STANDING BY THE STORY
The Obama campaign spent more than five hours on Monday attempting to figure out the best refutation of the explosive New York Post report that quoted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying that Barack Obama during his July visit to Baghdad demanded that Iraq not negotiate with the Bush Administration on the withdrawal of American troops. Instead, he asked that they delay such negotiations until after the presidential handover at the end of January.
The three problems, according to campaign sources: The report was true, there were at least three other people in the room with Obama and Zebari to confirm the conversation, and there was concern that there were enough aggressive reporters based in Baghdad with the sources to confirm the conversation that to deny the comments would create a bigger problem.
Instead, Obama’s national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi told reporters that Obama told the Iraqis that they should not rush through what she termed a “Strategic Framework Agreement” governing the future of U.S. forces until after President Bush left office. In other words, the Iraqis should not negotiate an American troop withdrawal.
According to a Senate staffer working for Sen. Joseph Biden, Biden himself got involved in the shaping of the statement. “The whole reason he’s on the ticket is the foreign policy insight,” explained the staffer.
BREAKING THE BANK
The woman whom Barack Obama is crediting for organizing the Barbra Streisand fundraiser it held last night in Hollywood is also partially responsible for one of the greater banking collapses in American history.
Penny Pritzker, Obama’s national finance chair was, with her family, the half owner of Superior Bank, which was shut down in 2001 by the FDIC after it had lost nearly all of its more than $2 billion of assets on bad loans to high-risk borrowers, federal regulators said.
Pritzker has avoided media attention over the past week as reporters covering the Obama campaign sought comment on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacle.
Pritzker also served as finance chair for Obama’s Senate run, and supported him during his time in the Illinois state legislature.
One reason Pritzker may have been enamored with Obama was his willingness to press legislation that loosened state regulatory policies for land developers and multi-family property owners.
Pritzker is also known to be close to Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, a former political operative for Mayor Richard M. Daley, and the CEO of a housing and development company based in Chicago with ties to Obama going back to his Illinois legislature days.
Jarrett, by the way, is now considered to be the top candidate to fill Obama’s Senate seat should he be elected President.
Senator Joe Biden is spending between three to four hours a day prepping for his debate with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with that time to be increased over the next two weeks. According to campaign insiders, at least ten to 15 outside volunteers — beyond those already working on the campaign — are assisting in both Biden’s and Obama’s debate prep. Debate prep for both John McCain and Palin hasn’t been made public, though it is known that Palin is putting in study time for her October 2nd debate in St. Louis.
Of biggest concern to Biden, and the focus on the debate, are domestic policy issues, in-depth foreign policy details that will highlight what the Democrats believe are Palin’s weaknesses on international issues, and what an Obama adviser called Biden’s “penchant for smarminess.”
Biden is notorious in the Senate for his long-winded questions and his inability to limit his comments to questions during interviews and floor debate, and Republicans and the McCain campaign have been banking that Biden’s ego and frustration over the lack of attention focused on him will drive him to overcompensate during the debate.
“But we’re not going to let that happen,” says the Obama adviser. “When Joe wants to get in a zone, he can get in the zone and stay there. He really wants to be in the zone for this debate and he is working hard. I saw him work hard to prep on the Roberts and Alito confirmation hearings. He’s working twice as hard on this, because the stakes and the rewards are so much higher.”