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Trump Transition Team Knew About Flynn’s Lobbying

IMAGE: Then Defense Intelligence Agency director U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on “Worldwide Threats” in Washington February 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron  

Michael Flynn Finally Admits He Lobbied For Turkey During Trump Campaign

IMAGE: Gen. Michael Flynn, a possible Trump VP pick, appears on Al Jazeera to discuss the GOP candidate in May.

Benghazi Panel Continues Interviews, Surpasses Length Of 9/11 Inquiry

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The committee investigating the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, will interview several high-profile Obama administration officials this week, including former CIA Director David Petraeus and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Petraeus will testify Wednesday behind closed doors, the committee said. His appearance will be followed by Charlene Lamb, former deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs for diplomatic security on Thursday; Panetta on Friday and Jeremy Bash, former Defense Department chief of staff on Jan. 13.

The committee interviewed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic front-runner for president, in public in October.

“The American people and the families of the victims deserve to know the truth about what happened before, during and after the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, and we must do everything we can to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future,” Committee spokesman Matt Wolking said.

As of Wednesday, the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been in existence for 609 days, surpassing the length of time the 9/11 Commission took to investigate the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Instead of following the bipartisan model set by the 9/11 Commission, which brought our entire nation together after we were attacked by terrorists, Republicans created a highly partisan Select Committee with an unlimited budget to attack their political opponents,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat. “Republicans continue to drag out this political charade closer to the 2016 presidential election, and the American taxpayers continue to pay the price.”

The committee has proven more costly than permanent panels on intelligence, veterans affairs, ethics and small business, according to the Committee on House Administration, which collects monthly expenditure reports from each committee. Democrats even have a website constantly calculating the cost of the committee: more than $5.5 million as of Wednesday.

Democrats charge that the panel is “one of the longest, least productive and most partisan investigations in congressional history,” surpassing the investigations of Hurricane Katrina, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Iran-Contra and Watergate.

The Republican-controlled committee was formed in May 2014 to examine U.S. government policies that may have contributed to the attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, and the response of the Obama administration, including Clinton.

Seven other congressional committees and the bipartisan independent Accountability Review Board already have looked into the assault. Nearly all of them criticized the Clinton State Department for insufficiently addressing security issues at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

In 2015, the committee conducted interviews with 64 witnesses, including 53 who had never been interviewed by a congressional committee, according to Republicans. It has reviewed roughly 100,000 pages of documents from various departments and agencies, most of them never before seen by a congressional committee, they say.

Wolking said the committee is still waiting to receive documents from the State Department and the CIA and for witnesses to be made available for interviews. It expects to release a report with recommendations within the next few months.

©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Central Intelligence Agency via Wikimedia Commons

 

Democrats Divided On How To Fight Terrorism

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Democratic Party heads into its presidential primaries sharply divided over how to wage war against terrorism, a rift magnified by Americans’ growing fears following recent terrorist attacks and laid bare in the newest debate between their presidential candidates.

The party’s top two presidential candidates described starkly different philosophies on national security, sparking some of the liveliest exchanges in Saturday night’s debate just six weeks before the first nominating contest of the 2016 presidential election.

Front-runner Hillary Clinton took the more hawkish and interventionist approach, advocating that the U.S. should be aggressive in helping to resolve disputes around the world, even if that involves sending special forces or overthrowing dictators. “If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader,” she said. “There is a vacuum.”

Her chief rival Bernie Sanders, who does not generally favor international intervention, touted his role in leading the effort against the war in Iraq, which he called one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the country’s history. “The United States of America cannot … be thought of as the policeman of the world,” he said.

The debate was the first Democratic faceoff since a husband-and-wife team of killers inspired by the Islamic State shot 14 people to death in San Bernardino, Calif. The shootings came soon after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for killing more than 100 people in Paris.

Sanders and Martin O’Malley hope to convince increasingly liberal primary voters that Clinton does not fit in the Democratic Party on the issue. It was the same strategy that Barack Obama used to defeat Clinton in 2008.

As senator from New York, Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize military force against Iraq, but later admitted she was wrong. As member of the House, Sanders voted against it, saying that he was worried about the “problems of so-called unintended consequences.”

Now, their party’s two leading contenders for president differ on how to combat Islamic State, and even whether that should be the first priority.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, calls for a no-fly zone in Syria, which is supported by some Republican presidential candidates and opposed by Obama and others who say the proposal is risky, costly and could lead to confrontations with Russia and Iran.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, opposes a no-fly zone, which he said could get the United States more deeply involved in Syria’s civil war.

Clinton supports Obama’s recent decision to send a small contingent of special operations forces to Syria to fight Islamic State, even if the deployment grows.

Sanders has concerns that the decision could further draw the United States into a never-ending war.

Sanders also accused Clinton of supporting overthrowing dictators, only to leave vulnerable nations behind, including Iraq, Libya and Syria. He said he prefers putting together broad coalitions, having others lead the fight, so as to not leave a political vacuum that could be filled by terrorists, even if that takes time.

Clinton shot back at Sanders and a moderator who asked if she was partly responsible for the continued chaos in Libya after the United States helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi, saying the United States did as much as the Libyans would allow.

Clinton said it’s important to combat both Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and Syrian leader Bashar Assad, who is bombing Syrians in the country’s civil war.

“We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS but whose principal goal of getting rid of Assad don’t believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing,” she said.

Sanders countered that Assad’s fate should be secondary to fighting Islamic State. “We have got to get our foreign policies and priorities right,” he said. “It is not Assad who is attacking the United States. It is ISIS.”

©2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) and former U.S. President Bill Clinton greet supporters at the Central Iowa Democrats Fall Barbecue in Ames, Iowa November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

 

Emails Give Behind-The-Scenes Glimpse Of Clinton

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — She worries about being excluded from meetings.

She looks forward to a few days away from the office to catch up on sleep and her favorite TV shows, The Good Wife and Parks and Recreation.

She’s constantly in search of someone to explain the latest technology to her, whether it’s how to use her new iPad or create a smiley face emoji on her BlackBerry.

The portrait of Hillary Clinton that emerges from her tens of thousands of recently released emails — including 7,825 pages of emails released Monday — is different from what people see on TV. More than her stump speeches and campaign events, her emails from her term as secretary of state often show how one of the most scrutinized women in the world behaves when she thinks only trusted friends and aides are tuning in.

“This travel gig is never ending — can’t wait for Thanksgiving for a few days off,” Clinton writes Nov. 4, 2009, from Cairo to a friend.

The emails do not show how she made specific decisions — much of that was likely done in person or by phone. And they do not include thousands she deleted that she said were entirely personal. These are being released as required by a lawsuit.

Those that are being opened up are full of the mundane logistics such as a schedule of conversations with foreign leaders and talking points for speeches and meetings. But they also include tidbits that show her personality. She’s often forgetful (she can’t keep track of her daily schedule). She has a dry sense of humor that doesn’t always take diplomacy into account. She has outside activities, such as decorating her house. And she tries to keep up with politics in what is supposed to be a non-political job.

Clinton was often looking for additional information, accepting of unsolicited advice and asking to be more involved.

“I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am,” Clinton wrote to aides at 5:52 a.m. June 8, 2009. “Is there? Can I go? If not, who are we sending?”

Clinton is constantly looking for help with new technology.

She wants to know how LinkedIn works after getting a request to connect on the website. She struggles repeatedly with how to receive a fax. And after receiving a new Blackberry, she emailed aides on April 3, 2012. “Here’s my question,” she said, “on this new berry can I get smiley faces?”

On Dec. 1, 2009, she asks Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills to lend her a copy of the book “Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Clinton could be short with her staff when something didn’t go correctly.

After showing up for a meeting at the White House June 12, 2009, only to find out it was canceled, she wrote her aides. “This is the second time this has happened,” she wrote. “What’s up???”

But she also offers staffers birthday or holiday wishes, plans get-togethers with friends or helps a stranger.

As she prepared for a trip to India and Thailand, Clinton wrote Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff and policy adviser, a note on July 16, 2009: “Jake — i told you yesterday, but it bears repeating — you’re doing a wonderful job. Not just on the speech, but all the work to establish and implement the priorities it represents. I’m very grateful — Hillary”

Clinton emailed a staffer on Aug. 28, 2009, to ask if the department could do something for a 10-year-old Yemeni girl whom she had met and later saw on CNN talking about her unhappy life. “Is there any way we can help her?” she wrote. “Could we get her to the US for counselling and education?”

In an email with the subject line “Don’t Laugh,” Clinton asks for information about rugs she had seen at a meeting with the Chinese president. “Can you contact your protocol friend in China and ask him if I could get photos of the carpets of the rooms?” she wrote to an aide.

She often makes fun of herself.

In a Dec. 30, 2010, email, Clinton writes to aides about a bank robber wearing a Hillary Clinton mask. “Should I be flattered? Even a little bit?” she asks.

©2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Hillary Clinton speaks at a Grassroots Organizing Event at Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas November 17, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Analysis: Sanders’ Failure To Score In Debates Helping Clinton Pull Away

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

DES MOINES, Iowa — For Bernie Sanders, it was a missed opportunity.

The second Democratic debate was a high-stakes chance for him to blunt Hillary Rodham Clinton’s resurgence at one of the more crucial times in the Democratic contest for president.

But while Clinton was on the defensive over foreign policy and terrorism, the challenges came largely from the moderators. Sanders failed to deliver in small and large ways at the Democratic presidential debate Saturday that would have either cast positive attention on him or negative attention on her.

It’s a dynamic that explains why she’s pulling comfortably ahead of him in the Democratic race and is likely to remain there in the weeks to come.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris hours Friday, Americans expected to hear about foreign policy and, more specifically, how the candidates planned to fight Islamic State, which took responsibility for killing 129 people.

But when Sanders in his opening statement was asked to talk about the attacks, he uttered a mere two sentences on terrorism — totaling about 20 seconds — before quickly switching back to his standard stump speech.

“I’m running for president because as I go around this nation I talk to a lot of people,” he said. “And what I hear is people concerned that the economy we have is a rigged economy.”

The abrupt switch from terrorism, and his claim that climate change is the biggest threat to national security, seemed out of place as the Paris attacks dominated the world’s attention.

Sanders’ problems with the debate began even before the candidates walked on stage. His campaign spent hours disputing published reports that aides were angry about changes in the format to reflect the Paris attacks. Clinton supporters flooded social media saying anyone who couldn’t change topics based on world events couldn’t handle being president.

The independent senator from Vermont has surprised political observers, even himself, with his popularity in the contest that has translated to large crowds and millions of dollars in contributions. But he needs to do something more if he expects to compete with Clinton for the nomination.

With the candidates not debating again for five more weeks, the debate was perhaps his best hope to blunt her rise in the polls. He did provide several strong answers, particularly on reining in Wall Street and ridding politics of unaccountable money. But to get ahead he needed to criticize her, something he and his aides repeatedly say he’s not comfortable with.

When asked if he had any criticism of how Clinton performed as secretary of state, Sanders spoke vaguely about “regime change,” saying forcing leadership changes in some countries are not always beneficial. He barely mentioned her or explained that she has supported such moves.

Sanders instead agreed with her more than once.

“I agree with much of what the secretary said,” he said about terrorism.

“The secretary’s obviously right,” he said on her assessment of the Middle East.

Sanders did manage to criticize her more than he did in their first debate in October.

He forcefully went after her for voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a senator, saying it created instability that led to the rise of the Islamic State.

“I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the level of instability that we have now,” he said. “That is one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of the United States.”

Clinton acknowledged again that she made a mistake on the Iraq War. But she then called on him to acknowledge his mistake on a vote he cast to grant immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers from liability if their firearms are used by criminals.

