At last year’s Take Back America meeting of liberal activists, the New York Times described the reception of Hillary Clinton,

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, faced boos and shouts of ‘bring them home’ from an audience of liberal Democrats here on Tuesday as she argued against setting a deadline, wading into what she called a ‘difficult conversation.’

At last year’s conference she said,

“I don’t think it’s in the best interests of our troops or our country [to withdraw troops from Iraq],”

At this year’s meeting she said,

“I have been saying for some time that we need to bring our combat troops home from Iraq starting right now.”

In a piece by NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, on this morning’s today show, NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook said,

“You can see that Clinton’s position has shifted increasingly against the war and at about the same timetable as public opinion has moved over.”

Mitchell’s piece goes on to discuss the entire Democratic Party’s increasing move to the left over opposition to the war.

To check out Mitchell’s entire story, look for Today Show video “Democrats Swinging Too Far Left?”

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An article published yesterday discusses Hillary Clinton’s shifting position on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law signed by her husband, which permits states to ignore same sex marriages or civil unions granted in other states.

“Clinton’s change on DOMA came to light when her advisers released the text of her candidate questionnaire for the Human Rights Campaign.

Her new stance may be an attempt to establish a separate identity from that of Bill Clinton, whose presidency was somewhat of a best-of-times, worst-of-times for LGBT Americans….

DOMA contains two provisions — one that gives states autonomy on marriage and one that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

With the precision of a neurosurgeon, Clinton cut herself free of the second plank of the law while continuing to embrace the first plank, essentially saying that she would let states decide their own destiny on marriage but leave the door open for federal recognition of same-sex unions.

‘Sen. Clinton believes that each state should make its own decisions regarding marriage or civil unions, but once a state legalizes such relationships, these relationships should receive full federal recognition and benefits,’ Ethan Geto, Clinton’s senior national adviser on LGBT issues, wrote in an email to The Advocate.

‘As several states have legalized gay marriage or civil unions, Sen. Clinton has come to believe that the restrictions imposed by DOMA on federal government recognition of same-sex relationships are unfair.’

The position represents a marked departure from her comments to a group of about 40 LGBT leaders in New York in October during her Senate reelection campaign, in which she stood firm on the strategic importance of DOMA in helping to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have constitutionally denied the right of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

‘One of the strongest arguments we had against the constitutional amendment, which kept Democrats and even some Republicans from voting for it, was DOMA — that (the Federal Marriage Amendment) was not necessary; marriage has always been the province of states,’ Clinton said during that meeting.

‘I feel very good about the strategy we took on DOMA,’ she added.

While cynics may roll their eyes at ‘strategy,’ and while many LGBT activists criticized Clinton for not being more supportive during the federal marriage debate, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, has credited her as a strategic force in defeating the amendment in 2006.”

The Boston Globe ran an article yesterday about John McCain’s consistency on controversial immigration legislation. According to the Globe, “And he may never be the Republican presidential nominee, either. That could be the price of standing for what he believes in.”

A related Boston Globe article today on McCain’s positions on immigration reform commented

“He [McCain] also said the nature of the debate over immigration reflected the ‘deterioration of the political discourse in America today.’

One of the toughest amendments, McCain said, is one that would require illegal immigrants to return to their home country before  applying for a ‘Z visa,’ which the bill would create to allow them to legally work in the United States.

…McCain said conservatives who want to focus exclusively on securing America’s borders are missing a major part of the problem: that 40 percent of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are here because they overstayed their visas, not because they entered the country illegally.

As he did in 2000, McCain has staked his candidacy in part on his authenticity, often saying that it’s more important to him to do what is right than to win an election. His support for overhauling immigration laws is hampering his outreach to conservatives, and his outspoken support for the war in Iraq appears to be pushing independents away from him.”

After criticizing Mitt Romney’s abortion flip-flop last week, John McCain has struck again.  A blog entry at the New York Times discusses the McCain campaign’s latest allegations that Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the hot-button issue of public funding for embryonic stem cell research.

On abortion, Romney has clearly switched his position — it’s up to the individual voter to decide if he flip-flopped or if he changed his mind for non-political reasons.  But do these stem cell charges hold water?

The McCain campaign’s charge relies on this video of a March 2005 press conference:

Then-Governor Romney repeatedly states that he supports stem cell research within “ethical boundaries” and that (in Massachusetts at least) it should be researched as part of a broader approach:

ROMNEY: I’m looking forward to seeing what bill comes forward, I believe that stem cell research is important for our state and for our nation, and I also believe that there should be ethical lines drawn around the appropriate research, but stem cell research is important, and I’ll support it, and I’m gonna continue to encourage ethical lines to be drawn in a way that respects human life.

Asked whether both public and private funding should go to stem cell research, Romney responded with a focus on economics rather than the usual social politics:

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Reality Check recently posted an entry regarding some of the inconsistencies in Rudy Giuliani’s security record and his rhetoric out on the campaign trail.  Flip-Flops are not limited merely to shifts in rhetoric, after all, but can also emerge when candidates’ past actions do not match their campaign positions.  Since 9/11 looms so large in Giuliani’s campaign, scrutiny of his record is bound to intensify as the primaries approach.

Over the weekend the New York Times published an article that highlights the dispute of at least some firefighters with Giuliani’s rhetoric regarding national security and emergency response.

Their images are permanently etched in photographs after the fall of the World Trade Center towers, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and firefighters cloaked in the same gray dust. For months afterward, they stood together at funerals. Mr. Giuliani, in his eulogy, always asked for a round of applause to celebrate the dead firefighter’s life.

It would be easy to assume, then, that Mr. Giuliani can count on the support of the 11,000 men and women of the New York City Fire Department as he runs for president. But that would not be entirely true.

Interviews with more than 50 firefighters and department officers show a mix of admiration and disdain for the former mayor. Many firefighters praise his years in office, citing his success in reducing crime and his leadership after the terrorist attacks. Others harbor a deep resentment for what they describe as his poor treatment of the department before and after Sept. 11.

Some still speak bitterly about a contract that left firefighters without a raise for two years. Some also say Mr. Giuliani has exaggerated the role he played after the terrorist attacks, casting himself as a hero for political gain. The harshest sentiments stem from Mr. Giuliani’s decision nearly two months after 9/11 to reduce the number of firefighters who were allowed to search for colleagues in the rubble — a move that he partially reversed but that still infuriates many firefighters. […]

“I think they assume that we all love him,” said Robert Keys, 48, a battalion chief and 25-year department veteran, referring to people outside New York. “He wound up with this ‘America’s Mayor’ image. Those of us who had to deal with him before and after 9/11 don’t share that same sentiment.” […]

On the campaign trail, Mr. Giuliani frequently invokes the Sept. 11 heroism of “my firefighters,” as he often calls them, as emblematic of American patriotism and resolve. But some firefighters have begun organizing efforts to dispel the notion that they are in his corner.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, an umbrella union based in Washington, spoke out against Mr. Giuliani in March. The group is also preparing a short DVD outlining its grievances that it plans to send to fire departments across the country. Meanwhile, a small group of Sept. 11 family members and firefighters has been protesting outside many of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign appearances.

One of those protesters, Deputy Chief Jim Riches, who lost his firefighter son that day, said Mr. Giuliani did nothing on Sept. 11 to warrant hero status. “He’s making a million dollars a month with his speeches,” said Chief Riches, 55. “It’s blood money.”

Though no one actually uses the word “flip-flop,” these groups and protestors are essentially claiming that the Giuliani campaign’s solidarity with and support from firefighters is overstated — that his rhetoric does not match his record.  It seems comparable to when some black commentators emphasize that Barack Obama is not “the blacks’ candidate” but rather a black candidate that some blacks support.  In this case, though, 9/11 ratchets up the intensity of the feelings involved.

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Concerning the recent vote on funding for the war in Iraq, Giuliani has lobbed the dreaded f-word over in Obama’s direction. Giuliani contends that Obama made, in his words, “quite a significant flip flop” when it came to Obama’s stance on the Iraq funding bill. With Giuliani’s flip-flop accusation, the other Republican candidates have taken the opportunity join in the Obama criticism:

McCain calls Obama’s stance “the policy of surrender”

Romney has called Obama’s actions “abandon[ing] principle in favor of political positioning”

And Giuliani continued about Obama and his fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “They’ve gone from an anti-war position to an anti-military, anti-troops position”

So it’s worth examining: is this vote by Obama a flip flop? Was a vote against the funding bill incompatible with a position in favor of supporting the troops and his previous votes for war appropriations bills? That’s the allegation that the Republican candidates have laid down. Let’s see if it’s a valid and legitimate point or a baseless and partisan attack.

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John McCain has often criticized lawmakers of pork barreling, supporting wasteful spending simply to demonstrate to constituents they can bring home the bacon. Today, in his most recent attack, McCain accused Senator Hillary Clinton of pushing for wasteful earmarks for her state. But Hillary might not be the only one who likes the taste of pork. Newsday reports,

“Speaking to reporters outside a fundraiser in Los Angeles [yesterday], McCain charged Clinton with larding a recently passed defense appropriations bill with $150 million in home-state earmarks – $43 million of which went to Long Island.

The Arizona Republican, who has fallen from GOP frontrunner to third place in many national polls, chided Clinton for pushing projects ‘the Pentagon had no request for and had no need for.’

He promised to introduce legislation to block senators from earmarking in the future.”

For those political neophytes out there, a brief overview of pork and of congressional votes…For the rest of you, skip to the next paragraph. Clearly, passing legislation is never simple. There are all sorts of complicated reasons to vote for or against a bill that are not always apparent at face value. Senators and representatives sometimes vote in favor of one bill because while they might oppose certain aspects of the legislation, other measures that they support are grouped together in the same bill–so they have no choice but to cast a “yea.” In other instances, a member might vote against a measure he or she essentially supports in some respects in hopes of writing better legislation. And sometimes members trade votes with one piece of legislation for another. So the perception of votes and of pork is difficult, making it very easy to misinterpret votes and pork–especially since pork is usually grouped together with more pressing legislation, which allows members to justify their votes.

While we generally try to avoid including editorials in Reality Check, on March 4 of 2006, the Chicago Tribune, whose editorial board is typically viewed as conservative, ran an editorial “Perfuming the Barnyard” in which it alleged that,

“Arizona Sen. John McCain is sponsoring two interesting pieces of legislation. One mounts a direct assault on congressional earmarks, those little morsels of home district pork that lawmakers slip into unrelated spending bills. The other steers $10 million to the University of Arizona to launch an academic center honoring the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.”

(The rest of the article is included below)

It appears then, that while McCain’s latest assault on pork is on one of his Democratic opponents, Senator McCain is not afraid to support pork projects for his constituents either. His $10 million project is certainly far less than Clinton’s $43 million, but the principle is largely the same.

And, according to New York Magazine on June 13, Senator Clinton has been criticized before for earmarking.

“‘…Hillary Clinton has been working overtime to steer Pentagon funds to the state,’ William Hartung, an arms-trade expert at the New School, just told us. ‘This year alone she has taken credit for two dozen projects worth over $800 million. If she wants to be the commander-in-chief, she should be pushing programs on their merits, not on the basis of pork-barrel politics.’ Hartung calls one project Clinton championed, the presidential helicopter built by Lockheed Martin, a potential ‘burden for taxpayers that may not perform as advertised’ and suggested she’s touted some projects as designed to protect troops in Iraq or Afghanistan when they’re really entirely unrelated. It’s ‘misleading at the least, if not outright unethical,’ he said….”

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