- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Obama and Oprah

Did Sen. Barack Obama snub daytime TV talk-show host and media magnate Oprah Winfrey, or did she cancel his appearance on her show yesterday?

Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, had said that he would like to announce his candidacy for president on her show.

Chicago Tribune political blog “The Swamp,” posted by Mike Dorning Tuesday, questioned why Mr. Obama announced his exploratory committee on his new Web site instead of on the show.

“Oprah Winfrey’s Web site also is curiously silent on the subject of her show this Wednesday. Obama has previously indicated he may make an announcement on a presidential campaign on her highly rated television talk show,” he wrote.

But, in fact, he was never scheduled to appear on the show at all, said a staffer at Miss Winfrey’s Harpo Productions Inc. in Chicago.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said he didn’t know how that rumor started: “He was always scheduled for votes today.”

But there were no votes in the Senate yesterday until well after 10:30 p.m., plenty of time for Mr. Obama to catch a flight from Chicago to Washington and participate in the votes on the Senate ethics bill.

And even more curious was Mr. Obama’s answer to the question of whether he was scheduled to appear.

“Oprah’s a good friend,” Mr. Obama said, and as he was about to say more, stopped himself, saying, “I, I’ll leave it at that.”

Pelosi’s shake-up

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, intent on putting global warming atop the Democratic agenda, is shaking up traditional committee fiefdoms dominated by some of Congress’ oldest and most powerful members.

She’s moving to create a special committee to recommend legislation for cutting greenhouse gases, most likely to be chaired by Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey, a Democratic leadership aide said yesterday.

Mr. Markey has advocated raising mileage standards for cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles and is one of the House’s biggest critics of oil companies and U.S. automakers.

Mrs. Pelosi has discussed the proposal with at least two Democratic committee chairmen: fellow Californian Rep. Henry A. Waxman of the Government Reform Committee and West Virginia Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, who heads the Resources Committee. Mrs. Pelosi intends to announce the move this week, said the leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because not all of the details have been worked out.

The move, to some degree, would sidestep two of the House’s most powerful Democratic committee bosses, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell of Michigan and Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York, the Associated Press reports.

First ‘misstep’

“Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made his first misstep a few days ago when he joined only a handful of Democrats in opposing a Senate reform banning the increasingly widespread practice of legislators hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls,” Dick Morris writes in The Hill newspaper.

“Obama has not heard the last of this vote. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who opposes wives cashing in on their husbands’ positions, voted righteously in favor of the reform and will probably use the Illinois senator’s vote against him in the presidential primaries,” Mr. Morris said.

“When a legislator hires his or her spouse on the campaign or PAC payroll, he is effectively converting contributions to his campaign committee into personal income that flows into the family’s checking account, blurring the line between contribution and bribe.

“In the past, senators and House members routinely hired their spouses and other family members on their public payrolls. …

“Hiring family members and paying them with campaign donations is, if anything, more pernicious than doing so with public funds. Where tax money is involved, the sin is against the taxpayer for wasting his funds. But where campaign contributions are involved, the congressman is profiting personally from the largesse of special-interest donors. In plain English, that’s a payoff.”

Off and running

“Having already won the ‘favorite new face’ primary with the press corps in a runaway, Barack Obama has now declared his intention to explore a presidential run,” the editors of National Review write at www.nationalreview. com.

” ‘I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in this position a year ago,’ Illinois’s junior senator says modestly. But the folks back home who watched the smooth magna cum laude Harvard Law grad charm voters well beyond his political base in Chicago’s South Side can’t be surprised,” the magazine said.

“Observers marveled at Obama’s skills as early as his 2004 Senate campaign, when he was still a four-term state legislator. The recurring phrase in press coverage of Obama at the time was ‘supporters who disagree with him’ — a sign of his broad appeal. A Senate campaign aide talked about enthusiastic backers who ‘start drinking the Obama juice,’ and a GOP colleague of Obama’s in the legislature admitted, ‘In Republican circles, we’ve always feared that Barack would become a rock star of American politics.’

“Count that fear as realized. His political manifesto, ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ is topping the bestseller lists (just as his autobiography did in 1995), and the media seem ready to anoint him a swimsuit model if they can’t make him president. At the moment, it is other Democratic presidential hopefuls who have the most to fear from Obama and his ability to project a soothing nonpartisan image in an age of political rancor. Obama is a better politician than recent contenders like Al Gore, Howard Dean, and John Kerry. And one can imagine Hillary Clinton seething at the injustice that yet another gifted charmer is posing a threat to her political ambitions.”

Vow of protest

City leaders in Madison, Wis., will vow to uphold the state constitution when they are sworn into office in April, but with a caveat — many plan to add a statement protesting the state’s new ban on same-sex “marriage.”

The City Council voted 14-4 Tuesday night to let hundreds of elected and appointed city officials opt to add a statement saying they are taking the oath of office under protest because the amendment “besmirches our constitution.”

The statement also says the leaders will work to reverse the ban and prevent any discriminatory effects it may cause. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, as well as several council members, already have said they intend to use the statement, the Associated Press reports.

The ban on same-sex “marriage” and civil unions passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote in November. But 76 percent of voters in Madison, the state capital, voted against the amendment.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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