In defiance of polls and the political pundits, Hillary Clinton narrowly beat Barack Obama to win the New Hampshire primary last night. The former First Lady won 39 percent of the vote. Obama placed second with 37 percent. In the Republican race, Senator John McCain beat former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney by a five percent margin. Political analysts say that with 300 days until the November election, the 2008 race is shaping up to be the most open presidential race in eighty years. For the past year, Senator Clinton had been the clear frontrunner in New Hampshire, but after Senator Obama’s surprise victory in Iowa, several opinion polls indicated the Illinois senator had jumped to a double-digit lead. The polls were wrong, and in the end Clinton pulled off a victory.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: “I felt like we all spoke from our hearts, and I am so gratified that you responded. Now together let’s give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me.”
The race between Clinton and Obama was so close that it took the networks until about 10:30 last night — two-and-a-half hours after the polls closed — to call the race for Clinton. Minutes later, Senator Barack Obama addressed supporters.
Sen. Barack Obama: “We will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggests, that we are one people, we are one nation, and together we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.”
Former Senator John Edwards vowed to stay in the race after placing third with 17 percent of the vote.
John Edwards: “I want to be absolutely clear to all of you who have been devoted to this cause, and I want to be clear to the 99% of the Americans who have not yet had the chance to have their voices heard that I am in this race
through the conviction that I intend to be the nominee of my party.”
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson placed fourth with five percent. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was excluded from Saturday’s debate in New Hampshire, placed fifth with one percent of the vote.
On the Republican front, John McCain took New Hampshire with 37 percent of the vote. The victory came six months after McCain’s campaign appeared over, when he nearly ran out of money and was forced to lay off staff. McCain managed to beat Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, even though Romney had served as governor in neighboring Massachusetts and had outspent McCain on television ads by a two-to-one margin.
John McCain: “I am grateful beyond expression at the prospect that I might serve (America) a little while longer. That gratitude imposes on me the responsibility to do nothing in this campaign that would make our country’s
problems harder to solve or that would cause Americans to despair that a candidate for the highest office in the land would think so little of the honor that he would put his own interest before theirs. I take that responsibility as my most solemn trust.”
Mitt Romney, who also placed second in Iowa, is now setting his eyes on Michigan, the state where he was born and where his father once served as governor. Republicans in Michigan holds their primary on January 15.
Mitt Romney: “I will strengthen America as your president, and when I come back here next November I will fight across this nation onto Michigan and South
Carolina and Florida and Nevada and states after that.”
Rounding out the Republican race: Mike Huckabee placed third. Rudolph Giuliani narrowly beat Ron Paul for fourth place. And Fred Thompson came in a distant sixth.
Meanwhile, President Bush arrived in Israel today, where he begins his week-long Middle East tour. It’s Bush’s first visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories during his time in the White House. Bush says he’s come to the region to help revive peace talks launched out of November’s U.S.-brokered summit in Annapolis. Bush is expected to visit the West Bank tomorrow. His tour won’t include the Gaza Strip, now under control of Hamas. On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians marched in Gaza to protest Bush’s visit. Israel has launched a series of attacks on Gaza over the past week. One man, Hamdan Fayyad, lost his wife and two children to Israeli gunfire.
Hamdan Fayyad: “I tell Bush, the weapon factories in which you are an artist in perfecting the weapons and then you send them to Israel, or what some call Israel, you send it to them so that they can kill the Palestinian people, especially the innocent, and as I heard and understood, this weapon is internationally banned.”
On the eve of Bush’s arrival, Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced they’ve authorized a new round of talks on key final-status issues. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the talks will include the status of Jerusalem and the Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.
Saeb Erekat: “It was agreed that Mr. Abu Ala, and Ms. Livni will begin immediately the deliberations, and will use any experts of their choice, on all the core issues, hoping to have the year 2008 as the year to reach the peace treaty between the two sides.”
Bush’s trip comes amidst news the Israeli government is trying to block the publication of a key report detailing its expanding settlement activity in the West Bank. According to the Israeli group Peace Now, the confidential 2006 report provides the Israeli government’s most comprehensive analysis to date of settlement activity beyond its internationally recognized borders. The report is said to detail widespread expansion in dozens of settlements, which Israel vowed to stop under the U.S.-backed Road Map.
Kenya’s political crisis is deepening after opposition groups rejected a new cabinet by President Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki’s new set of government ministers excludes any members of the opposition. His main rival, Raila Odinga, said he opposed the cabinet.
Raila Odinga: “We will not go to State House to meet Mr. Kibaki, because we say he is there illegally. The whole world knows that. So we will not go to meet Kibaki in State House. The same religious leaders he is calling are the ones
who called for a peaceful prayer at All Saints on Sunday. We did respond by going there; he did not go. If he wants them to offer prayer for him, let them invite them, and they will pray for him.”
More than 500 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced in violence that followed Kibaki’s disputed election win over Odinga last month. The shanty town of Kibera has seen some of the most intense clashes.
Kibera Resident: “I wish someone would just come and see the people from Kibera, whose houses were burnt, people who were chased from their homes. We have nothing to go back to. We need to know where we will go from here, or at least the government should tell us their plan, so we can know our fate.”
A delegation of African Union officials, including its chair, Ghana President John Kufuor, have arrived in Kenya in efforts to resolve the crisis.
A former U.S. Marine has given the first testimony in an inquiry into the massacre of at least nineteen Afghan civilians by U.S. forces last March. On Tuesday, former Intelligence Sergeant Nathaniel Travers testified he saw fellow Marines gun down unarmed Afghan civilians along an open road. The shooting rampage followed a suicide car bomb attack on the Marine convoy. No Marines were wounded in the attack. No charges have been filed against any Marines so far.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales and regional governors have agreed to work toward a national unity deal. The pact comes weeks after four regional governors declared autonomy in protest of a draft constitution that would increase the power of Bolivia’s indigenous majority. The four lowland provinces contain much of Bolivia’s natural resource wealth and most of its large natural gas deposits.
The Pentagon’s top watchdog has announced he won’t investigate rape allegations made by a former employee of the war contractor Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR. The alleged victim, Jamie Leigh Jones, says she was gang-raped by co-workers in Iraq. Jones has accused KBR and the U.S. government of covering up the crime. On Tuesday, Pentagon Inspector General Claude Kicklighter said he won’t look into the charges because the Justice Department still considers it an open case. Democratic lawmakers and Jones’s defense team both criticized the decision. A criminal probe has already lasted more than two-and-a-half years with no charges filed.
In immigration news, the U.S. government is considering doing away with a longstanding policy that allows immigrant wives to remain in the country when an abusive spouse refuses to sponsor their stay. More than 30,000 immigrant women have been granted visas under the Violence Against Women Act since 1994. Many of them have given birth to children in the U.S. Attorneys for immigrant women say green card applications have been put on hold as immigration agencies await a decision on the policy review.
In health news, a new medical study shows the U.S. ranks last among industrialized nations in avoiding deaths by preventable disease. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found a preventable disease death rate of 110 per 100,000 Americans. These include deaths from infections, treatable cancers, diabetes, and heart and vascular disease. The study’s authors say it is difficult to ignore the likely connection to the rising number of medically uninsured Americans.
Here in New York, peace activists are claiming victory in a more-than-three-year dispute with the city over an ordinance limiting the size of mass gatherings on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The National Council of Arab Americans and the ANSWER Coalition sued the city after they were blocked from holding an antiwar demonstration on the Great Lawn during the Republican National Convention in August 2004. Under a new settlement, the city says it will increase the cap on crowd size from 15,000 to 75,000 people. The city will also conduct a study on whether the maximum size can be further increased.
And the former CIA agent turned outspoken whistleblower, Philip Agee, has died. Agee authored the 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary, which detailed several clandestine CIA operations around the world. Former President and CIA chief George H.W. Bush would later call him a “traitor.” I spoke to Agee about his book in October 2003.
Philip Agee: “We were right to do it then, because the U.S. policy at the time, executed by the C.I.A., was to support murderous dictatorships around the world, as in Vietnam, as in Greece, as in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil. And that’s only to name a few. We opposed that use of the U.S. intelligence service for those dirty operations. And I’m talking about regimes now that tortured and disappeared people by the thousands.”
Agee died last night in Cuba at the age of seventy-two.