He didn’t, and instead delivered a muddled answer: “We will talk of that bill which I agree with parts, I disagree — I am certainly absolutely willing to look at that bill and make sure — and not a form of the bill,” he said.

He also failed to focus on what political observers consider one of his best lines of attacks — accusing Clinton of flipping on policy positions.

If all else failed, Sanders could have used the emails. Clinton has been under fire using a personal email system while secretary of state.

Sanders gave her pass on the issue in the first debate — saying Americans are “sick and tired” about hearing about her emails. But he said later he wasn’t dismissing concerns and that there are “valid questions.”

Then on Saturday, he said he really hadn’t changed his mind and that the way his remarks were misinterpreted was “just media stuff.”

“I was sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s email,” he said. “I am still sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s email.”

Clinton was pleased with that statement. “I agree completely.”

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Nov 14, 2015; Des Moines, IA, USA; Bernie Sanders speaks during a Democratic presidential debate at Drake University. Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via USA TODAY Sports

Obama Joins Facebook

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — It’s another presidential first: President Barack Obama joined Facebook Monday.

“Hello, Facebook! I finally got my very own page,” Obama posted. “I hope you’ll think of this as a place where we can have real conversations about the most important issues facing our country – a place where you can hear directly from me, and share your own thoughts and stories.”

The White House launched the POTUS Facebook page with a video of Obama giving a tour of his backyard, also a national park, which allowed him to talk about climate change. He announced he will attend a climate change summit Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

©2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in Washington November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

4 Things To Watch For In The First Democratic Debate

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

LAS VEGAS — Hillary Clinton takes the debate stage for the first time in this campaign Tuesday night to face four rivals looking for something — anything — to knock down her lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Clinton must use the debate to explain her rationale for her second candidacy for the White House or risk seeing her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, stealing her front-runner status, which already has eroded in part because of the inquiries into her use of personal email for government business.

The two-hour debate at the Wynn Las Vegas, airing on CNN starting at 9 p.m. EDT, will feature the five Democratic candidates who received at least 1 percent in a trio of national polls within the last six weeks. Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a run, will not participate.

Here’s what to look for.

How does Clinton relate?

The former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady has been trying throughout the campaign to show she can relate to working American families after years of being criticized as an out-of-touch Washington insider garnering hefty paychecks for speeches and books.

With recent polls showing an increasing number of voters do not trust her or believe she understands their problems, it’s clear she has more work to do to show them that she’s not forgotten her middle-class, Middle America sensibilities. Just last week, she poked fun at herself on “Saturday Night Live.”

Will Clinton be able to articulate a softer side by speaking about herself, her family or those she has met on the campaign trail, or will she continue to appear overly cautious and inaccessible?

Does Sanders look like a protester or a president?

Sanders has drawn massive crowds and millions of dollars by being a champion of the underpaid, overworked American worker. The 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist boasts a passionate following — which engages in enthusiastic tweets that use the hashtag FeeltheBern — but he isn’t well known for much more than blasting what he calls the “billionaire class.”

For Sanders to be seriously considered, he needs for potential voters outside the early states to get to know him better.

Will he use the debate to speak confidently about a host of other policy issues — foreign and domestic — and explain how he would govern as a president?

Who are those other guys?

The three remaining candidates — former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — have one goal: Get noticed.

Each is garnering less than 2 percent in most national polls behind Clinton, Sanders and Biden, who isn’t even a candidate. Some people do not know who they are.

Will any of the trio get attention by attacking Clinton or Sanders, making a joke or delivering a memorable one liner? Webb and Chafee have struggled to serve as attack dogs in previous joint appearances. O’Malley has not hesitated to criticize his opponents, particularly Clinton, but he has not managed to move the polls.

Will the five candidates differ on the issues?

Unlike the Republicans running for president, the Democratic candidates haven’t distinguished themselves from each other on many of the main issues. They’ve focused on attacking the other party instead of each other.

For the most part, but not in all cases, they want to raise the minimum wage, lower college costs, get rid of unaccountable money in politics and support a deal with Iran that would curb the country’s nuclear program. Their central messages have largely focused on tackling income inequality and lifting the middle class.

Will they try to use the first debate to set themselves apart from one other and contrast the ways they would govern?

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic presidential candidate, delivers remarks at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute presidential candidates forum in Washington, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As She Woos Hispanics, Clinton Moves Left On Immigration

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton wants to halt the deportation of immigrants in the country illegally, offer them a path to citizenship and allow them to obtain driver’s licenses.

It wasn’t always this way.

In past years, Clinton insisted she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants,” voted as a senator to construct hundreds of miles of fencing along the border with Mexico to keep them out and opposed giving them driver’s licenses.

As she faces unexpectedly tough competition for the Democratic nomination, Clinton has shifted — occasionally even reversed — her policies on immigration, moving steadily to the left of where she had been as a senator and first-time presidential candidate. In some instances, she has been vague or contradictory as she looks to woo crucial Hispanic voters.

“For me this is about what kind of people we all are and what kind of country we all have,” she said at an immigration town hall meeting in Las Vegas last May. “So you know where I stand and there can be no question about it because I will do everything I can as president and during this campaign to make this case.”

Some groups that have been pushing for a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws readily acknowledge that Clinton has changed, but they support her because she has always been for the broad goal of what they call comprehensive immigration reform. They say they are generally pleased with what she has been saying since she entered the race in the spring, including pledging to do more than President Barack Obama in several areas.

“Many of us are much more enthusiastic,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group.

Groups searching for ways to reduce the number of immigrants in the country illegally, and sometimes even legally, question the motives behind her shifts.

“She’s pandering to what she believes will win her votes of Hispanics,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman with the Federation for American Reform, which advocates for increased border security and stopping illegal immigration.

Clinton’s campaign shared some of her specific views but did not respond to a request to explain her approach to immigration, one of the issues Republicans say has led potential voters to call Clinton dishonest in recent polls.

It’s not the first time Clinton has changed her position on an issue — she reversed course on same-sex marriage and the Iraq War — as she embraces issues that she hopes will appeal to the same coalition of female, minority, youth and gay voters that propelled Obama to victory.

Clinton already has a huge advantage over all other Democratic and Republican presidential candidates among registered Hispanic voters, according to a Univision poll released this summer. Of the Hispanic voters polled, 73 percent said they would back her. None of her Democratic rivals received double-digit support. In a general election matchup, 64 percent of those polled said they would back Clinton.

As the top five Democratic presidential candidates travel to Nevada for their first debate, the contentious issue of immigration takes on added significance in a state where nearly one-third of the population is Hispanic.

Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Clinton has failed to explain her decision to change her mind in past debates, but that she should be prepared to do that this time, perhaps even on immigration.

“You can make a mistake,” he said. “You’re allowed to.”

A dozen years ago, Clinton declared that she was against “illegal immigrants,” a view she no longer talks about.

Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for greater immigration enforcement and which now gives Clinton an “F” grade based on 10 categories, said that Clinton had been more of a centrist years ago when she voted to secure the border, talked about punishing employers who hire those in the country illegally and backed a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

“She’s definitely changed,” he said. “It’s hard to believe she believes what she is saying.”

Clinton had declined for months to take a position on a series of controversial executive orders by Obama until after he acted to protect immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, were parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have been in the country for several years. Protesters urged her to take a stand, but she refused, once angering them by saying simply, “I think we need to elect more Democrats.”

She eventually said she supported Obama’s actions, and in one of her first campaign events of her second run she said she would do more than Obama to halt the deportation of immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Specifically, Clinton said she would stop the deportation of parents of so-called “Dreamers,” children brought into the country illegally.

“I would do everything possible under the law to go even further,” Clinton said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said Obama went as far as he thought he could, and he could not explain why Clinton said she could do more. “There may be a legal explanation that they have that you should ask them about,” he said.

In a recent Telemundo interview, Clinton went as far as faulting Obama for deporting so many people and “breaking up families” during his first term.

She also said the Obama administration’s family detention centers need to be closed, saying she was “very worried” about the detention of children and called for more “humane treatment.”

“They’re fine for an emergency, but the emergency has passed, and we need to do more to help these families find more permanent solutions,” she said.

Clinton says on her website what she will focus on: offering a path to citizenship, supporting comprehensive immigration reform, expanding Obama’s executive actions and deporting only those who pose a violent threat to public safety.

She doesn’t mention other issues where she has changed.

In 2007, when she ran for president the first time, she was criticized for a muddled response to a question at a time where she eventually opposed allowing immigrants here illegally to obtain driver’s licenses. Her campaign said she now supports issuing licenses to them.

More recently, in 2014, as the number of children illegally crossing the southern border alone spiked, Clinton said they would be sent back to their home countries.

“We have to send a clear message,” she said in June. “Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. We don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”

The next month, Clinton softened her tone, telling the Fusion network’s Jorge Ramos that she would deport children that “don’t have a legitimate claim for asylum” or “some kind of family connection.”

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum campaign event at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Unlike Presidential Rivals, Clinton Shunning Questions From Press

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — After each of Hillary Clinton’s campaign events, a large group of reporters gathers on one side of the room and shouts questions at her. She rarely responds, opting instead to ignore them, not even glancing in their direction.

Clinton has largely closed herself off from media questions in the first month of her campaign. Her refusal to take questions stands in stark contrast to virtually all other candidates in both parties, who routinely wade into a pack of reporters after events, often fielding more questions in one event than Clinton has so far in her entire campaign. They also are facing reporters in one-on-one interviews and appearing on TV news programs.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on his first day on the campaign trail in New Hampshire answered 10 questions from reporters trailing him, on subjects including running against his political mentor to the theory of evolution.

Business executive Carly Fiorina, also a Republican, went from her announcement of her campaign to a conference call with reporters, taking questions for 40 minutes.

And on the day he officially announced his candidacy this week, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is running as a Democrat, took more questions from the media than Clinton had in the previous three weeks.

In total, Clinton has taken eight questions from the media since she entered the race April 12.

“She’s not doing it because she really doesn’t have to,” said Brad Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling & Research in Jacksonville, Fla. He called it a “smart strategy” so early in the race when independents aren’t paying attention, most Democrats support her and Republicans are busy with their own nomination fight.

“She has all the time in the world. … There’s no urgency for Hillary to get engaged,” he said.

Clinton has long had a tenuous relationship with the media, including the first time she ran for president in 2008, so her tactic isn’t exactly surprising. But not long ago she hinted that things might be different this time. She even held a pair of events before her announcement so reporters could get to know her staff.

“You know, my relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated,” Clinton said in late March when she headlined a journalism awards ceremony. “I am all about new beginnings. A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account … why not a new relationship with the press?”

Leonard Steinhorn, a political communications professor at American University in Washington, said the media need to take some responsibility for candidates refusing to engage, because reporters often ask so-called “gotcha” questions instead of substantive policy questions.

“There may be a reason Hillary Clinton has run from the media over the years,” he said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around.”

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

Supporters stress that she has answered many questions from potential voters in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Clinton has made the decision to engage with the public first and that reporters should be patient. “It’s her campaign,” he said. “This is how she wants to roll it out.”

But those events are usually closed to the public, and the six or so participants are handpicked by either the campaign or the hosts, including businesses and schools.

Doug Heye, a veteran Republican communications strategist, said Clinton’s campaign has clearly made the decision to avoid questions until the inquiries subside about her family foundation’s decision to accept foreign donations and her practice of using private email as secretary of state.

“It’s obviously a very strategic decision that they have made,” Heye said. “There are obviously a lot of questions that the Clinton campaign doesn’t want her speaking about.”

In March, a few weeks before she announced she was running for president, Clinton held a hastily organized news conference — her first formal one in more than two years — to answer questions about her email after weeks of near silence. She has not talked about the issue since.

The eight questions Clinton has answered since declaring her candidacy were about a critical book written about her family’s foundation, fundraising, the type of campaign events she is engaged in and trade.

(Lesley Clark, Sean Cockerham, David Lightman and Maria Recio in Washington and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Mark Nozell via Flickr

What’s In A Name? ‘Hillary’ By Any Other Name Would Still Be Controversial

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — There’s Beyonce and Madonna, Cher, and Prince. And now Hillary.

It may not be exactly the same as the long list of celebrities known by their first name. But Hillary Clinton has become known simply as Hillary in bumper stickers and headlines, on Twitter and Facebook, around water coolers, and in coffee shops.

Yet some Americans, mostly women, don’t think the former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady should be called by just her first name.

“I think it’s pretty unjust,” said Monica Warek, 23, on a recent visit to Washington from New York City. “I think it shows the level of inequality that still exists in the workforce and just in general in society.”

As Clinton gets ready to kick off her campaign for the White House, some wonder whether calling a female candidate by her first name reinforces gender stereotypes.

Or does it make her seem more personable?

Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic activist who co-chaired Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign in New Hampshire, said she has long noticed that women politicians in her own state are called by their first names. The first-in-the-nation presidential primary state boasts a female governor and an all-female congressional delegation to Washington.

“It has nothing to with political party,” Sullivan said. “It reflects a tendency of some people, but it may be totally unconscious.”

Hillary Clinton, 67, a fixture in American politics for more than two decades and the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, is expected to launch her campaign for president this month, according to those knowledgeable about her plans but not authorized to speak publicly.

Already, businesses are hawking Hillary 2016 T-shirts and posters and Ready for Hillary, a political action committee helping lay the groundwork for a second presidential run, is signing up volunteers.

Terrell Penn, 39, of Washington, says he thinks people call Clinton by her first name because they are comfortable with her. “I think it’s cool,” he said. “First name, last name; as long as she’s getting recognized.”

Of course, in Clinton’s case, this may all just be a way to distinguish her from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who dominated Democratic politics for so long and still has a 65 percent favorability rating. An online search of the word “Hillary” produces a slew of news stories about the 2016 race, while a search of “Clinton” leads to information about husband and wife.

Clinton, the first female candidate to seriously vie for the presidency, was called by her first name four times more than her 2008 Democratic rival Barack Obama, according to a study examining news coverage of the 2008 presidential race by University of Utah researchers published in the Political Research Quarterly. Male news anchors and reporters also dropped Clinton’s title of senator more than did female broadcasters, the document showed.

In any case, John Mosier, 67, of New York City, never liked the practice. “I think it generally cheapens the image of the candidate,” he said.

Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University who referred to Clinton in her book, Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work, said Clinton may be called by her first name in part because “Hillary” is more distinctive than common female names such as Susan or Mary. (Clinton’s mother had said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand explorer who with Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 2006, her aides said that was not true.)

Tannen said that no matter the reason that people use first names — even if it’s a sign of friendliness — there is no denying that the result is that the person does not get as much respect.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in California, is often called Carly, another distinctive name. A group of supporters recently launched Carly for America to prepare for her potential presidential run.

But some male politicians have been called by their first names, said Allan Lichtman, a political historian who teaches at American University.

Teddy Roosevelt was called Teddy, though he apparently despised the nickname. Calvin Coolidge was called Silent Cal. Dwight D. Eisenhower was called Ike. (Remember “I Like Ike”?) More recently, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was often called Mitt and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, now exploring running for the White House, used “Jeb!” on bumper stickers.

“There’s nothing to it,” Lichtman said about Clinton being called by her first name.

Laura F. Edwards, a history professor at Duke University who studies gender, said calling a woman by her first name is part of a larger problem in our culture in how to acknowledge women, who have always used their fathers’ and husbands’ names because they were never expected to have a public place in the world.

“All this gets to the point that women had no public identities of their own,” she said. “And we’re still living with the implications of that.”

Some argue that Clinton should be called by her first name because she, herself, embraced it during her previous campaigns as a way to establish perhaps more than an identity, but a brand.

“Political campaigns like to put candidates in a familiar frame and that is why they often promote them by first names,” Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to Clinton’s campaign in 2008.

In 2008, Clinton avoided talking about her experiences as a woman, repeatedly saying that she was running because she was the best-qualified candidate. But this time, she has started to share more personal anecdotes about being a working mother and focusing on issues that might appeal to female voters including equal pay, paid family leave, affordable child care, and access to health care.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the issue of women’s names has come up in debates where male candidates use their female opponents’ first name or skip her title to diminish them. But, she said, that is not the situation with Clinton.

“Part of the rap about her has been she’s not accessible and she’s not warm or friendly. This makes her a real person,” Walsh said. “She chose to run as Hillary. She has owned her first name. It’s become part of the vernacular.”

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Obama Seeks Reset In Revisit To India

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Things seemed to be going great in 2008 when the United States and India signed a landmark nuclear deal that was to bring tens of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S.

It never happened.

India passed a liability law that halted nuclear business investments before they even started. Relations soured more as the U.S. named India rival Pakistan as an ally. An Indian diplomat was arrested in New York. Documents released by leaker Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency authorized spying on Indian officials.

“The relationship drifted,” said Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Now, with an opening to restore relations with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama travels to India on Sunday for a three-day trip. He will become the first American president to visit India twice during his presidency.

“I know many of you have heard talk about the promise of this relationship for many years,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in India last week. “I’ve heard it myself. But the fact is that now it is really being implemented.”

Obama, accompanied by the first lady, will be official guest Monday at Republic Day, a national holiday marking the adoption of the constitution in 1950 that is celebrated with a parade through the streets of New Delhi complete with military tanks and kitschy floats. No U.S. president has even served as the official guest.

The invitation from the Indian government took the White House by surprise.

“There’s a great affinity between the United States and India and our people,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said this week.

“But there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a U.S. president would be sitting with India’s leaders at their Republic Day ceremony as chief guest . . . over the course of the recent decades,” he said.

Behind closed doors, Obama and Modi are expected to talk a new defense agreement, climate change, trade, the Islamic State terrorist group, Afghanistan, even Mars exploration.

Obama will be joined by a small delegation from Congress including Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), co-chairman of the Senate’s Indian caucus, and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), the only Indian American in Congress. A large group of American business leaders also is accompanying Obama.

Warner attributed in part the U.S.’s desire to renew ties to India to the nearly 3 million Indian Americans, among the best-educated and highest-paid group of migrants in the U.S., or what he calls “the practical reality of the amazing power and entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian America diaspora.”

Obama has attempted numerous times to pivot to Asia, often distracted by other hot spots, from the ongoing battles in Iraq and Syria to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But administration officials said Obama has remained convinced of the importance of good relations with India, the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.2 billion people, a growing economy and middle class and a recent interest in playing a larger role in Asia and across the globe. It not only is important for the United States on a variety of issues, it sits strategically next to Pakistan and China.

In addition to his meetings and attendance at the parade, Obama will visit a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and tour the Taj Mahal.

India and the United States didn’t have much of a relationship during the Cold War, when India was closer to the former Soviet Union.

But things improved, reaching an apparent peak in October 2008 when the two countries hailed a breakthrough agreement permitting civilian nuclear trade for the first time in three decades. It called for U.S. companies to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India for energy use while India opened 14 civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection.

The promise of that relationship remained after Obama was sworn into office in 2009. India’s former prime minister was the guest at the Obama administration’s first state dinner, and the president endorsed India’s desire for a permanent seat on an expanded U.N. Security Council while on a trip to India in 2010.

Then the relationship began to crumble.

India passed the liability laws in 2010 that left suppliers, not operators, accountable for damages resulting from accidents at nuclear facilities. U.S. companies lost interest in investing in India. Obama became preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan, which put his administration closer to Pakistan.

Also, India was angered after it found out that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was among the political groups that the NSA received authority to spy on. And an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, made international headlines when she was arrested for making false statements on a visa application for her housekeeper and subjected to a body-cavity search.

The White House’s attitude changed after Modi was elected in a landslide in May 2014. He is enormously popular for trying to streamline the country’s notoriously corrupt and cumbersome bureaucracy and reinvigorate a sluggish economy through international investment. He’s even expressed openness to changing the liability laws.

“He immediately is prepared to engage the United States in a bigger way than I think most of us had envisioned just days prior to the election,” said Rick Rossow, the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In addition, the two feel some kinship. Modi, a former tea salesman, and Obama, a black man raised in a broken home, took unlikely paths to their success. They both ran unprecedented campaigns and faced enormous expectations about their elections.

After Modi’s election, Obama quickly dispatched top officials to India and nominated the first Indian American as ambassador to India. Relations have improved dramatically, though tensions remain. India’s top concern is Pakistan’s influence in the region now that the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan.

“Even when things are looking good, it has been challenging,” Kugelman said. “I don’t see that changing soon.”

AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno

6 Takeaways From Obama’s State Of The Union Speech

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Here are six important takeaways from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night:

Economic populism

The theme of Obama’s one-hour speech was unmistakable: economic populism.

He spoke about taxing the wealthy to help the poor and middle class, raising the minimum wage, offering new tax credits for child care, providing free community college, cutting mortgage premiums and mandating paid leave.

“Middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change,” he said. “That means helping folks afford child care, college, health care, a home, retirements — and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.”

The focus isn’t necessarily a new one for this president, but it does provide his party a much-wanted platform in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats hope to highlight a striking difference with Republicans who now control both the Senate and the House of Representatives despite losing the White House in 2008 and 2012.

But even several top Republicans, including the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, have said they plan to make economic populism a centerpiece of their potential campaigns.

Economy growing, for many

Obama said the economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999, the U.S. unemployment rate is lower than it was before the financial crisis, and businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs over the past five years.

“At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits,” he said. “Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years.”

For the first time since 2009, more people think Obama has improved the economy rather than hurt it, according a Pew Research Center poll released last week.

How lame a lame duck?

Obama continued to exude the same sense of confidence he had even after Republicans won the Senate and secured their biggest majority in the House since the late 1940s.

In recent weeks, he’s begun efforts aimed at easing smog-related pollution, taken executive actions on immigration and climate change, vowed to have the federal government regulate Internet access and said the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

His tone did not change Tuesday.

“I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama read from his speech. And then added with a chuckle, “I know ’cause I won both of ’em.”

Islamic State terrorists

Months after launching a U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State terrorist group, Obama is asking Congress to authorize the bombings in Iraq and Syria.

Republicans and even some Democrats had argued for months that Obama needed lawmakers’ authority to target the organization also known as ISIS or ISIL. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an authorization of the use of military force, but the full Senate never considered it.

While Obama does not agree that he needs authorization, he asked Congress to “show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.”

Paris attacks

After appearing to snub one of its closest allies, Obama went out of his way to mention the terrorist attack at a French satirical newspaper in Paris that killed 12 people this month.

“We stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris,” he said to applause.

The White House conceded last week that it should have sent a high-ranking U.S. official to Paris for a massive rally to demonstrate U.S. support in the aftermath of the mass shooting.

Just before the speech began, the White House announced that Obama had spoken by phone Tuesday with President Francois Hollande to talk about the investigation into the attack and to reaffirm his commitment to provide “whatever assistance the French government needs.”

Partisan politics

Obama spent an extraordinarily long time — longer than his most significant foreign policy initiatives, including Cuba and Iran — talking about how lawmakers should break a recent pattern of dysfunction and partisan bickering.

“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said.

“A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives,” he said.

His message came after he appeared focused on proposals he knew Congress would not support, starting with a $320 billion tax increase and increasing the minimum wage, and threatened to veto several Republican plans, tying funding of the Department of Homeland Security to Obama’s executive actions on immigration, proposing new sanctions against Iran and gutting the health care law.

