Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, capping an historic eighteen-month campaign. More than 84,000 people packed Denver’s pro football stadium to hear Obama speak on the final night of the Democratic National Convention. Obama promised a new path from what he called “the failed policies” of President Bush.
Sen. Barack Obama: "These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush. America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this."
Throughout, Obama sounded off on his campaign theme that a John McCain presidency would continue the policies of President Bush.
Sen. Barack Obama: "John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?"
Obama also acknowledged the perceived doubts around his unexpected rise to the nomination.
Sen. Barack Obama: "I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don’t fit the typical pedigree, and I haven’t spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight, because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s about you.”
Obama spoke on the forty-fifth anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Earlier in the night, former Vice President Al Gore addressed the crowd to tout Obama and criticize McCain. In an apparent dig at three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his supporters, Gore referenced his own election loss to President Bush in 2000.
Al Gore: "Eight years ago, some said there was not much difference between the nominees of the two major parties, and it didn’t really matter who became president. Our nation was enjoying peace and prosperity, and some assumed we would continue with both, no matter the outcome. But here we all are in 2008, and I doubt anyone would argue now that election didn’t matter. Take it from me, if it had ended differently, we would not be bogged down in Iraq, we would have pursued bin Laden until we captured him. We would not be facing a self-inflicted economic crisis; we would be fighting for middle-income families. We would not be showing contempt for the Constitution; we’d be protecting the rights of every American, regardless of race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation. And we would not be denying the climate crisis; we’d be solving it."
Many Democrats have blamed Nader for Gore’s narrow loss to President Bush in 2000. Gore also criticized Republican candidate John McCain for backing the Bush administration’s policies.
Al Gore: "John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them. The same policies, those policies, all over again? Hey, I believe in recycling, but that’s ridiculous. With John McCain’s support, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have led our nation into one calamity after another because of their indifference to facts; their readiness to sacrifice the long term to the short term, subordinate the general good to the benefit of the few and short-circuit the rule of law."
On the Republican side, Senator McCain is expected to unveil his vice-presidential running mate today at a rally in Dayton, Ohio. Speculation is centering on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The Pentagon continues to deny a mass killing of Afghan civilians in an air strike last week. On Thursday, US officials said a military probe corroborated its initial claim just five civilians were killed in the attack. The Pentagon’s line contradicts both the Afghan government and the United Nations. A UN investigation earlier this week found some ninety civilians, including sixty children, were killed in the attack. If confirmed, the strike would be the deadliest known US attack on Afghan civilians since the invasion of 2001.
In the Occupied Territories, two boats of international peace activists have started their return journey from the Gaza Strip. The boats defied Israel’s blockade of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid. They are returning with seven Palestinians on board, including a ten-year-old boy who lost a leg in an Israeli army attack in 2005. The activists say the seven Palestinians’ departure marks the first time a Palestinian has ever been allowed to freely exit the Occupied Territories. Israel had initially threatened to stop the boats, but relented in an apparent effort to avoid international scrutiny. Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, said she fears Israel could interfere with the ships on their journey back to Cyprus.
Huwaida Arraf: "We plan to take them with us. We do not know what we will expect at sea. We have had indications that Israel might stop us. But we know full well that the Palestinians that are coming with us have the right papers, have the right visas, and they should be allowed to travel. There is no reason why Israel is holding them hostage, holding them prisoners in Gaza, and denying
them medical attention, denying them education, denying them family reunification.”
Passengers also include Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Jeff Halper, the lone Israeli Jew on board, was arrested after returning to Israel. Halper heads the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He was charged with violating an Israeli law barring Israelis from visiting Gaza.
A former Marine has been acquitted of killing four unarmed Iraqi prisoners during the US assault on Fallujah in November 2004. Jose Luis Nazario, Jr. was facing up to ten years in jail. He was the first civilian to be tried under a federal law allowing the prosecution of former military service members for war crimes.
New information shows at least three Guantanamo Bay prisoners who committed suicide on the same day in June 2006 were unaware they were close to being freed. Family members of Ali Ahmed, Yasser al-Zahrani and Mani al-Utaybi have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against US officials. The families say the military should have allowed attorneys to inform the prisoners of their possible release. According to military officials, the detainees committed suicide by hanging themselves with nooses made of sheets and clothing and died before they could be revived. Attorneys say they don’t think the prisoners would have taken their lives had they been updated on their case.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the Bush administration of encouraging the Georgian-Russia military conflict to apparently benefit Republican candidate John McCain. In an interview with CNN, Putin said, “The suspicion would arise that someone in the US created this conflict on purpose to stir up the situation and to create an advantage for one of the candidates…They needed a small victorious war.” The White House dismissed Putin’s comments. Press Secretary Dana Perino said the Georgian conflict would threaten US-Russia ties.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: "We are in the process of re-evaluating our relationship with Russia, and we are doing that in concert with our international partners, such as France, but also many others, including Germany and all of the NATO countries. It’s premature to say — I don’t know what ultimately will result from the process that people are going to discuss what the consequences may be."
The toll from Hurricane Gustav continues to rise. Fifty-nine people were killed in Haiti this week after Gustav set off massive flooding and landslides. Another eight people were killed in neighboring Dominican Republic. The State of Louisiana says it’s taking advanced precautions should Gustav make landfall along the Gulf Coast. Today also marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
In Argentina, two top generals in Argentine’s military dictatorship have been sentenced to life in prison. Antonio Domingo Bussi and Luciano Benjamin were each found guilty of human rights abuses during the seven-year junta that ended in 1983.
The jailed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff could be getting out of jail earlier than expected. The Justice Department has announced it’s recommended reducing Abramoff’s sentence because he aided a federal investigation into political corruption. Abramoff’s testimony helped jail former Ohio Congressmember Bob Ney and former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles. Abramoff is already serving a six-year sentence for directing a phony casino purchase. He faces another eleven years for bribing lawmakers. Prosecutors have asked a federal judge to reduce the casino sentence to four years, freeing Abramoff up for parole in 2011.
And the Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan has died at the age of eighty-one. Nathan waged a famous hunger strike against Israeli settlement-building in the Occupied Territories. He was also twice jailed for meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.