279 electoral college votes, nine more than the 270 necessary to capture the nomination. Obama receives 259 electoral college votes, according to a LifeNews.com analysis. McCain would win the presidency had the election occurred today because he holds leads in several of the top battleground states. A Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday shows McCain leading Obama 44 to 40 percent in Ohio, and 45 to 41 percent in Florida. A Rasmussen poll released on Wednesday showed McCain with a high 10 percent lead in Florida, 50 to 40 percent. In other battleground states, McCain holds a 51 to 43 percent lead in North Carolina, a Survey USA poll shows and he leads Obama 48 to 45 percent in Missouri, Rasmussen has McCain up 46 to 40 in Nevada, and a Virginia Commonwealth University poll has McCain leading 44 to 36 percent. Obama has leads in several key states including Pennsylvania, where Quinnipiac has him up 46 to 40; Virginia, where he leads 49 to 42 percent in a Survey USA poll; Colorado, where Obama leads 48 to 42 percent in a Rasmussen poll; and Minnesota, where he leads by a 51 to 38 percent margin. Full story at LifeNews.com.

Christian Group Says Barack Obama Would Become the "Abortion President"
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) --
A Christian organization is preparing a new educational campaign to inform voters about Barack Obama's pro-abortion views since it appears he is more likely to become the Democratic presidential nominee. The Christian Defense Coalition says Obama would become the "abortion president." The group told LifeNews.com on Thursday that Obama's views on abortion would be the most radical and extremist of any president in history. The CDC says they are completely out of step with the opinions of mainstream America. "For all his talk on change and social justice, Senator Obama clings to and embraces archaic and radical pro-abortion policies that most Americans find appalling," says Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the group. "While the majority of Americans are growing more and more uncomfortable with abortion rights, Senator Obama wants to radically expand them and even ask people of faith to pay for abortions," he added. "Senator Obama, this is change we can live without." Over the next several weeks leading up to the Democratic convention, the Christian Defense Coalition plans to launch a national campaign exposing Obama's views. The group hopes to reach both Catholic and evangelical voters with the message. Full story at LifeNews.com.

Habitat for Humanity Accused of Helping Planned Parenthood Abortion Center
Sarasota, FL (LifeNews.com) --
The Christian non-profit housing ministry Habitat for Humanity stands accused of helping a Florida-based Planned Parenthood overcome a hurdle to building a new abortion business. A pro-life advocate says Planned Parenthood would have been stymied in building the new center without the group's help. Planned Parenthood has been looking to build a new abortion facility in the Rosemary District north of downtown Sarasota. However, according to local zoning rules, the abortion business can't build the new center unless a multi-family housing unit is built on the back of the lot. According to Jim Sedlak of STOPP International, a Planned Parenthood watchdog group, the pro-abortion group approached the local planning board and asked for a five-year extension since it is not a builder and couldn't find a buyer for the lot. The board denied the request and insisted Planned Parenthood obtain a building permit for the residential building. Planned Parenthood came up with a creative solution and sold the lot to Habitat for Humanity for $10.
"So, Habitat for Humanity, an organization that claims to be a Christian ministry, is now working with Planned Parenthood," Sedlak told LifeNews.com. Full story at LifeNews.com.


President Bush Signs Pro-Life Bill to Ban Genetic Discrimination Into Law
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) --
On Wednesday, President Bush signed a bill to ban genetic discrimination into law and satisfied the concerns of pro-life groups. With the genetic testing of unborn children becoming more common, the bill helps them receive further protection. The measure bars employers and health insurers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their own or their family members’ genetic information. Health insurance companies would be prohibited from basing enrollment or premium decisions on the results of genetic tests and employers couldn't rely on them to making hiring, assignment or promotion decisions. "I want to thank the members of Congress who've joined us as I sign the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a piece of legislation which prohibits health insurers and employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information," President Bush said yesterday afternoon as he signed the bill. "In other words, it protects our citizens from having genetic information misused, and this bill does so without undermining the basic premise of the insurance industry," he added. Pro-life groups say the bill helps protect the disabled, who can easily become victims of discrimination. Full story at LifeNews.com.

Pro-Life Congressmen Thwart U.S. Support for UN Abortion Initiative
New York, NY -- Pro-life congressmen, lead by Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI), rescued a congressional resolution supporting reduction of women’s mortality at home and abroad from surreptitiously advancing the pro-abortion agenda advanced at the United Nations. House Resolution 1022, as now drafted, promotes both “maternal health and child survival” without a stealth promotion of abortion. The language that was removed by Smith and Stupak called for funding of "global initiatives" and the recognition of maternal health as a "human right." Using such language would have lent U.S. support for a new pro-abortion initiative launched at a London conference last October called “Women Deliver.” At the Women Deliver conference pro-abortion advocates launched the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights that seeks to link the maternal mortality issue with access to abortion while furthering development of “soft law” norms that include abortion as a human right. Full story at LifeNews.com.

Is Abortion a Women's Issue and Should Men Stay Out of the Debate?
by Bryan Kemper
I often get e-mails and messages telling me that I should stay out of the 'abortion issue' because I'm a man. I've been told that I have no business getting involved since I can never get pregnant. Some even go so far as to tell me that, if men could get pregnant, we would make abortion a sacrament. The problem with this argument is that it's meant to detract from the key issue of personhood. Most arguments you will hear from the pro-abortion side are simply rabbit trails meant to steer clear of personhood, the heart of what we are fighting for. The first mistake is referring to it as the 'abortion issue.' While abortion is the largest part of the personhood fight, it is still just one part of the culture of death and the destruction of personhood. This is not just about women either; it's about everyone involved including the mother, the father and the baby. To think that the mother of the child being killed is the only one who has any right to an opinion is absurd. Unfortunately, this argument is often used by men who call themselves pro-life. They say that, while they are pro-life, they have no business telling a woman not to kill her child.
Full story at LifeNews.com.

Michigan Abortions Down Over Three Percent to Lowest Level Since 1979
Lansing, MI (LifeNews.com) -- New statistics released today from the Michigan Department of Community Health show the number of abortions dropped in 2007. The number of abortions in Michigan is now at its lowest level since 1979, when the state health department first began tracking figures. The report shows 24,683 abortions were done in Michigan during 2007 compared to 25,636 Michigan abortions in 2006, a drop of 3.7 percent or 953 abortions. Since 1987, there has been a 49.7 percent decrease in the number of abortions performed in Michigan annually. That huge drop is thanks in part to pregnancy centers in the state and the work of groups like Right to Life of Michigan that have focused on education and run significant media campaigns helping women find abortion alternatives. Abortions in Michigan have now dropped three of the last four years. RLM president told LifeNews.com her group is "extremely grateful for the large decrease in abortions." "The fact that fewer women are having abortions in Michigan demonstrates more and more women are coming to the realization that abortion is not the answer to an unplanned pregnancy," she said. Full story at LifeNews.com.

Louisiana Senate Committee Moves Ban on Human Cloning Funding Forward
Baton Rouge, LA (LifeNews.com) -- The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare moved a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning forward on Wednesday and now it heads to the full Senate for a debate and vote. There was no opposition to HB 370 in the committee and the full Senate is expected to sign off on the bill. To emphasize the grassroots support the measure has, Louisiana Right to Life officials turned in nearly 14,000 signatures from pro-life advocates. The bill prohibits using any state funds on either reproductive or research-based human cloning. State Rep. Cameron Henry, a Republican who is the main sponsor of the measure, told the panel that it would not affect the limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research nor would it affect funding of adult stem cell research conducted at LSU or Tulane University. In April, the Louisiana House approved the bill with a 90-9 bipartisan vote and pro-life Gov. Bobby Jindal has already indicated he would sign it into law. Dorinda Bordlee, an attorney with the Bioethics Defense Fund, told LifeNews.com she also supports the bill. Full story at LifeNews.com.

British Catholic Cardinal Says More Education Needed to Reduce Abortions
London, England (LifeNews.com) -- A British Catholic leader is encouraging pro-life advocates after a disappointing vote against reducing late-term abortions. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor released a statement saying more should be done to educate and persuade Britons to oppose abortion and seek alternatives. Some pro-life groups had hoped to be able to reduce abortions from the current 24-week limit to at least 20 or 22 weeks into pregnancy. A reduction in the abortion limit to 20 weeks would have saved the lives of 2,500 babies annually, but MPs easily defeated the effort to limit the abortions. "Many people will have been very disappointed by the result of last night's votes on the abortion time limit. But this issue will not go away," Cardinal O'Connor said in a statement. "While the law affects attitudes, it does not in itself compel anyone to have an abortion. Even without a change in the law there is much we can all do to change the situation," he explained. "For the sake of our common humanity, and the lives at stake, we must work to foster a new understanding and approach to relationships, responsibility and mutual support," he urged. "Even without a change in the law we can and should work together at least to make abortion much rarer." Full story at LifeNews.com.


SUNDAY, May 25, 2008
GS

SATURDAY, May 24, 2008
GS

MONDAY through FRIDAY, May 19 through 23, 2008

After having been without my computer for a week, while it went for an oil change and lube job, "my cup runneth over".  So, in no particular order...
GS

THURSDAY through SUNDAY, May 15 through 18, 2008
GS

MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, May 12 through 14, 2008

GS

SUNDAY, May 11, 2008

In the interest of being "fair and balanced", given my long-standing and continuing negative opinion of Barack Obama, I offer the following.  What am I missing here?  GS

Obama rises from political obscurity to verge of history
By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer Sat May 10, 3:04 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The amazement was on their faces. Hundreds waited for Barack Obama on that evening in South Carolina, 15 weeks ago, to claim victory — a surprising victory, surprisingly large.

And amazing it was. It made it possible for him to stand today on the verge of being the first black person ever nominated for president by a major party.

One could guess the thoughts of the blacks and whites in that crowd: Can you believe that our state — South Carolina, first to secede and first to open fire in the Civil War — is now catapulting a black man to the front of the presidential contest in a year that bodes well for Democrats?

"Race doesn't matter," some began to chant. "Race doesn't matter!"

The cry soon gave way to more familiar chants of "Yes we can," and everyone in the auditorium surely knew that race does still matter in so many ways. But in a pinch-me moment, they seemed to realize that a barrier had been broken with a swiftness and certainty that even they had not foreseen.

Even more astounding, the man vaulting ahead of the universally known former first lady, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, had been a state legislator only four years earlier — a lawyer with no fame, wealth or family connections.

Now, the entire nation and countless foreigners are absorbing a moment that had seemed decades away, if possible at all. Smart strategists and rank-and-file voters ponder how Obama rose so far so fast, and theories abound. Historians will sort it out someday, but Obama's blend of oratory, biography, optimism and cool confidence come to mind most immediately.

It's not just about him, of course. If America can seriously think of putting a black man in the White House, surely it must also profoundly rethink the relevance of race, the power of prejudice, the logic of affirmative action and other societal forces that have evolved slowly through the eras of Jim Crow, desegregation and massive immigration.

Maybe the toughest question is this:

Is Obama, with his incandescent smile and silky oratory, a once-in-a-century phenomenon who will blast open doors only to see them quickly close on less extraordinary blacks?

Or is he the lucky and well-timed beneficiary of racial dynamics that have changed faster than most people realized, a trend that presumably will soon yield more black governors, senators, mayors and council members?

Presidential campaigns have destroyed many bright and capable politicians. But there's ample evidence that Obama is something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy, who seems to touch millions of diverse people with a message of hope that somehow doesn't sound Pollyannaish.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, a black Maryland Democrat who endorsed Obama early, says the Illinois senator convinces people of all races that Americans as a society, and as individuals, can achieve higher goals if they try.

"He says we can do better, and his life is the epitome of doing better," says Cummings, noting that Obama was raised by a single mother who sometimes relied on food stamps. "He convinces people that there's a lot of good within them."

And why should they believe such feel-good platitudes? "Because he's real and he has confidence in his own competence," Cummings says.

Without question, Obama is an electrifying speaker. At virtually every key juncture in his trajectory, he has used inspirational oratory to generate excitement, buy time to deal with crises, and force party activists to rethink their assumptions that a black man with an African name cannot seriously vie for the presidency.

A prime-time speech at the Democratic convention in Boston catapulted him to national attention in 2004. When his presidential campaign badly trailed Clinton's high-flying operation, he gave it new life with a timely Iowa speech that outshone her remarks moments earlier on the same stage. And a heavily covered March 18 speech about race relations calmed criticisms about his ties to his former pastor, although Obama had to revisit the matter when the minister restated incendiary remarks about the government.

Obama has a compelling biography, too. The son of a black African father he barely knew, and a white Kansan mother who took him from Hawaii to Indonesia, he was largely raised by his white maternal grandparents. He finished near the top of his Harvard law class, then rejected big firms' salaries to work as a community organizer in Southside Chicago, where he found a church, his wife and a place that felt like home.

But all those attributes don't explain the Obama phenomenon.

Other great orators have fallen short of the presidency, including Daniel Webster and William Jennings Bryan.

Plenty of brilliant people have tried and failed, too. Bill Bradley was a Princeton graduate, basketball star and Rhodes Scholar.

Intriguing biographies aren't enough, either. John Glenn was an astronaut and American hero, but he couldn't get off the presidential launchpad.

Jim Margolis, a veteran campaign strategist now working for Obama, thinks it is his blend of all these traits, wrapped in "authenticity," which makes Obama's message of hope and inclusion seem plausible, not pie in the sky.

Margolis interviewed many of Obama's Harvard classmates for TV ads and documentaries. They told him Obama "was wise beyond his years, and never talked down to people," Margolis said.

"He has this amazing ability to connect with people and understand their problems," he said. "And through it all, there is this optimism."

For a politician with only four years of experience at the federal level, Obama also has spot-on instincts, associates say, and a steely confidence in his convictions, in good times and bad. His roughest patch came after Clinton revived her campaign with wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and a renewed uproar over Obama's former pastor threatened to consume his campaign.

Obama rejected advice to criticize Clinton more fiercely, and went back to his themes of political and racial reconciliation. His solid win in North Carolina and near miss in Indiana confirmed his judgment.

Obama and his small core of longtime advisers also outsmarted the vaunted Clinton team by focusing early on small caucus states, where he racked up important wins. His fundraising has been nothing short of astounding, with millions of dollars pouring in via the Internet from people who never gave a politician a dime.

Obama fans often search for words to express their attraction.

"He just really electrifies you when you are listening to him," said Lena Bradley, 78, a beauty salon owner in Washington. "He has something that's leading him."

As ephemeral as "something that's leading him" sounds, it's hard to explain in more clinical terms his impact on people. But it's there.

As recently as June 2006, a lone reporter could travel with Obama in cars and small planes as he campaigned for other Democrats in state after state. On one such visit to Massachusetts and New Jersey, his charm was on full display before crowds of various size, age and ethnic makeup. He made teenagers guffaw by saying people pronounced his name "Yo Mama." He quoted scripture in a black church, and set every head nodding.

On a plane ride he talked with the reporter for an hour, on the record, with barely a hint of the nervousness or hedging that most politicians understandably display to someone with a pen, pad and tape recorder.

Before an audience of 300 people in East Orange, N.J., Obama spotted local resident and famous singer Dionne Warwick. He smiled impishly and sang, "If you see me walking down the street," the opening line of her hit, "Walk on By." The crowd roared its approval of his on-key ad lib.

Some veteran politicians also see "something that's leading" Obama, whether they can explain it or not.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a longtime friend and supporter, said "nothing was ever the same" after Obama's Boston speech.

Durbin recalls pulling Obama into a vacant meeting room in Chicago's Union League Club, where both had spoken on a Friday afternoon in November 2006. He felt it was time for his young colleague to decide whether to run for the White House.

"There are moments in life when you can pick the time," Durbin said he told Obama. "But when it comes to running for president, the time can pick you. You've been picked. This is your moment."

A short time later, Obama launched his candidacy.

SATURDAY, May 10, 2008

Now for a different kind of treat.  Herewith follow the personal reflections of a world-traveling journalist whose particular work and sphere of influence are in the field of Aging.  Carole Marks Scott is a self-made wife and mother-turned-businesswoman who is founder and CEO of Focus Communications, Talkers Magazine, and the Talk Radio News Service.  She hosts “A Touch of Grey”, a daily one-hour syndicated radio talk show focusing on aging.  She is also a credentialed White House correspondent. 

Ms. Scott recently returned from a tour of Far East Cities.  Click here to read her un-edited comments. 

THURSDAY and FRIDAY, May 8 and 9, 2008
GS

TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, May 6 and 7, 2008
GS

MONDAY, May 5, 2008

As previously promised, I will have something to say every time another breathless article appears on the subject of Health Care Reform.  See the article entitled "Even The Insured Feel The Strain Of Health Care Costs", by R. Abelson and M. Freudenheim, NYTimes today, pA1.  Then ask yourself the following questions: 1) When was the last time that you heard that many of the "uninsured" are uninsured by choice, to save premium money? 2) When was the last time that the statement..."can't afford coverage" discussed coverage for what services and desires, without regard for any health care priorities, or coverage as a direct result of stupid life styles, or for end-of-life coverage...wherein 30-40% of all Medicare expenditures occur in the last 6 months of a person's life?  3) When did you last hear that physicians are regularly victims of theft of services of about 30 % of the fair market value of those services?  4) When did you last hear that physicians would be paid adequately for coordination of care, for preventive care and immunization services?  5) When did you ever read that tax deductible employer health benefits and tax exempt employee benefits, which mystically removed the patient from any concern about the cost of the care being sought, were and are the dumbest ideas to come down the pike since their origin in the early 1970's?  And 6) When did you last hear "What's Really Propping Up The Economy: Health care has added 1.7 million jobs since 2001.  The rest of the private sector? None."  (See Business Week, Sept. 2006).  Folks, health care delivery in this country can be greatly improved...but only after we get REAL.  See my many articles and comments throughout this web site, dating back to the 1970's,  for the definition of "REAL".

GS

FRIDAY through SUNDAY, May 2 through 4, 2008
GS

THURSDAY, May 1, 2008
ANOTHER ISSUE FOR THE CITIZENS OF NEW LONDON, CT.  I AGREE WITH THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT.

Issues

The [New London] City Council recently voted to sell a valuable piece of waterfront property to Cross Sound Ferry.  A group of concerned citizens who oppose the sale began [and filed] a petition for the following reasons:

1. The sale is in violation of the city charter [Code of Ordinances].

2. The property was not put out to bid as required by the charter, even though the council was aware of two other interested parties who were offering a higher bid. 

3. The property is not surplus; it has consistently generated money for the city through leasing.

4. The sale will bring in less tax money for the city than was realized through leasing.

5. The city council did not follow its own rules of procedures.

6. The state has authorized $750,000 for a study of the entire transportation center (rail, bus, ferry).  This land could prove to be an important component of future plans.

7. The city should not relinquish rights of the property before the study is completed.


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