And he criticized one of their top priorities — passing the Keystone XL pipeline — by saying, “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”

President Barack Obama shakes hands with members of Congress prior to the State of The Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Obama Threatens To Veto More Bills Now That Republicans Control Congress

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

As he kicks off his seventh year in office, President Barack Obama said he believes he has a chance to concentrate on issues that he didn’t have time for earlier in his presidency when he was consumed by the economic downturn and health care.

“At the end of 2014, I could look back and say we are as well-positioned today as we have been in quite some time economically; that American leadership is more needed around the world than ever before and that is liberating in the sense that a lot of the work that we’ve done is now beginning to bear fruit,” Obama said in an interview on NPR. “And it gives me an opportunity then to start focusing on some of the other hard challenges that I didn’t always have the time or the capacity to get to earlier…in my presidency.”

In response to a question, Obama said it’s fair to say that he is shifting from things he had to do to things he wants to do.

Obama said he will try to work with the new Republican-controlled Congress, but that he may have to veto bills more often that he has before.

“There are going to be areas where we agree and I’m going to be as aggressive as I can be in getting legislation passed that I think help move the economy forward and help middle class families,” he said. “There are going to be some areas where we disagree and, you know, I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office…Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out. And I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in health care; I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made on environment and clean air and clean water.”

In response, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Democrats and Republicans can solve some issues if the president is willing.

“While construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and other bipartisan job creation legislation was blocked in a Democrat-led Senate, that will begin to change in January with Republicans in charge,” McConnell said in a statement. “Bipartisan jobs bills will see the light of day and will make it to the president’s desk, and he’ll have to make decisions about ideology versus creating jobs for the middle class. There’s a lot we can get done together if the president puts his famous pen to use signing bills rather than vetoing legislation his liberal allies don’t like.”

Obama conducted the wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep prior to leaving for a two-week family vacation to Hawaii. The interview, which addressed domestic and foreign affairs is airing Monday through Wednesday.

On race relations, Obama said he thinks the United States is probably less racially divided in its day-to-day interactions despite a slew of national protests this year over the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers. Despite those comments, many experts say relations between blacks and whites are arguably worse in communities across the nation.

“I actually think that the issue has surfaced in a way that probably is healthy,” he said. “It’s understandable the polls might say, you know, that race relations have gotten worse because when it’s in the news and you see something like Ferguson or the Garner case in New York, then it attracts attention. But I assure you, from the perspective of African Americans or Latinos in poor communities who have been dealing with this all their lives, they wouldn’t suggest somehow that it’s worse now than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago.”

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

Obama Heads Home After ‘Pretty Good Week’ Overseas

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

BRISBANE, Australia — President Barack Obama Sunday wrapped up what was arguably the best week he’s had in years. Then he had to go home.

Stung by low approval and the loss of the Senate to the Republicans, Obama enjoyed a surprisingly successful weeklong trip to China, Myanmar and Australia. He secured the first commitment by China to control its greenhouse-gas emissions, broke a trade impasse with India and persuaded other nations to help fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And he was greeted warmly throughout.

Back in Washington on Monday, he’ll face Republican talk of a government shutdown if he acts unilaterally to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., and charges that the Affordable Care Act was deceptively sold to the American people. But for a week overseas, he was able to work and bask seemingly in a different world.

“You’re always popular in somebody else’s country,” Obama told students at Mayanmar’s Yangon University. “When you’re in your own country, everybody is complaining.”

Obama arrived in Beijing last week further weakened by the Democratic party’s losses in the midterm elections. Obama managed to secure a number of successes in a region of the world he has long tried to embrace while aggressively moving forward on domestic issues as if his party hadn’t lost the election.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good week,” Obama said at a news conference before departing Brisbane for Washington late Sunday. “American people can be proud of the progress we made. I intend to build on that momentum when I return home.”

In addition to the foreign agreements, he dove head-first into the debate over net neutrality by calling for Internet service providers to be treated like public utilities and subjecting them to tight regulations. He hinted he might veto a bill to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline. And he said Sunday that he expects this week to put the finishing touches on the order that could shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, despite complaints from Republicans that such a move would defy the will of voters in the midterms and poison relations in Congress.

Republicans on Capitol Hill began debating whether to hold up the federal budget if Obama continues with his plan to act on immigration unilaterally.

Obama said he believed Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, when he said Congress would not advocate any more government shutdowns. “We traveled down that path before,” Obama he said. “It was bad for the country. It was bad for every elected official in Washington.”

Obama also tried to brush aside the brouhaha over recorded comments by Jonathan Gruber, one of the paid consultants on the Affordable Care Act, that it was deliberately designed to get it past not only Congress, but also the public.

“The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run,” Obama said.

“Pull up every clip and every story. I think it’s fair to say there was not a provision in the health-care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent,” he said. Asked if he himself misled people, he said, “No, I did not.”

In Asia and Australia, Obama came to the region with the upper hand economically, with the U.S. growing while many other nations in Europe and Asia are struggling.

U.S. officials hoped to use that leverage to convince other nations to follow their lead on boosting the economy by favoring programs that push for growth over austerity.

In Australia, at a gathering of leaders of the world’s largest economies, they agreed to programs to boost infrastructure investment, bring more women into the labor force and close tax loopholes used by some international companies. All are programs Obama has pushed at home with little success. They agreed to aim for a boost in global economic growth of at least 2 percent by 2018.

“As our Australians friends say, this just wasn’t a good ole chin wag…. It was a productive summit,” he said. “These were not just goals set without any substance behind them.”

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

Buckle Up: The 2016 Presidential Campaign Starts Now

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau

NASHUA, N.H. — The end of the 2014 midterm elections can mean only one thing: It’s time to launch the 2016 presidential race.

The contest to the White House kicked off Wednesday, two years before voters will decide who succeeds President Barack Obama.

In some ways, the race started months ago, particularly in states — such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — that cast the first votes starting in about 14 months in the contests for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

“This is New Hampshire,” quipped Raymond Buckley, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “People started talking about 2016 in 2000.”

