Posts Tagged ‘Post’
Sadr foments resistance by Iraqis – Washington Post
Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:54 Written by admin Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:54
NAJAF, IRAQ – In an appearance that was part sermon and part political stump speech, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr electrified a crowd of thousands here Saturday, stirring the well of anti-Americanism that first propelled him to prominence during the Iraq war.
The event marked the cleric’s full reemergence in Iraq after about four years of self-imposed exile in Iran. Sadr said he thanked God that in that time his followers had continued to chalk up “victories,” including being able to coalesce as a political party with a say in Iraq’s future.
But Sadr – who recently threw his support behind Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, positioning him to win a second term – also sought to re-center his cause as still mainly one of resistance. His followers, he said, must continue to focus on fiercely resisting the United States, but perhaps also targeting their own government if it cannot restore services or security and hold to a timeline for a full U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011.
“We say to the Iraq government: Enough occupation and enough slavery,” Sadr said. “We heard that the government has pledged to get the occupation out, and we are waiting for its promise.”
Sadr said every country in the world has been troubled by Iraq’s many years of hardship, except “our joint enemy: America, Israel and Britain.” He then launched the crowd into the first of nearly a dozen increasingly boisterous chants of “No, no America!”
Despite the clarity of the mantra, Sadr also spoke in near riddles, leaving as many questions as answers about how much he was asking of his followers, who have a history of bloody battles with U.S. forces.
“We don’t kill Iraqis,” Sadr said. “We target the occupiers only.” He said his followers should use “military and educational resistance,” but added a moment later: “But resistance means resistance, it doesn’t mean anyone can carry a weapon. Weapon is for the people of weapons only.”
Arabic media, which largely described the speech as peaceful, debated the intent of that last comment. Did he mean that a weapon can be used against a foreign soldier who is armed? Or did he mean that only those permitted to carry weapons are allowed to use them?
Regardless, the remarks were bound to heighten concern for about 48,000 remaining U.S. service members in Iraq. And Sadr’s hard line on Americans leaving at the end of the year raised questions about whether he would resist an anticipated long-term U.S. diplomatic presence here.
Sadr denounced violence against fellow Iraqis, singling out a string of recent assassinations of police and government officials and targeted bombings of Christians.
“Any conflicts between the brothers, let us forget that page and leave it forever,” he said.
The speech caused no major problems in Najaf, where heavy security blanketed the city ahead of the event. Elsewhere in Iraq, at least four other people died Saturday in bombings and a gun attack.
Although he was calm during his appearance, even joking occasionally with the audience, Sadr left the stage abruptly after less than 30 minutes. Sadrist cleric Hazim al-Araji said the crowd had become too loud for the cleric to continue. Sadr had earlier issued notes chastising his followers for not being more reverent in his presence since he arrived in the country Wednesday.
Special correspondents Aziz Alwan, Ali Qeis and Saad Sarhan contributed to this report.
Thousands rally in Pakistan for blasphemy laws – Washington Post
Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:51 Written by admin Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:51
KARACHI, Pakistan — Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched in Pakistan’s largest city in opposition to any change to blasphemy laws and to praise the man charged with murdering the provincial governor who opposed the legislation.
The rally of up to 50,000 people in downtown Karachi on Sunday was one of the largest demonstrations of support for the laws that make insulting Islam a capital offense.
The march was organized before Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, was shot dead last week by a bodyguard who supports the laws.
Opposition politician Fazlur Rehman told the crowd that Taseer “was responsible for his own murder” because he had criticized the law.
How do you follow Gibbs’s show? – Washington Post
Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:49 Written by admin Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:49
With the departure of Robert Gibbs, senior administration officials are expanding their search for a new White House press secretary to include a dangerous breed: working journalists.
Advisers have been compiling a fairly predictable list of Democratic spokesmen who could assume the “podium job,” as it’s known. There are internal front-runners – Vice President Biden’s communications director, Jay Carney, and deputy press secretary Bill Burton are at the top of the list – and other candidates, including another deputy, Josh Earnest, whom Gibbs asked to be added for consideration. A more senior White House adviser, Stephanie Cutter, had been asked to apply but declined, and she is now involved in the search process. There are a number of external contenders, as well, including Democratic operative Karen Finney, a frequent paid television commentator.
But further down the wish list that officials have compiled so far are some reporters, mainly ones who appear on television, people involved in the process said. Officials acknowledge it is a long shot that one of them will make the final cut: There are logistical considerations, such as contracts, and the all-important question of trust. But the mere fact that working journalists are being discussed for a job so visible is a sign of change within a White House that has typically been allergic to it.
