Archive for December 16th, 2006

Officials: Edwards to enter 2008 race

WASHINGTON – Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards intends to enter the 2008 race for the White House, two Democratic officials said Saturday.

Edwards, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for six years, plans to make the campaign announcement late this month from the New Orleans neighborhood hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina last year and slow to recover from the storm.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Edwards’ announcement.

As Edwards enters the crowded field, the Lower Ninth Ward provides a stark backdrop to highlight his signature issue — that economic inequality means that the country is divided into “two Americas.”

Edwards also plans to travel from New Orleans through the four early presidential nominating states — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina — as part of an announcement tour between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.

Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. He was a top fundraiser in the race for the nomination in 2004 before he became Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s running mate.

Since the Democrats’ loss to President Bush, Edwards has worked to build support for a repeat presidential bid. He has a retooled agenda that is more openly progressive and has spent time building relationships with labor leaders and traveling overseas to build his foreign policy credentials beyond his one term in the Senate.

Edwards’ spokesman, David Ginsberg, would not confirm or deny that Edwards planned to announce he would run in 2008.

Ginsberg said Edwards would make an announcement about his future when he is ready.

Word leaked about Edwards’ plans just hours after Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (news, bio, voting record) announced he would not seek the presidency in 2008. Bayh had been a leading candidate in early fundraising and, like Edwards, based much of his appeal on his electability. Bayh and Edwards, friends who went running together daily when they were in the Senate, each won election in Republican-leaning states.

Bayh and some other hopefuls have struggled to build their name recognition against the drawing power of Clinton and Obama. Edwards, however, does not have that problem.

He is well known from the 2004 campaign and his profile has risen this year as he and his wife, Elizabeth, went on nationwide tours to promote their books.

A poll of Iowa Democrats that was published Thursday in the Des Moines Register showed Edwards with 36 percent support, more than Clinton’s 16 percent and Obama’s 13 percent combined.

Edwards’ campaign plans include an aggressive fundraising effort to prove that he belongs in the top tier of contenders. Because he currently does not hold federal office, Edwards does not have a war chest like some of his rivals. In fact, he has several hundred thousands of dollars of debt from his 2004 presidential campaign.


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McCain Says Major Financiers Will Back His 2008 Bid

Senator McCain announced yesterday that several major figures in the New York financial community have agreed to serve as fund-raisers for his expected bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

One of the most prominent on the list of finance committee co-chairmen is the head of the New York Stock Exchange, John Thain. Mr. Thain, whose title is CEO of NYSE Group, Inc., previously served as the president and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

A New Jersey-based investment banker deeply involved in fund-raising efforts for the 2004 Republican convention, Lewis Eisenberg, is also signing on with Mr. McCain. Mr. Eisenberg is a former Goldman Sachs partner who served as chairman of the Port Authority board at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mr. McCain also picked up a pledge of support from the top fund-raiser for Senator Dole’s presidential bid in 1996, John Moran. Mr. Moran, who lives in Florida, once ran a New Yorkbased investment firm, Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp.

A longtime executive at JPMorgan Chase, James Lee Jr., also agreed to back the Arizona senator, who has not formally announced his candidacy for president but recently set up an exploratory committee.

Mr. McCain also landed a significant player in the Republican Party on the West Coast, Jerrold Perenchio of Los Angeles. Mr. Perenchio, who regularly gives millions of dollars to Republican causes, is a former talent agent who built a leading, Spanishlanguage broadcasting firm, Univision.

Also joining Mr. McCain’s finance committee are two real estate investors, Donald Bren of Orange County, Calif., and Donald Diamond of Tuscon, Ariz., as well as a former congressman, Thomas Loeffler of San Antonio, Texas.


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Women Lose Ground in the New Iraq

Once They Were Encouraged to Study and Work; Now Life Is ‘Just Like Being in Jail’

BAGHDAD — Browsing the shelves of a cosmetics store in the Karrada shopping district, Zahra Khalid felt giddy at the sight of Alberto shampoo and Miss Rose eye shadow, blusher and powder.

Before leaving her house, she had covered her body in a billowing black abaya and wrapped a black head scarf around her thick brown hair. She had asked her brother to drive. She had done all the things that a woman living in Baghdad is supposed to do these days to avoid drawing attention to herself.

It was the first time she had left home in two months.

“For a woman, it’s just like being in jail,” she said. “I can’t go anywhere.”

Life has become more difficult for most Iraqis since the February bombing of a Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra sparked a rise in sectarian killings and overall lawlessness. For many women, though, it has become unbearable.

As Islamic fundamentalism seeps into society and sectarian warfare escalates, more and more women live in fear of being kidnapped or raped. They receive death threats because of their religious sects and careers. They are harassed for not abiding by the strict dress code of long skirts and head scarves or for driving cars.

For much of the 20th century, and under various leaders, Iraq was one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in its treatment of women, who were encouraged to go to school and enter the workforce. Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party espoused a secular Arab nationalism that advocated women’s full participation in society. But years of war changed that.

In the days after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many women were hopeful that they would enjoy greater parity with men. President Bush said that increasing women’s rights was essential to creating a new, democratic Iraq.

But interviews with 16 Iraqi women, ranging in age from 21 to 52, show that much of that postwar hope is gone. The younger women say they fear being snatched on their way to school and wonder whether their college degrees will mean anything in the new Iraq. The older women, proud of their education and careers, are watching their independence slip away.

“At the beginning, we were very happy with those achievements and gains, and we were looking for more,” said Ina’am al-Sultani, 36, a leader of the Progressive Women’s Movement, a nongovernmental organization. “Women are now restrained.”

Khalid, 30, whose only visible features as she shopped on a recent day were her round face and long eyelashes, was an accountant at the Planning Ministry until she received a death threat four months ago. She quit, moved to a new home and changed her phone number.

“We’re suffering right now,” Khalid said, her two sons tugging at her abaya. “The war took all our rights. We’re not free because of terrorism.”

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Incoming Chairmen Ready to Investigate

Democratic-Led Panels to Probe Administration’s Actions in War and Counterterrorism

Incoming Democratic committee chairmen say they will hold a series of hearings and investigations early next year to build the case for their call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for possible action against defense contractors found to have wasted billions in federal funds.

The emerging plans to grill administration officials on the conduct of the war are part of a pledge for more aggressive congressional oversight on issues such as prewar intelligence, prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the government’s use of warrantless wiretaps.

Among the most eager incoming chairmen is Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), a lawyer with a professor’s demeanor and a prosecutor’s doggedness. As head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin, 72, will be his party’s point man on the Iraq war and on the Democrats’ call to begin withdrawing troops in the coming months.

Levin said he also plans inquiries into “documentation of waste and fraud and abuse in the contracting areas” of the military. Aggressive oversight “is not just a budget issue,” he said, but at some point “becomes a significant moral issue.” In the House, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), another leading advocate of a phased withdrawal, has vowed to use his Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship to investigate the Iraq war, holding “two hearings a day for the first three or four months . . . to find out exactly what happened and who’s been responsible for these mistakes.”

In committee after committee next month, the gavel will be handed by Bush allies to ardent Democrats deeply frustrated by what they see as the GOP-led Congress’s refusal to conduct meaningful oversight and to hold the executive branch accountable.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he will use his Judiciary Committee perch to conduct “real oversight” of the FBI and the Justice Department and to delve into “the abuse of billions of taxpayers’ dollars sent as development aid to Iraq.”

“I am not prepared to accept answers like ‘I can’t talk about it,’ ” Leahy said in a recent speech at Georgetown University’s law school.

Levin, a sharp critic of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence, will have new, substantial powers to press the White House for information and for a new direction in Iraq.

In a recent interview in his Senate office, Levin said the Senate Armed Services Committee’s first priority will be to seek ways to stabilize Iraq and gradually disengage the United States from the war. But the committee will also hold retrospective hearings, he said, to determine whether administration officials manipulated intelligence before the war and whether the post-invasion provisional government abused its contracting powers and wasted huge sums of money.

“There is a responsibility from a lessons-learned perspective and an accountability perspective to fill in the blanks,” said Levin, who voted against authorizing the war in 2002. “And there have been a number of blanks.” Some lower-level military personnel have been held accountable for matters such as detainee mistreatment, he said, “but almost none in the intelligence community.”

Having Levin replace John W. Warner (R-Va.) as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will “hugely” change oversight, said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), a longtime colleague. Rockefeller, incoming chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, also plans more aggressive hearings.

“Oversight doesn’t have to be a hostile process,” Rockefeller said. But he said he and Levin are determined to overcome the administration’s long-standing refusal to hand over documents concerning the White House contention in 2002 and 2003 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “The public must understand that you can’t do that,” Rockefeller said.

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