Though Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney clinched his party’s nomination last week with his win in the Texas primary, Californian Republicans went to the polls today to cast their ballots – and early returns showed eight out of 10 of them were accepting the inevitable.
As of 11 p.m., Romney had about 80.7 percent of the vote, while Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., followed with 9.4 percent. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had 5 percent of the vote, even though he dropped out well before former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was at 3.8 percent.
The event is free and open to the public, but because of the auditorium’s limited size, those wishing to attend are encouraged to get an early seating voucher online. The voucher will only be good until 6:30 PM, at which point seating will switch to first-come, first-served.
“College students today are beginning to break the left-right paradigm of American politics and turn to independent ideologies like Congressman Paul’s libertarianism for answers,” said the student groups’ news release. “This event should prove to be a true testament to the shifting nature of the youth vote.”
Paul earlier Thursday will attend an 11:30 a.m. fundraising luncheon at San Francisco’s Marriott Union Square hotel; tickets cost $350 per person, or $250 for those with student or military ID.
Thursday’s events will cap the Texas Congressman’s three-day campaign and fundraising swing through California; he has similar campus events scheduled Tuesday evening at Cal State Chico and Wednesday at UCLA. His fundraisers won’t be open to the media.
A Republican candidate needs 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination; Mitt Romney now has 464, Rick Santorum has 205, Newt Gingrich has 135 and Paul has 34, according to the Associated Press. Paul has not won any state primary or caucus so far.
Members of the Bay Area’s congressional delegation are speaking out this week on the 10th anniversary of our war in Afghanistan.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke about it on the House floor yesterday:
This morning, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, hosted a Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force hearing entitled “Ten Years On: Why the War in Afghanistan Must End Now.”
“After ten years and $460 billion invested in an unstable country with untrustworthy leadership, it is past time to end the war in Afghanistan,” she said. “Ten years is ten years too long for this wasteful war; it is time to bring our troops and our tax dollars home. That’s why I introduced HR 780 to safely and swiftly redeploy all combat troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.”
Academics, other experts and antiwar advocates discussed the cost of ten years of endless warfare since the overly broad Authorization of Use of Military Force was approved in 2001.
“The costs in blood and treasure in Afghanistan for the U.S., its allies, and for Afghans have been underestimated and undercounted. A comprehensive accounting shows that the intensity of the war is increasing, not decreasing,” said Nita Crawford, a Boston University political science professor and foreign policy expert.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, spoke at the hearing as well as at a separate, bipartisan event discussing the war’s anniversary; among other House members there were Ron Paul, R-Texas, Walter Jones, R-N.C., John Duncan, R-Tenn., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa. There, Woolsey called the anniversary cause for “sober and solemn reflection:”
“On this occasion let’s remember the 1,800 brave servicemembers who’ve given their lives in Afghanistan over the last decade. Their service and sacrifice couldn’t be more honorable; the mission they were sent on, however, was a moral disgrace.
“Let’s also acknowledge the thousands of Afghan civilians caught in the line of fire and killed for the cause of their so-called liberation. They are casualties of this war and must not be forgotten either.
“We have paid too high a price in blood and treasure over the last 10 years….too high a price for a policy that has not advanced our national security interests.
“This war would be a ripoff at any cost, but when I think about the fact that it’s costing us $10 billion every month, it takes my breath away.
“$10 billion a month! Think of what we could do with $10 billion a month. We could use it to help create the jobs the American people need. $10 billion a month could pay for a lot of Pell Grants, a lot of Head Start slots, a lot of Medicare reimbursements, a lot of school lunches.
“For pennies on the dollar, we can and we must invest in an entirely new approach to protecting America, one that emphasizes diplomacy, multilateral cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution.
“I call this platform Smart Security, and I’ve been promoting it just about every day for the last several years. Instead of invasions and occupations, Smart Security offers other nations partnership and humanitarian aid.
“Instead of a military surge, it promises a much bolder civilian surge that shows American compassion…that embodies the very best American values…that fights poverty, promotes education, rebuilds infrastructure and restores hope.
“The American people have had enough of this war. A new poll even shows that only half of post 9/11 veterans think the Afghanistan war was worth fighting. Isn’t it time we listened to them? Isn’t it time public policy caught up with public sentiment on this life-and-death issue?
“Moral decency, fiscal sanity and public opinion all tell us to do the same thing – after 10 long years, it’s time to bring the troops home.”
Woolsey has contributed to Oakland-based Peace Action West’s effort to mark the anniversary by gathering photos and stories from Californians and others around the nation showing how the war has changed people’s lives.
“Since the war started a decade ago, kids barely old enough to remember the start of the war have packed up to go and fight it,” said Rebecca Griffin, Peace Action West’s political director. “We’re asking people to tell their stories to show what spending a full decade at war really means for our country.”
Woolsey wrote, “Ten years ago, my grandchildren weren’t even born. Since then I have worked in Congress to bring our troops home so they, along with all Americans, can see a time when their country is not at war.”
Kelly Campbell, formerly of Oakland and now of Portland, Ore., wrote, “On the day the US started bombing Afghanistan, we held a memorial for my brother-in-law who was killed on 9/11. Later, I traveled to Afghanistan and joined with others to create 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.”
Sean Alexander of Pittsburg, who was just 11 years old when the war started, joined the Marine Corps at 19 and is now working to end the war. He wrote, “Only 11 years old ten years ago, I was MVP of my Little League baseball team. Now ten years after the war began, I’m fighting for my moral dignity that is to lay down my arms and stand for peace.”
Rep. Barbara Lee joined with two House Republicans this morning to introduce a bill that they say would end the war in Afghanistan.
The bill that Lee, D-Oakland, co-authored with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, would require that any money appropriated for the war in Afghanistan “shall be obligated and expended only for purposes of providing for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel.”
“It sends, really, a strong message that we’ve come together today to speak with one voice on this issue,” Lee said on a teleconference with reporters.
Lee noted her lone vote against authorizing the use of force after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and said her concern that it was a blank check for war hasn’t abated since. Had Americans known we’d still be in Afghanistan almost a decade later, she said, perhaps there would’ve been a more robust debate. “It’s costing us $100 billion a year and countless American lives.”
Lee said the bill already has about 46 co-sponsors, on both sides of the aisle.
Jones, whose district is home to military installations including the Marine Corps’ Camp LeJeune, has seen service members deployed repeatedly to Afghanistan, to little avail. He said he has been in touch with a retired general – whom he declined to name, although he said reporters would recognize the name if he did – who has advised him that the situation in Afghanistan is untenable, and won’t lead to a stable, democratic government there.
“It’s time to bring them home, the American people are fed up and tired of seeking the broken bodies,” he said.
Paul thanked Lee for “leading the charge” and said the war is a consequence of policy dating back at least to the Persian Gulf War, an American interventionist attitude intent on remaking the Middle East and South Asia. We should persuade and lead by example, not by gunpoint, he said.
Asked whether yesterday’s vote on defunding the development of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter indicated House members are becoming more willing to cross party lines, Paul replied he found it “a bit encouraging” but said it wasn’t a great test vote because there were “a lot of parochial interests involved.” Although the new crop of GOP freshmen seem more inclined to vote independently, he said, “we still have a way to go.”
H.Con.Res. 248, legislation by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, that would order the President to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, failed today on a 65-356 vote after more than three and a half hours of debate.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.Con.Res. 248 to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.
“Despite the wishes of the people who voted him into office, President Obama is escalating the War in Afghanistan. It’s now up to Congress to end the war. This resolution would invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and remove troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of the year.
“This war has no clear objective. We have spent $258 billion on the War in Afghanistan, with billions more to come this year. American soldiers and their families are paying a greater price. Over 1,000 soldiers have died, and over 5,000 have been wounded in action. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.
