Monday, July 7, 2008

Obama Showed Independent Streak in Lobbyist Dealings

The more we learn the more we realize that Obama is a typical politician, although better than most. He will win in November. But many of his supporters will be disappointed. He is not the saviour many believe.

On Wednesday nights during Illinois General Assembly sessions, a group of lobbyists and lawmakers used to gather at the headquarters of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association for a weekly poker game. Barack Obama, who represented part of Chicago as state senator from 1997-2004, was a regular.

These days, Obama says lobbyists are part of the problem with Washington, and he refuses to accept their fundraising help. But during his eight years in Springfield, Ill., Obama played golf and basketball with them and hit them up for campaign donations, according to records and interviews. He shared meals with them, though he was careful to pay his own way, they say.

Obama also accepted lobbyist money when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, and he later used his influence to help secure grants for 16 Illinois-based institutions represented by six of his lobbyist contributors, public records show.

He did all that while retaining a reputation for independence. "I can't remember a time that state senator Obama wasn't on the side of the consumers," said David Kolata, executive director of the non-partisan Illinois Citizens Utility Board.

A look at Obama's past relationships with lobbyists shows that, for most of his political career, Obama wasn't as attentive to the appearance of coziness with special interests as he is now. But it also shows that he often voted against the interests of his lobbyist friends, and he helped pass two significant upgrades to Illinois campaign finance and ethics laws.

Iraq says may Agree Timetable for U.S. Withdrawal

There's that word again. One way or the other we will have to leave Iraq. Either we leave little by little or are forced out. Our presence in Iraq cannot be sustained.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi'ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

In a statement, Maliki's office said the prime minister made the comments about the security pact -- which will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31 -- to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

"In all cases, the basis for any agreement will be respect for the full sovereignty of Iraq," the statement quoted Maliki as saying.

"The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal."