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Campaign Notebook

Obama weighs trip to Iraq, but says he won't go with McCain

Senator John McCain spoke yesterday at a town hall-style meeting at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno. Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was at left. Senator John McCain spoke yesterday at a town hall-style meeting at the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno. Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was at left. (Jeff Chiu/associated press)
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May 29, 2008

Barack Obama is considering a visit to Iraq this summer, his first to the war zone since becoming a presidential candidate.

But Obama, who has been under criticism from Republican rival John McCain for not visiting Iraq since 2006, declined McCain's invitation for a joint trip.

"I just don't want to be involved in a political stunt," Obama said, according to a report on the New York Times website yesterday. "I think that if I'm going to Iraq, then I'm there to talk to troops and talk to commanders. I'm not there to try to score political points or perform."

Obama took his only trip to Iraq in January 2006, when he traveled as part of a congressional delegation.

The Republican Party joined the criticism yesterday by launching an online clock to count the days since Obama last visited.

"This is about leadership and learning," McCain said in Nevada, where he was campaigning. "To say that we're failing in Iraq and not succeeding does not comport with the facts on the ground, so we've got to show him the facts on the ground."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Presidential rivals agree: Darfur will be a priority
Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Republican John McCain don't agree on much these days.

But the three presidential hopefuls joined forces for an eye-catching ad to help a nonprofit trying to stop what the United States has declared a genocide in Darfur.

"We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end," the ad declares, with their signatures underneath. The ad, which appeared in yesterday's New York Times, was placed by SaveDarfur.org.

A joint statement on the group's website lays blame on the government of Sudan, which the three say is "chiefly responsible for the violence and is able to end it."

Advocacy groups have accused the Bush administration of not doing enough to stop the violence, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives, and the statement makes clear that whoever is the next president will take more action.

"Today, we wish to make clear to the Sudanese government that on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us . . . Even as we campaign for the presidency, we will use our standing as senators to press for the steps needed to ensure that the United States honors, in practice and in deed, its commitment to the cause of peace and protection of Darfur's innocent citizenry," the three candidates say.

"We will continue to keep a close watch on events in Sudan and speak out for its marginalized peoples. It would be a huge mistake for the Khartoum regime to think that it will benefit by running out the clock on the Bush administration. If peace and security for the people of Sudan are not in place when one of us is inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009, we pledge that the next administration will pursue these goals with unstinting resolve."

FOON RHEE

Lieberman to address televangelist's conference
WASHINGTON - Senator Joseph Lieberman said yesterday that he will address a July conference hosted by the Rev. John Hagee, whose endorsement was spurned last week by Republican John McCain for his contention that God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land.

"I believe that Pastor Hagee has made comments that are deeply unacceptable and hurtful," Lieberman said in a statement. "I also believe that a person should be judged on the entire span of his or her life's works. Pastor Hagee has devoted much of his life to fighting anti-Semitism and building bridges between Christians and Jews."

The Connecticut senator, one of the strongest supporters of McCain, has been mentioned as a possible running mate. Lieberman was Democrat Al Gore's running mate in 2000.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Paul makes best showing, drawing 24% in Idaho
John McCain has the Republican nomination wrapped up, but Ron Paul isn't going anywhere.

In fact, in Tuesday's little-noticed Republican primary in Idaho, the iconoclastic Texas congressman had his best showing so far, grabbing 24 percent of the vote, nearly 30,000 votes in all.

McCain won with 70 percent, while the other 6 percent went to uncommitted.

Paul drew the votes despite making only one campaign stop in the state. "Dr. Paul's grass-roots supporters in Idaho and across the country are doing a tremendous job spreading our message, winning votes, and laying a strong foundation for the future," Jesse Benton, campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

Paul's supporters have been making waves in state GOP conventions, hoping to secure a speaking role for him, plus a say on the party platform, at the national convention in September.

FOON RHEE

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