“It is time for Congress to assert its constitutional authority over matters of war and bring our troops home. I urge my colleagues to join us in support of this resolution. War will never stabilize Afghanistan. We must turn to diplomacy and infrastructure development to achieve stability in Afghanistan.”
“We need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan. Today, I again registered my opposition to the current US policy in Afghanistan by voting for Mr. Kucinich’s war powers resolution. While we know it isn’t feasible for American troops to leave Afghanistan in the time allotted in the resolution, by voting for it I am sending a clear message to President Obama and my colleagues that we need to move in a new direction in Afghanistan.”
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was one of five Republicans (the others included Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine) to vote for the legislation. From Paul:
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch this morning ended a nearly 18-month lawsuit by agreeing to sign an election challenge regarding the June 2008 election of seven GOP county committee members who hadn’t been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least three months before their candidacy filing dates, and/or had belonged to other parties within a year before filing, in violation of the state Elections Code.
“I guess the evidence is rather clear and stark,” Roesch said.
Which is partly a moot point now, because the seven committee members in question – Walter Stanley III of Livermore; Casey Fargo and his wife, Lea Smart, of Livermore; David Latour of Hayward; Deslar Patten of Hayward; Christopher Kuhn of Hayward; and John Bartlett of Livermore – resigned earlier this month.
“They never, from the beginning, presented any evidence that they were eligible,” attorney George Benetatos, representing plaintiff committee member Paul Cummings Jr. of Oakland, said after this morning’s hearing.
Cummings belongs to what many call the “neo-conservative” wing of the party, and the infighting between these factions kept the county GOP more focused inward over the past 18 months than on building the party and supporting candidates.
“I feel completely vindicated, we knew the evidence was there from the start,” Cummings said today. “The judge said exactly what I wanted to hear.”
The neocon faction already last month had recaptured the committee’s chairmanship. Now, Cummings said, the judge’s ruling “sets the clock back to January 2009,” so the remaining committee members at their Jan. 19 meeting can start reviewing the past year and determine whether to void any important votes the now-resigned members made.
They’ll also consider how to fill the vacancies – and that’s where things could get interesting.
Stanley told me this afternoon he and several others who resigned earlier this month intend to seek re-appointment to their old seats next month. They believe the state Election Code dictates that only the remaining committee members from a particular Assembly district get to choose someone to fill a vacancy from that district, not the entire county committee, and they believe they still have enough allies to get them re-seated.
“I’m expecting a little bit of a task to convince these people (the neocons) what is right,” Stanley said. “Maybe there will be another lawsuit – who knows?”
Maybe. But Election Code Section 7410 says, “In the event of the appointment or election to a committee of an ineligible person, or whenever any member of the committee dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated to act, or removes from the
jurisdiction of the committee, or ceases to be a member of this party, a vacancy exists which shall be filled by appointment by the committee in which the ineligibility or vacancy occurs.” So it’ll be interesting to see where, and how far, this goes.
He said he and the others resigned because they ran out of money to defend against Cummings’ lawsuit, which he said has been bankrolled by deep-pocketed neocon allies.
But he and LaTour remain California Republican Party delegates, he said, and are determined to “reorganize our group, we’re going to come back in 2010 and we’re going to run the tables on these people” with a well-oiled grassroots campaign that should have Constitutional Republicans holding a supermajority on the county GOP committee by this time next year. “We’re going to come back stronger than ever.”
Three Bay Area House members are among the 13 original cosponsors of a bill to ease federal restrictions on marijuana and end federal interference in states’ medical-marijuana programs.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., late Thursday introduced HR 2835, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which would move marijuana from Schedule 1 – the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs, classified as having no medical value – to Schedule 2, which includes drugs which may have accepted medical use. The bill also would prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.
The bill basically is identical to Frank’s HR 5842 from the 110th Congress, which never made it out of its first subcommittee. But many medical marijuana advocates believe the Obama Administration – which has said it won’t prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers operating within the parameters of state law – will be friendlier to such bills.
“We are encouraged by the federal government’s willingness to address this issue and to bring about a more sensible and humane policy on medical marijuana,” said Caren Woodson, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based nationwide advocacy group. “It’s time to recognize marijuana’s medical efficacy, and to develop a comprehensive plan that will provide access to medical marijuana and protection for the hundreds of thousands of sick Americans that benefit from its use.”
HR 2835 would provide protection from the Controlled Substances Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for qualified patients and caregivers in states with medical-marijuana laws, preventing these federal statutes from prohibiting or restricting a physician from prescribing or recommending marijuana for medical use; an individual from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, manufacturing, or using marijuana in accordance with their state law; an individual authorized under State law from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, or manufacturing marijuana on behalf of an authorized patient, or; an entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such authorized patients.
With only a few precincts outstanding at this hour, the Associated Press shows Hillary Clinton with 55 percent of Pennyslvania’s Democratic vote — it was a closed primary, no independents allowed — and Barack Obama with 45 percent; that’s 80 pledged delegates for Clinton, 66 for Obama, 12 more yet to be awarded.
So, the new delegate totals seem to be:
Obama — 1,481 pledged + 233 superdelegates = 1,714 total
Clinton — 1,331 pledged + 258 superdelegates = 1,589 total
CNN asks whether Clinton’s Pennsylvania victory came soon enough to save her candidacy: “Clinton told supporters in her victory speech that ‘the tide has turned.’ It’s more like she’s slowed the wave of momentum that appeared ready to carry Obama to the party’s nomination.”
The win certainly seemed to have given Clinton at least some degree of financial boost; Bloomberg reports her campaign claiming to have raised $2.5 million after the polls closed last night. In context, however, not much of that will be left after she pays her debts: Obama started the month with $42.5 million available while Clinton had about $8 million on hand but $10.3 million in unpaid bills.
Clinton’s campaign put out a bulletin today noting “more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate… Estimates vary slightly, but according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary has received 15,095,663 votes to Sen. Obama’s 14,973,720, a margin of more than 120,000 votes… This count includes certified vote totals in Florida and Michigan.” That would be the two states where Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign because they bucked the party’s rules by setting their primaries too early; Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. Even counting Florida but not Michigan, Obama’s still in the popular-vote lead.
So now it’s on to the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Real Clear Politics’ averages of several polls shows Clinton with a slim lead in Indiana and Obama with a comfortable lead in North Carolina. Nationwide, it’s Obama by 10 percentage points. Watch for all those numbers to change somewhat as yesterday’s results sink in.
And Time magazine says “the real winner of the Democratic race in Pennsylvania is John McCain. The most significant number coming out of Tuesday night wasn’t Clinton’s 10 point margin of victory, but 43. That’s the percentage of Clinton voters who say they would stay home or vote for McCain if Obama is the party’s nominee in November.” But that doesn’t account for the more than a quarter of Republican voters in yesterday’s election who voted against McCain, picking Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee instead. True, there wasn’t a lot of impetus for McCain supporters to flock to the polls yesterday because he’s already the presumptive nominee; still, when 27 percent of those who did show up vote against the guy, you’ve gotta wonder how many of those people will vote against him or just stay home in November.
The House yesterday spent an hour debating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.Res.1077, “calling on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to end its crackdown in Tibet and enter into a substantive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to find a negotiated solution that respects the distinctive language, culture, religious identity, and fundamental freedoms of all Tibetans, and for other purposes.” The vote, however, was postponed.
UPDATE @ 12:27 P.M. WEDNESDAY:The House voted on the bill today, passing it 413-1 with Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the lone holdout; he never votes for any bill not expressly authorized by the Constitution.
Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, speaking Tuesday about the nonbinding resolution: