On The 2008 Trail Presidential Campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday became the first presidential candidate to call for radio host Don Imus to be fired for making racially and sexually charged comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

The Illinois senator told ABC News he will never appear again on Imus' show, which is broadcast on CBS Radio and MSNBC television.

"I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus," Obama told ABC News, "but I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group.

"He didn't just cross the line, he fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America," said Obama, the only black candidate in the presidential race.

Democratic presidential candidates stepped up their criticism of Imus, one week after he called the Rutgers players who had lost the national championship "nappy headed hos."

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also has been on the receiving end of Imus' insults, launched an online petition drive to support the Rutgers players. She said Imus' comments "were nothing more than small-minded bigotry and coarse sexism."

Clinton's online petition allows petitioners to ask for e-mail updates from her campaign, which could expand the reach of her political message and provide new names to solicit for contributions.

Two other Democratic White House candidates - Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd - also criticized the comments. But they said they would wait to see how the controversy will be resolved before deciding whether they would appear on the show again.

Dodd had announced his candidacy on Imus' show in January.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Television and film producer Norman Lear has joined forces with some of the Internet's most popular sites to encourage 18-year-olds to register and vote in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Although Lear has long been associated with Democratic politics, the Declare Yourself outreach campaign and Web site, www.DeclareYourself.com, will be nonpartisan. Both are outgrowths of campaigns Lear sponsored in 2004 and 2006 to encourage young adults to vote.

The campaign is partnering with such popular online destinations as Yahoo!, MySpace, YouTube, Google, Friendster, Evite and Good Search to help drive to young people, particularly first-time voters, to the Declare Yourself Web site. There, visitors will be able to download voter registration information and forms, as well as obtain information on presidential candidates and their positions.

The campaign also includes such media partners as Clear Channel and Comedy Central.

Serving as spokespeople for the project are two young television stars, Golden Globe-winner America Ferrera, star of ABC's "Ugly Betty" series, and Hayden Panettiere, who plays a cheerleader who will not die on NBC's "Heroes" and who turns 18 this year.

"Those people we call our forefathers said loud and clear the success of this democratic experiment depended upon an informed and involved citizenry," said Lear, who owns an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Lear said he hopes to making registering as much a "rite of passage" for young adults as getting a driver's license or buying alcohol legally.

While previous campaigns have helped register more than 1 million voters, Lear said he expects to significantly exceed that number with the help of the broad range of Internet and media partnerships, which are new to the latest campaign.

Lear estimated the cost of the nonprofit campaign at $4 million, which he expects to raise through corporate donations.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Sen. Chris Dodd called for more diplomacy in Iraq on Wednesday and criticized Sen. John McCain's support for sending more troops there to quell the violence.

The Connecticut Democrat, who is running for president, sought to contrast his position from fellow candidate McCain, R-Ariz., who delivered a speech earlier in the day outlining his support for the war.

"No one questions Senator McCain's patriotism. He is a war hero and a friend. But like the president, he is wrong," Dodd told about 200 members of a Des Moines foreign policy study group Wednesday night.

"We don't need a surge in troops in Iraq - we need a surge in diplomacy," Dodd said. "The Bush-McCain doctrine is not succeeding."

The war in Iraq has divided Democratic presidential candidates, and Dodd was challenging his rivals to join him in pushing for a troop withdrawal. He noted that the war has cost the nation more than $400 billion, as well as taking the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops.

That damage is multiplied by the damage the war has brought to the nation's image around the world, and simply hoping for success in Iraq is not an answer, he said.

In making a bid for the White House, Dodd stresses his experience in the Senate dealing with foreign policy issues - experience he said sets him apart from his rivals.

"Like never before, we need a president who is ready to lead from day one," he said. "There will not be a single day, a single moment for on-the-job training."
DALLAS (AP) - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent foray into foreign policy was one of the most "ill-considered actions of any national leader of this decade."

"I think it was an extraordinary mistake on her part," Romney, who is seeking the Republican nomination, told an audience of Dallas County Republicans.

Pelosi, D-Calif., met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus last week against President Bush's wishes. She has said she thinks the mission helped Bush because it showed the United States is unified against terrorism despite being divided over Iraq.

Romney said he felt Pelosi misrepresented her position and the level of commitment Americans have in the fight against terrorism.

"She is the speaker of the House," Romney told reporters after his speech. "She is not a foreign minister. She is not a secretary of state."

"Representing herself in the capacity she has done is very misleading and confusing to people around the world. It suggests a level of disunity that does not exist."

Romney said he had also heard Pelosi was considering a visit to Iraq, a trip he said he hopes she reconsiders.

During a question-and-answer session with audience members, Romney acknowledged doubts over his conservative credentials but said he has always been anti-abortion and always been "a leading opponent of same-sex marriage."

"I've got to find a way to get a lot more people to understand that," Romney said.

Associated Press writers Beth Fouhy in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Joan Lowy in Washington and Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, and Jeff Carlton in Dallas contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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