Overall, the list of candidates to succeed Gibbs has expanded since William Daley was announced as the incoming chief of staff, several people familiar with the process said. Among the most pressing goals: including candidates who can repair relations with the White House press corps, which suffered under Gibbs, and to at least consider a woman to balance the perception of an administration that is overwhelmingly male.
The problem, according to several who are familiar with the search, is that the talent pool is extremely shallow.
“I really do think the president needs somebody up there who has credibility with the media and who’s also an insider who knows what’s going on,” Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said. By definition, the roster is limited to people who currently work at the White House; almost no one from the outside has penetrated the workings of the place since President Obama took office two years ago.
Brazile said she had recently called Burton to give him her thumbs-up, saying that as deputy he “has grown in the job.” Other officials, who would not speak for the record, said Carney, 45, has a slight advantage over Burton, 33, based largely on stature.
The search process, which will be helmed by incoming senior adviser David Plouffe, will look hard at past problems. Gibbs played an unusual role as press secretary, enjoying virtually unfettered access to the president and wearing dual hats as a spokesman and top adviser in a way that his successor probably will not. So in some ways, officials are redefining the job as they fill it.
Gibbs also leaves some hard feelings in his wake. That means the next press secretary will be charged with trying to rebuild a rapport with the White House press corps, a process that “has actually been underway for several months,” one senior administration official said.
White House reporters painted a picture of Gibbs as intimately knowledgable of administration workings but at the same time infuriatingly unavailable when the White House’s input was required on deadline. The reason for that inaccessibility, they said, had less to do with any malice the prickly press secretary felt toward reporters. Instead he was swamped with work, stuck in high-level meetings or, according to some reporters, simply disorganized. (Gibbs spoke last year about his close relationship as an adviser to the president and was widely expected to abandon the podium to “go inside,” but he did not. There is debate among several sources with knowledge of the process about why: Either he felt uncomfortable with the lack of portfolio or was denied the new role.)
“Even when he could shape the story, and shape it more positively for the administration, he was incommunicado,” said one White House reporter who, like several other briefing room colleagues, declined to speak for the record and complained about unreturned e-mails and phone calls.
“He was always incredibly overworked,” said another White House reporter, “and I found myself doing most of my reporting through other people.”
Democrats mount new sales pitch for health-care law – Washington Post
Last Updated on Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:47 Written by admin Sunday, 9 January 2011 08:47
Democrats, who were widely perceived to have blown the political messaging over President Obama’s signature law, are revving up for a campaign-style offensive in an attempt to get it right the second time around.
In the run-up to a House vote on repeal – originally scheduled for Wednesday but delayed after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others in Tucson on Saturday – Democrats are staging news conferences and rallies outside the district offices of nearly 70 targeted Republican House members, many of whom were elected in districts Obama carried in his 2008 race.
The White House has set up a rapid-response operation and was planning to deploy Cabinet secretaries this week to make the Democrats’ case in newspaper editorials, on the radio and in satellite interviews with local television stations.
Party officials said they will also showcase regular folks who have benefited from the health-care law – such as those younger than 26 who are now able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans and people with preexisting conditions who can now get coverage – in local and national media to “put a face” on popular provisions.
“It’s not often you get a second chance to make a first impression, but [Republicans] are giving that right to us,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Right now, people don’t realize all the good things in the bill. The more we have an opportunity to talk about them, fewer and fewer people are going to be for repeal.”
The first time around
As the bill was being crafted in 2009 and 2010, opponents seemed to gain the upper hand with their political message. Activists dressed down Democratic congressmen at their town hall meetings. They staged hands-off-my-health-care rallies. They dubbed the overhaul “Obamacare.”
Opposition to the bill helped propel Republicans to the majority in the House, and their effort to repeal it will fulfill a campaign promise and tea party priority. They scheduled a vote for Wednesday on a measure called “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” In the likely event the effort fails to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, House Republican leaders say they will keep whacking at the law piece by piece until it crumbles.
“We’re listening to the American people,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday. “They want this bill repealed, and we are going to repeal it. And we’re going to do everything we can over the course of however long it takes to stop this because it will ruin the best health-care system in the world, it will bankrupt our nation and it will ruin our economy.”
Republican strategists say convincing a majority of Americans they are better off with the health-care law than without it will be a high hill for Democrats to climb.
“The fundamental problem for the Democrats is that the bill as a whole is widely perceived to raise health-care costs, raise health-insurance premiums, increase taxes, increase the deficit and hurt the quality of care,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “That’s a five-count indictment that creates major public opinion problems for the health-care reform bill that the Democrats passed.”
Public opinion on the law has long been divided. A December poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of it and 41 percent an unfavorable one. One in four respondents wants to repeal the law in its entirety, while another one in four wants to repeal parts of the law and keep other parts. The remainder wants to leave the law as is or expand it.