A large red, white and blue bus pushing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination has been signing up supporters across the country for months. Prospective Republican candidates have been trying to one-up each other while campaigning for candidates in the midterm elections. And just last week, Ronald Reagan’s presidential library announced that it’s inviting Republican presidential candidates to a debate in September 2015.

Starting earlier and earlier is the new normal. Barack Obama made his first trek to New Hampshire a few weeks after the 2006 midterms, on his way to the 2008 Democratic nomination. One thing that’s very different this time, though, is the way the two major parties view the field.

Traditionally, Republicans rally to a familiar heir apparent who’s run before — Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats often love a new face — Mike Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, John Kerry in 2004, Obama in 2008.

This time it’s reversed.

Clinton, who ran in 2008, dominates the potential Democratic field nationally, as well as in key states. She’s leading by 52 percentage points, according to polls compiled this week by the website RealClearPolitics.

As Clinton puts off a formal decision on running, many of the other potential Democratic candidates — including Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia — are polling in the single digits.

Sheila Charles, an archaeologist in New Hampshire who supported Obama over Clinton in 2008, isn’t sure Clinton’s huge lead will guarantee the nomination. “There’ll be a lot of chatter and debate,” she said. “I don’t think it’s over at all.”

The liberal wing of the party is urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to run — there’s even a Ready for Warren super political action committee — but she’s said repeatedly that she isn’t interested.

Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of the MoveOn.org political action committee, said the issue Warren had championed, income equality, which affects programs such as Social Security and college loan debt, should play the most prominent role in the 2016 elections. “How do you build an economy that works for everyone?” he asked.

Unlike Democrats, Republican have no clear front-runner and plenty of possible candidates, many of whom were jostling for position Wednesday.

There’s a plethora of governors — Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas, and one former governor who’s part of a political dynasty, Jeb Bush of Florida, who are interested in the job. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran in 2008, may consider another run.

And there’s a slew of members of Congress among the possible contenders: Paul and fellow Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, along with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 vice presidential nominee. Some Republicans are urging Mitt Romney, their party’s unsuccessful nominee in 2012, who’s been a much-sought-after surrogate on the campaign trail this year, to run again.

Christie said Wednesday that he’d decide whether to run sometime next year.

“There’s no reason to rush a decision as important as this,” he said on CNN. “You know, I’ve said it all along. There’s three questions I’ll ask myself: Is it right for me? Is it right for my family? Is it right for my country? And if I don’t answer yes to all three, I won’t run, and if I do answer yes to all three, then I will.”

South Carolina Republican consultant David Woodard said he preferred Rubio because the party needed a generational change. “They need someone who can energize the party,” he said.

But with so many Republican candidates, Woodard acknowledged that “it could get ugly.”

Many 2016 hopefuls of both parties have already started campaigning without campaigning, flocking to states on behalf of midterm candidates but also privately talking to potential donors and supporters. They’ll be back in full force after the holidays looking for contributions, attending party events and wooing activists and lawmakers.

On the Democratic side, Biden has been to several states, including Florida, California, Massachusetts and Iowa. O’Malley has been to Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton returned to Iowa after a six-year hiatus in September and was in New Hampshire on Sunday, in part to thank the state for its crucial support during her failed 2008 campaign.

Andrew Arriz, 17, a student at St. Paul’s high school in Concord, N.H., attended the rally Sunday in nearby Nashua where Clinton was campaigning for fellow Democrats, to catch a glimpse of a former — and maybe future — presidential candidate. “I think she’d make a good president,” he said.

On the Republican side, Paul spent Monday on a statewide tour with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Rubio was in Iowa last week to help Republican Joni Ernst in her campaign for Senate. Cruz traveled to Alaska to help Republican Dan Sullivan in one of the closest Senate races of the year.

“The phrase ‘the permanent campaign’… has gotten truer and truer over time,” said William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a center-left policy research center.

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan

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Obama On 13th Anniversary Of 9/11: ‘America Stands Tall’

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden marked the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks Thursday with a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House under a partly cloudy sky.

The Obamas and Biden walked slowly out from the White House, shoulder to shoulder, stopping at a marked spot mid-lawn. After a minute of silence at 8:45 a.m., taps was played.

Hundreds of White House aides watched the ceremony. Flags on the White House and the Executive Office Building flew at half-mast.

Afterward, the Obamas traveled to the Pentagon, where the president laid a wreath at the site where hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon on 9/11, killing 184 people.

The First Lady, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood behind Obama as he laid the wreath just after 9:25 a.m. Family members of victims and a few survivors observed the event.

After the playing of the national anthem, an invocation and moment of silence, Obama spoke. A massive American flag hung on the rebuilt wall of the Pentagon, along with seven flags on the podium by Obama.

“It has now been 13 years, 13 years since the peace of an American morning was broken, 13 years since nearly 3,000 beautiful lives were taken from us, including 125 men and women serving here at the Pentagon,” Obama said. “Thirteen years of moments they would have shared with us. Thirteen years of memories they would have made.”

Obama’s brief remarks started at 9:37 a.m, the time the plane struck the building 13 years ago.

“America endures in the tenacity of our survivors. After grievous wounds, we learn to walk again and stand again. After terrible burns, you smiled once more,” Obama said. “For you, for our nation, these have been difficult years, but by your presence here today in the lives of service that you have led, you embody the truth that, no matter what comes our way, America will always come out stronger.

“America endures in that perennial optimism that defines us as a people. Beginning tomorrow there will be teenagers, young adults, who were born after 9/11. It’s remarkable. And while these young Americans did not know the horrors of that day, their lives have been shaped by all the days since. A time that has brought us pain, but also taught us endurance and strength, a time of rebuilding, of resilience, and of renewal.

“What gives us hope, what gives me hope, it is that these young Americans will shape all the days to come. Thirteen years after small and hateful minds conspired to break us, America stands tall and America stands proud. And guided by the values that sustain us, we will only grow stronger.”

Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT