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Richard Honaker is No Good

Richard Honaker, President Bush's latest radical nominee to the federal bench, is far outside the US mainstream when it comes to reproductive rights and freedoms. He's devoted a good chunk of his career to fighting to deny women access to safe, legal reproductive-health services. He tried and failed to pass a state law banning abortion in Wyoming while serving in the Wyoming House of Reps--three times! He's publicly stated that abortion is "wrong, and no one should have the right to do what is wrong." No stare decisis for him--and certainly no open mind either.

Honaker seems much more activist than jurist given his public dismissals of the decisions of US District Court judges as unimportant and forgettable, an extremely troubling position, especially when held by a man on the south side of sixty nominated for a lifetime appointment to the District Court.

Not surprisingly, as the FeministLawProfessor blog reports, the leader of Wyoming Right to Life, Steven Ertelt, is giving Bush major props for the nomination, as evidenced by this statement: "Because of his pro-life views and past efforts to protect human life, it's obvious that Richard Honaker joins with attorneys on both side of the abortion debate who understand that Roe v. Wade was an example of unadulterated judicial activism and that the role of the courts to is interpret the law -- not make it up as you go."

Moreover, beyond his documented hostility toward a woman's constitutional right to choose, Honaker's statements about how certain religious views should influence legal analysis call into question his ability to apply the law without prejudice and with appropriate respect for and deference to precedent. Specifically, Honaker advances a legal philosophy that elevates his personal view of Christianity over well-established constitutional and legal principles.

Honaker's nomination could come before the Senate Judiciary Committee very soon. The Jackson Hole Star-Tribune recently reported that Honaker's sponsor US Senator Mike Enzi is hopeful that his nominee will get an early 2008 hearing. Enzi has been in ongoing discussions about the nomination with the committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, said Enzi's press secretary, Elly Pickett.

Wyoming's late senior senator, Craig Thomas, submitted Honaker's name for the federal judicial post to the White House in January. President Bush nominated the Rock Springs, Wyoming attorney in March. If confirmed by the US Senate, Honaker would fill the vacancy created by the retirement of US District Judge Clarence Brimmer.

NARAL has made it easy to register your opposition to Honaker's nomination. Click here to implore your senator to vote against Honaker's appointment. He's just too extreme.

Recession Refocuses Campaign Strategies

When Goldman Sachs announces recession and the Federal Reserve chairmanon the same day promises ready-to-go interest rate cuts, you can take itto the bank: the recession is official. The 2008 campaign'srefreshing spirit--the chorus of "change, change, change"--is joinedby a more traditional theme. "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Suddenly, everyonewants to sound like a Keynesian liberal, ready to prime the pump withfederal spending.

My advice to Barack Obama: look through the John Edwards file--he gotthere first--and borrow freely from his sound ideas for economicstimulus. Then double or triple Edwards' numbers to show your sincerity.Do this fast. Hillary Clinton is already out of the box with a planthe New York Times describes as the first fromany Democratic candidates.

Wrong. John Edwards was out front with aggressive anti-recessionproposals in early December. Act now, he said, don't wait for theofficial announcement. First, Congress should put up at least $25billion to stimulate job creation and be ready to spend another $75billion as things get worse. Spend the money on "clean energy"infrastructure, the housing crisis, reform of unemployment insurance,aid programs to help families get through hard times and other wounds.Get the money out to the folks who will spend it right now and topublic works projects that can create new jobs quickly.

Nothing fancy in the Edwards package, just the old-fashioned,meat-and-potato politics that used to make Democrats the party ofworking people. In the scale of what's happening to the economy, I thinkhis proposals are too modest. Bill Gross, the insightful managingdirector of PIMCO, the major bond-investment house, has called forvirtually doubling the federal deficit in order pump hundreds ofbillions into new economic activity. When bond holders are more alarmedabout the economy than political leaders, you know something isbackwards in American politics.

Edwards, alas, probably restrained the size of his stimulus package toconvince the media gatekeepers he is not wacko and thus win somecoverage for his forward thinking. No such luck. Edwards has his ownshortcomings, but he has been victimized by the shallow politicalculture that empties meaning from presidential campaigns. The pressearly on consigned him to the "populist" stereotype and largely ignoredthe serious content of his agenda.

This is the curse that leads to enervating, brain-dead presidentialcycles. Substance bores political reporters. Most of them do notunderstand economics or even know much about how government actuallyworks. Given their ignorance, they prefer to play the role of theatercritics and imagine that readers are desperate to hear their highlysubjective and utterly unreliable reviews of the sideshow.

Actually, it's worse than that, as we witnessed again in New Hampshireand Iowa. Reporters read the polls--slavishly rely on them--then goout and gather connect-the-dots tidbits that appear to confirm the pollresults. When polls are wrong, reporters are wrong. And shameless intheir denials of culpability.

If reporters were to give up the arrogant role of reviewers, they wouldhave to do real work--the unfashionable task of reporting on whatcandidates actually say. Then the diligent would subject the substance,not style, to critical analysis and reactions from many quarters. Thisdrudgery would seem humbling to the "boys on the bus." Most of them,anyway, are incompetent to do such work.

Barack Obama has a soaring message and charismatic authenticity, but heis vulnerable to mindless media judgments for almost an opposite reason.Despite his compelling rhetoric and character, Obama has left toomuch unsaid (or maybe we just haven't heard what he did say). If Obamaloses contests here or there, I expect another stereotype will beassigned by the reviewers to explain the results--Senator Lite. A niceenough guy but weak on substance, not ready for prime time.

From what I know about the man, that is a cruel distortion of his depthand temperament, but he does need to fill in some blanks. The recessiongives Obama a ripe opportunity to protect himself from media labeling,without changing character. First, produce the concrete policy proposalsdemanded by competitive campaign rituals. Then speak more loftily andambitiously about the American economy and what Obama envisions for themore distant future. What might it look like then years hence? How doeshe hope to get there? These are reasonable questions he has not yetaddressed, but can answer in broad strokes. Or maybe he already hasaddressed them and the media thought it sounded boring.

A Win for a Woman, a Historic First for Women

When New York Senator Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, a press release from the National Organization for Women's political action committee noted that she had made history.

"Tonight," declared NOW President Kim Gandy, "Senator Hillary Clinton defied the media pundit machine and made history as the first woman to win the New Hampshire Democratic primary for U.S. president."

While true, the claim was so over-qualified that it did not begin to describe the extent to which Clinton made history.

Hillary Clinton was the not merely the first woman to win the New Hampshire Democratic primary for president, she was the woman making a serious bid for the presidency to win a primary in any state to select delegates to a national convention of either party.

A quarter century after the Rev. Jesse Jackson's breakthrough presidential bid of 1984, when he became the first African-American candidate mounting a serious national campaign to win caucuses and primaries, Illinois Senator Barack Obama's success in the Iowa Democratic caucus carried forward a barrier-breaking process that Jackson began with the first of his Rainbow Coalition campaigns and continued with a 1988 campaign that saw him win more than a dozen caucuses and primaries.

With her New Hampshire win, however, Clinton accomplished something that had never been done before.

The strongest previous showing by a woman seeking a national party presidential nomination was the second-place finish – with 209,521 votes or 25.3 percent of the total -- secured by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith when she took on Barry Goldwater in a 1964 Illinois Republican primary contest.

Smith's 1964 campaign made history on many fronts. A veteran of 24 years in the U.S. House and Senate – she was actually the most experienced of the presidential candidates that year-- she was the first woman to bid in a serious way for the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties. She got on the New Hampshire ballot and won votes – although they only added up to 2.3 percent of the total. Undaunted, she carried on, eventually winning 27 delegates to the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. Her name was placed in nomination – another first for a woman -- by Vermont Senator George Aiken.

Through it all, Smith was conscious of the historic nature of her candidacy, saying that "through me for the first time the women of the United States had an opportunity to break the barrier against women being seriously considered for the presidency of the United States -- to destroy any political bigotry against women on this score just as the late John F. Kennedy had broken the political barrier on religion and destroyed once and for all such political bigotry."

Similarly, the first woman to mount a serious bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, understood the historic significance of a candidacy that was not just a first for women but a first for African Americans. Chisholm said she ran in 1972 "to give a voice to the people the major candidates were ignoring." And this the "unbought and unbossed" did in the course of a remarkable campaign that saw a presidential candidate speaking from experience about issues or race and gender, as Chisholm did when she explained that, on her long political journey, "I had met far more discrimination because I am a woman than because I am black."

The congresswoman campaigned in almost a dozen states, running slates of delegate candidates that included, among others, New Yorkers Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. In a little-noticed "presidential preference" primary in New Jersey, which the major candidates skipped, Chisholm prevailed over North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford. But that was not a fight for delegates.

In California, where she competed for attention with South Dakota Senator George McGovern and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the congresswoman actually had to sue television networks for equal time. And a judge ruled she was right.

While Chisholm won a bit of media attention in California, and an impressive 157,435 votes for a fourth-place finish in a nine-candidate field, she was denied any delegates because of the state's winner-take-all primary system.

Ultimately, Chisholm secured just 28 delegates before the Democratic National Convention in Miami. On the convention floor, however, supporters of Humphrey, a pioneering champion of civil rights who had folded his candidacy for the nomination, backed Chisholm to give her 151.95 delegate votes.

That remains the high-water mark for a woman seeking the presidency, although it should be noted that Clinton – with her New Hampshire win, her third-place finish in Iowa and her accumulation of endorsements from officials who will attend the 2008 convention as "super delegates – has already secured 183 likely convention votes. And she has done what no woman mounting a national campaign has ever done before: She has won a seriously contested primary for convention delegates. The fact that it was not just any primary is, of course, important. But the history that has been made goes far beyond New Hampshire.

The Deadbeat FBI

At a time when we're entering a recession (it's official says Goldman Sachs), and many Americans are having a hard time paying their bills, is it that surprising that the FBI is a deadbeat when it comes to paying its phone bills on time?

According to the Washington Post's Dan Eggen, audit results released today found that "telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of failures to pay telecommunication bills, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office....The report by the Justice Department's Inspector General Glenn Fine also identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was halted because of 'untimely payment.'"

According to Fine, "late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence."

The IG's report also detailed the FBI's chronic failure to account for hundreds of guns and laptop computers--likely to have had sensitive intelligence or personal data.

This surreal story was brought to my attention Thursday afternoon, soon after it was posted on the Washington Post's website, by a gleeful Carl Bernstein--a reporter who knows a little something about FBI wiretapping and incompetence in another Republican Administration.

It's also a sign of how profit trumps all for these telecom companies--the same ones that the Bush Administration and too many Dems are too eager to give immunity to.

If there's any justice, common sense or legal accountability left in our system, this revelation will halt any attempt to upend the 1978 foreign wiretap law that would grant telecom firms immunity from lawsuits for assisting the FBI and other government agencies conduct secret surveillance.

Instead, let's demand that telecoms be sent a big citizen's bill --with interest-- so we can get some good money for real watchdog groups (in congress and outside) who will monitor the FBI and the companies to ensure they stop bilking citizens of real security and money!

Reading the Signs in New Hampshire

What really happened in New Hampshire? First--forget what the polls say if youwant to know what happens next. Forget the establishment media, too.

For now, the race is wide open. And that's a good thing. (Though, ifwe'd really bust open our money-drenched, front-loaded system, we'dreally see elections of, by and for the people. But that's for theemerging pro-democracy movement, allied with sane citizens of allpolitical stripes, to fight for next round.)

For now, candidates will be tested instead of crowned. And that gives ustime to push from outside to define and sharpen candidates' stance onissues we care about as progressives. From a sane and humane immigrationpolicy as we go to Nevada, a more populist jobs and economics program aswe head into recession, and a sharper end-the-war strategy to stop the"strategic drift."

I'm still left with questions about how Hillary pulled offa win against Obama on Tuesday night--and what that means heading intoNevada's caucuses, South Carolina's primary and the tsunamiof 22 primaries and caucuses on February 5.

Why Hillary Won

1. Home court advantage: Clinton is well known in the Granite State; neither Edwards nor Obama much history there.

2. The women's vote: Women over 40, single women came home to Hillary, by a margin of 57 percent. Was it in response to the misty-eyed "human" moment in the coffee shop? Or in response to her more fiery, human and impassioned performance in Saturday's Manchester debate? Did Obama's peevish aside--"You're likable enough, Hillary"--resonate more than we understood at time? (Exit polls show that about half of those who voted said the debates were very important in their vote; Hillary won among these voters by a 40-32 margin. Among those who didn't think debate was very important, Hillary and Obama tied.) The heavily funded and super-organized field operations of Emily's List's paid off here after floundering in Iowa.

3. Registered Democrats support her bigtime: This augurs badly for Obamain those primaries which are closed to independents. And if moreindependents went to McCain, could that explain Obama's showing evenmore than what some call "The Bradley Effect"?

4. Boomers and older voters: The age slant of voting suggests boomers are resisting being pushed offstage. Andrew Sullivan may have underestimated the investment boomers have in their battles. They're not going to give it up just yet to the whippersnappers.

Dangers for Hillary

1. Bill was on the field and she made a comeback: Ergo, she'll keep Bill on the field. But as a boomer woman, I think her husband hurts her more than he helps.Hillary needs to make a forceful case for why voting for her--the firstwoman president--is about making history. Bill undermines that message,making her candidacy a referendum on his presidency, fueling the idea thatshe's completing a restoration, paternalizing and belittling the "little woman."

Hillary's candidacy is at risk, as Slate's Emily Yofferecently pointed out, because it begins to look less like a gender breakthroughand more like a gender throwback. And he always ends up making himself the story.

2. She can't fire Bill, but she can fire Mark Penn: Penn's strategy andmessage peddles cynicism against hope, and as head of the lobbying formBurson-Marsteller embodies the lobbying corruption and corporatestranglehold Americans asssociate with the beltway status quo.

3. Hillary gains when she's picked on: This dynamic played out duringimpeachment madness, and was theme of first Senate race. Women--with some notable media exceptions, like Maureen Dowd--rally to herwhen she's treated badly. No question that the media has adouble standard when it comes to women and tears in public life.But is this going to be how we want to reframe the powerful andmobilizing idea, "the personal is political" ? And is victimhood aneffective argument for her campaign? I think it will wear out its effect.

4. Why, exactly, is she running? To say, "This ispersonal to me. I have so many things I want to do," doesn't really explain it. She needs to throw out Mark Penn and the pollsters, exile Bill to a few choice spots, and lay out a big case about what she wants to do over the next four years, not what she's done for the past three decades.

On to Michigan, Nevada... and Maybe Oregon

MANCHESTER, NH – New Hampshire has rewritten a script that called for settling the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination contests by February 5 at the latest.

The state that on the eve of its first-in-the-nation primary was supposed to settle some things has stirred everything up. Instead of sending Illinois Senator Barack Obama on his way to the Democratic nomination or giving former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a New England-neighbor boost on the way to the Republican nod, New Hampshire has declared the race for the presidency to be wide open.

Obama gave his planned "new American majority" speech on primary night. But he delivered it not as a victory speech; rather, it came in the context of a concession to Clinton, who prevailed by a narrow but for her absolutely redeeming 39-36 margin.

The Clinton win was the stunner of the night, upsetting pollster and pundit predictions -- and proving that getting a little choaked up, as the New York senator did on the eve of the primary, can do more than a thousand soft-focus TV ads to make voters rethink their impressions of her. The McCain win was anticipated by the pre-primary polls that failed so miserably when it came to predicting the Democratic race, but it has the same effect as Clinton's victory.

"There is not going to be any premature coronation," declared New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democratic contender who may not have won the contest but delivered the truest line of a roller-coaster night: "This race is going on and on and on."

How far?

To February 5 and perhaps beyond that day.

Of course, the candidates of both parties will follow a long campaign trail between now and then. They will compete in Nevada's January 19 caucuses, South Carolina's January 19 Republican and January 26 Democratic primaries, and probably in Florida's January 29 primaries.

Then they will go at it on February 5 in a score of states – including Clinton's New York, Obama's Illinois, Richardson's New Mexico, McCain's Arizona, Romney's Massachusetts, Mike Huckabee's Arkansas and Fred Thompson's Tennessee -- that will engage in the "tsunami Tuesday" voting that was supposed to settle both contests. But if this race that has not gone according to plan keeps producing unexpected and conflicting results, it is not unreasonable to imagine mixed February 5 results that could send the competition into states that were never supposed to matter: states like Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Vermont (March 4), Pennsylvania (April 22) and Oregon (May 20).

Whether the campaign gets to Ohio or Oregon remains to be seen, of course.

But one thing is certain: New Hampshire is over.

The exodus from the first primary state began almost as soon as the close Democratic contest was finally called for the woman who was not supposed to have a chance.

Clinton left in triumph, but also with a newly-populist message that acknowledged her determination to bid for the 25-percent of the vote that went to third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich.

"We are in it for the long run," she declared.

But she is running now as a different kind of candidate. In thanking New Hampshire, she declared, "In the past week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice."

That makes two candidates who have found their voices over the past week.

Obama, it should be noted, found his in Iowa.

He didn't lose it in New Hampshire. But he did lose – not just the vote but the expectations game.

So Barack Obama leaves New Hampshire having been the "Barack star" of the Democratic race but not quite as the "Barack star."

John Edwards is searching for a state where his brand of populism is popular.

John McCain wishes he could keep running in a state where independent voters have given him wins in both his presidential runs.

Mitt Romney is excited to be headed for states with closed primaries and caucuses where he can just concentrate on appeals to the conservative base.

Mike Huckabee is on the hunt for more evangelical voters.

Rudy Giuliani is looking for someplace to win.

Ron Paul is just having a great time, and continuing to confuse pundits and frighten insiders.

And they all might make it to the Badger state or the Green Mountain state or the Buckeye state.

That's a new notion. But this is a new race.

Two months ago, Clinton and Romney were the safe bets to win Iowa, New Hampshire and their respective nominations.

One month ago, Clinton and Romney were solid bets.

One week ago, Obama and Huckabee were looking like fair bets.

Today, all bets are off. And that means that, when you ask the candidates if they expect to be competing in the Wisconsin and Vermont Democratic and Republican presidential contests, they will say "you bet."

Indeed, making it to Madison and Burlington would be a triumph for any campaign. That's because Wisconsin and Vermont chose not to join the rush to "frontload" the primary process. As such, they offer the promise of a longer, more nuanced and more meaningful competition,

Most states moved their caucuses and primaries up to dates in January or early February to capture the spotlight in the first presidential contest since 1928 when neither the president nor vice president even toyed with the idea of making a bid for one of the party nomination.

It was always certain that 2008 was going to see competitive races for both party nominations.

It was never certain that the competition would play out in Ohio or Oregon.

But something has changed.

With the supposedly definitional Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries done:

On the Democratic side, there are now candidates – Obama and Clinton -- who can compete in all 50 states and potentially win the nomination, and a third – Edwards -- who can continue to compete in at least some of the states and to be ready to step in if another runner stumbles.

On the Republican side, there are now four candidates – Romney, McCain, Giuliani and Huckabee – who can spin a scenario that might take them to the nomination, and a fifth candidate – Ron Paul – who can continue to annoy the competitors with exceptionally well-financed rebel yell of a campaign.

Whether any or all of them will be competing in Pennsylvania or Ohio will be decided between now and February 5. But, after last night, there is every reason to believe that February 19, March 4 and even May 20 could be a definitional dates on the new 2008 campaign calendar.

Inside Clinton's Narrow Comeback

Hillary Clinton has eked out a crucial win in New Hampshire, a state her aides have long staked out as the "firewall" in her quest for the Democratic nomination. At roughly three points, the margin of victory is far smaller than her lead in state polls over the past 11 months, which often topped 20 points. But Clinton's success will surely help stabilize her presidential campaign, which was rocked by infighting since her loss in Iowa. Rumors of a major staff shakeup had percolated for days: Campaign Co-Chair Terry McAuliffe already annouced that the campaign would "bring in more people to help," while James Carville and Paul Begala spent the primary day denying rumors they were taking over. On Tuesday afternoon, a Democratic source told The Nation that Team Hillary was still debating whether to hand the reins over to Steve Richetti, who served as President Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff – the strategic post that Karl Rove made famous.

Yet Clinton cleared away the doubts and struck an inspiring note in her victory speech, telling New Hampshire voters, "I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice. I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I am so gratified that you responded!" She was met with roaring applause. Clinton likened the narrow victory to her husband's famous "comeback" in 1992, when he battled back to a surprising second place finish in New Hampshire. Then she offered a much more important parallel, vowing to give America the "kind of comeback" that New Hampshire just gave her.

The Clintons shared another political asset in New Hampshire, though farther offstage. Michael Whouley, the most respected field strategist in Democratic politics, was dispatched to overhaul the mobilization program in the state. Clinton aides had debated whether to deploy him in Iowa, where he had helped engineer John Kerry's huge comeback in 2004, or task him with fortifying the famous "firewall." Some feared that his efforts would simply be wasted in New Hampshire if Clinton lost Iowa, but the "Plan B" advocates won, and now they look pretty shrewd.

Obama took the narrow loss in stride, congratulating Clinton and delivering a dignified iteration of his stump speech. Reminding voters that he was "far behind" for "most of this campaign," Obama repeated his call for a bipartisan "new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness." He did not shy away from reiterating his contrasts with Clinton, claiming the mantle of a different, bolder campaign that is "not just about what I will do as president -- it is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of this country, can do to change it. That's what this election is all about!"

If the boisterous beginning of this presidential campaign proves anything – and elections still do officially start with voting – it's the empirical fact that a year of polls and predictions were flat wrong. Clinton was not an inevitable frontrunner, as her chastened aides now rush to emphasize; "cash on hand" is not even a rough predictor of political viability, as Mike Huckabee and John McCain are celebrating; polling remains unreliable, as every candidate says when the "second tier" comes calling; and while Iowa is powerfully pivotal, even the sum total of its caucus wisdom cannot dictate democracy in other states.

So Obama can only take cautious solace from his strong position in the next two states. I'm not talking about polls, of course -- especially since Nevada's tiny caucus electorate is inscrutable to surveys (its 9,000 attendees were 1% of the voting population last cycle) -- but rather his political and organizational footing. Obama will receive the endorsement of Nevada's most influential union, the Culinary Workers, and Iowa demonstrated his organization's prowess in a caucus state. His aides have also built a strong network in South Carolina, the first primary with a significant black population. Meanwhile, John Edwards could reemerge with a strong finish in his birth-state of South Carolina, which he won in 2004. Clinton has no clear foothold in either state; this week her aides debated whether to surrender both and focus on regrouping for Super Tuesday. But even after winning New Hampshire, ceding two weeks to a delegate fight between Obama and Edwards would be dicey, potentially undermining claims that she is a fighter with national appeal. (Democrats want a nominee who can compete everywhere, including pivotal southwestern swing states like Nevada, which reelected Bush by a scant 21,000 votes.) Yet if Clinton competes and loses both states, she would be heading into Super Tuesday on two weeks of losses. That's a tough slog either way, but then again, she'll have more than five days to turn things around.

How Green is Your Candidate?

How do the presidential candidates compare on green issues? The online environmental magazine Grist has created a very useful chart that neatly compares the candidates' environmental records and rhetoric.

As New Hampshire voters stream into polling places in large numbers today to select candidates in the state's first-in-the-nation , the contenders vied for support from the undecided and worked to turn out their respective bases. For those environmentally-concerned citizens still undecided, it's worth checking out Grist's voter guide for insight into how the candidates plans to save the earth may differ.

Grist also teamed up with Outside magazine to interview the presidential contenders about green issues. Read Q&As with all of the Democrats and with the three Republicans (John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul) who consented to an interview focusing on their eco-credentials and check out Grist's campaign 08 resources.

Clinton Needs A New Narrative