Did Hillary Duck a Sucker Punch?

Last March, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia introduced a bill to insist that President Bush get congressional authorization if he wanted to attack Iran. A few of Webb's fellow Democrats, including Sen. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, praised the idea. Still, no one signed on as a cosponsor. One reason: if it ever came to a vote—and failed—Bush could feel emboldened as he bullied his way into war with Iran. The bill languished in obscurity until last week, when Webb got his first and only cosponsor: the Democratic presidential front runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was evidently in too much of a hurry to give Webb the customary senatorial heads-up. "I found out after she announced it," he said, laughing. Why now? It's called protection—in this case, from her antiwar left flank.If Clinton was suddenly anxious about Iran, she had good reason to feel that way—and so do her fellow Democrats. Most analysts, including Webb, agree Iran is a greater threat to security...

Fineman: Inside the Hillary Veepstakes

Yes, it's ridiculously early to start speculating on who might round out Senator Clinton's presidential ticket. But the angling has begun. Who will be No. 3—to Hill and Bill?

Fineman: Live Blogging the Democratic Debate

   HANOVER, N.H. -- I am here in the student union at Dartmouth waiting to see if Hillary Clinton has chance to smother this Democratic presidential race before it begins. I just came from a dinner with a top strategist from a major campaign (not Hillary's) who put her chances if of winning the nomination at 8-out-of-10. And yet, having been through this drill more times than I can count, I find it hard to believe that this race will end before it really has begun. Somebody is going to challenge Clinton for real. The physics of politics and media make it inevitable. The question is whether the main challenger is Sen. Barack Obama or, as seems increasingly possible, somebody else....

In Search Of a GOP St. George

Iowa Republicans will tell you that the Devil does not wear Prada; she wears a pantsuit, low-heeled shoes and a sunny, I-told-you-so smile. Karl Rove insists that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a "fatally flawed candidate," and many Democrats agree. In a new book, "The Neglected Voter," journalist David Kuhn charts the party's waning appeal among white men—a debilitating trend Clinton seems ill-suited to reverse. But Iowans aren't reassured by Rove or flow charts. They assume Clinton will be the nominee, and, with typical earnestness, are searching for the right Saint George to take on the dragon lady. "We have a healthy appreciation for her and what she would represent, which is a hard turn to the left," says Robert Haus, a local GOP media consultant. "The goal of preventing that is what unites us."Each would-be knight has an anti-Clinton sales pitch, implied or explicit. Mitt Romney offers his hyperfunctional, one-marriage family life, his Democratic Blue State home base and a new...

Fineman: The Craig Effect in 2008

The GOP hustled the Idaho senator off the stage as soon as news of his arrest in a Minneapolis airport men's room came to light. But Craig isn't going gently. The fallout could help the Dems win the White House next year.

Fineman: Inside Barack Obama’s Strategy

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Sen. Barack Obama’s first line was ad-libbed and  it made me jealous. “It’s cold out here, but I’m fired up!” he told the frozen outside the Old State Capitol. I was glad somebody was warm, because I certainly wasn’t.But it was more than worth the brief discomfort to witness the scene: the lean figure of Obama, framed by the Greek revival capitol, its worn limestone golden in the morning sun;  the young, multi-cultural crowd cheering for him; the echoes of Lincoln and the Heartland; the whistles of the freight trains.America at its best.It was inspiring and humbling. This, after all, was the very place in which Lincoln had warned that a nation divided against itself could not stand. It was here that the age-old argument over race reached toward its crescendo. And it is here that Obama began a campaign that might end that argument altogether-or so we can hope.And yet if Obama’s candidacy winds up being about race and history, he won’t be the Democratic...

Fineman: Americans Warm Up to Universal Health Care

Michael Moore is a uniquely American hybrid: the profit-making, anti-establishment agitator. In that line of work, your instincts have to be sharp. His are. In films that mix brave journalism and brazen agitprop, he has been ahead of the curve on the demise of heavy industry; the deadly blend of teenage rage and the gun culture, and the shaky reasoning behind, and execution of, the Iraq War. In person, he is a friendly bear of a guy—until the tape is rolling. Then the populist piranha pops out. I watched him working the lobby of one of his Washington premieres. He had a film crew in tow. Beltway types (including me) were glad to say hello. Few (including me) lingered on camera.Now Moore is back with "Sicko," his docu-tribe about our health-care "system." Once again, Moore's timing is perfect. Aside from Iraq, there is no bigger issue on the minds of voters. Two presidential candidates, John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama, have come forth with ambitious plans that call for vastly...

Fineman: The Politics of Pittsburgh

A city down on its luck has an optimistic young leader. The scene there mirrors our national situation. Maybe we can all learn something from Luke Ravenstahl.

Running Hard By Staying Out

If you want to send a message in Washington, issue a press release—or go to the Palm. It's a restaurant where the jocular masks the manipulative: a stock exchange of politics, with bigger portions. It was perfect for Michael Bloomberg, the nominally Republican billionaire mayor of New York, who wants to run for president as an independent. Not long ago he asked Sen. Chuck Hagel, the maverick antiwar Republican, to dine with him there. They sat at a prominent table. Predictable things happened. The Washington Post ran a gossip item the next morning. TV bookers read it. "Face the Nation" booked Hagel, who praised Bloomberg as a man "not tied down and captive of a political ideology" and didn't say "no" to running mate. "It's a great country," he said, "to think about a New York boy and a Nebraska boy teaming up to lead the nation." Check, please!We are in the Palm phase of the 2008 campaign. Alluring (or merely diverting) scenarios of late-entering, out-of-the-box candidacies flow...

Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

Jerry Falwell loved his jet. in 1980, it was no small thing for a preacher to have one, even if he was a preacher with a TV show, "The Old Time Gospel Hour." The plane was a Lear, he told me as we climbed aboard on a September day in that crucial year, "specially reconfigured by an Israeli company." He saw this as providential—as if the jet had been anointed by the engine oil of the Holy Land. And it was dart-quick. His congregation, Thomas Road Baptist, was locked away in the Blue Ridge town of Lynchburg, Va. With the plane, he could roam the Bible belt, from Okeechobee to Oklahoma. This trip, the destination was Alabama.We lifted off with a prayer in the name of Jesus, but the flight wasn't aimed at saving souls. It was about electing Ronald Reagan. With the advice and financial backing of national conservative and GOP activists, Falwell had launched a group he had the chutzpah to call the Moral Majority. The goal was to use the then-new tactics of "independent" grass-roots...

Fineman: Leveling the Media Playing Field

As the 10 Republican presidential candidates debate this week on their favorite cable network—Fox News—Capitol Hill Democrats are planning a new drive for access elsewhere, on talk radio and local broadcast TV.The goal? To level the media playing field in time for the 2008 election.Talk radio has long been a crucial power base for conservatives and Republicans; local TV stations are not.They shy away from public-affairs programming altogether, and yet they rake in ever-larger wads of cash on political advertising.Democrats have two media-access goals.One is to prod local broadcast television and radio stations to renew their atrophied commitment to producing and airing their own public-affairs programming—shows that Democrats think would at least give them a chance to be heard. Some Democrats want to require stations to give free time for campaign debates, and even free campaign advertising as part of the stations’ “public-service” licensing requirement.The Democrats’ more ambitious...

Fineman: The Megastates Gamble

The New Yorkers in the presidential race are placing their bets on California, Florida—and their home state. But there's a danger in writing off the grass roots.

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