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McCain: No Muslim president, U.S. better with Christian one


Saturday, September 29th 2007, 4:00 AM

John McCain

John McCain

GOP presidential candidate John McCain says America is better off with a Christian President and he doesn't want a Muslim in the Oval Office.

"I admire the Islam. There's a lot of good principles in it," he said. "But I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith."

In a wide-ranging interview about religion and faith with the Web site Beliefnet, McCain said he wouldn't "rule out under any circumstance" someone who wasn't Christian, but said, "I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead."

A Mormon such as rival candidate Mitt Romney, he said, would be okay.

"The Mormon religion is a religion that I don't share, but I respect.

"More importantly, I've known so many people of the Mormon faith who have been so magnificent," he said.

McCain later clarified his remarks, saying, "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and to defend our political values."

A Muslim rights group ripped the Arizona Republican's remarks.

"That kind of attitude goes against the American tradition of religious pluralism and inclusion," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He urged McCain to "clarify his remarks" and "stress his acceptance of political candidates of any faith."

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, could not be reached for comment because its offices were closed for the Sukkoth holiday.

In the interview, the senator also said the "Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

There is no mention of God, Jesus or Christ in that entirely secular document.

The interview, which included the revelation that he's talking to his pastor about undergoing a full-immersion baptism after the campaign, sent Beliefnet's irreverent "God-o-meter" spinning.

"How can the religious right hate this guy?" the site asked.

Beliefnet columnist David Kuo said McCain was "pandering to what he thinks the Christian conservative community wants to hear" and predicted he "will have a lot of explaining to do about this interview."

The remarks came as he was starting to show gains in the polls.

McCain alienated evangelical voters in 2000 when he branded the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance."

Federal judge rules 2 Patriot Act provisions unconstitutional

(CNN) -- A federal court on Wednesday struck down two provisions of the Patriot Act dealing with searches and intelligence gathering, saying they violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures with regard to criminal prosecutions.

Brandon Mayfield, left, and public defender Steven Wax tell of the dismissal of the case against Mayfield in 2004.

"It is critical that we, as a democratic nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles," wrote Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in her 44-page decision. "The Fourth Amendment has served this nation well for 220 years, through many other perils."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, set up to review wiretap applications in intelligence cases under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, "holds that the Constitution need not control the conduct of criminal surveillance in the United States," Aiken wrote.

"In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the executive branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate."

The government "is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. The court declines to do so," Aiken said.

The Justice Department was reviewing the decision, said spokesman Dean Boyd.

The ruling was a response to a lawsuit filed against the federal government by Brandon Mayfield, a Portland, Oregon, attorney who was wrongly arrested for alleged involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

The federal government later apologized to Mayfield and settled part of Mayfield's lawsuit for $2 million. But Mayfield was permitted to keep pursuing the portions of his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act.

Mayfield claimed in the suit that his home and law offices were secretly broken into by the FBI, his clients' files at his office were searched, his business and personal computers were secretly copied, his telephone was wiretapped and his home was bugged.

Mayfield said he was "excited and happy" with the ruling.

"This, to me, is not so much personal," he said. "I think it's just the right thing to do. It was the right thing to continue to challenge the constitutionality of the Patriot Act."

"This is an example of the judicial branch doing what it should do, and that's to be a check and balance for the legislative and executive branch of government," he said. "I feel wonderful today, because the Fourth Amendment has been restored to its rightful place, and the balance between liberty and security is balanced again."

Mayfield's attorneys -- Gerry Spence, Elden Rosenthal and Michelle Longer Eder -- lauded the ruling.

"Judge Aiken, in striking down the challenged provisions of the Patriot Act, has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home," they said in a written statement. "We are relieved that the Bill of Rights can be honored and preserved even in times of perceived crisis."

Aiken ruled that FISA, as amended by the Patriot Act, permits the government to conduct surveillance and searches targeting Americans without satisfying the probable-cause standard in the Fourth Amendment.

"Prior to the amendments [to FISA], the three branches of government operated with thoughtful and deliberate checks and balances -- a principle upon which our nation was founded," Aiken wrote.

But the Patriot Act, she said, eliminated "the constitutionally required interplay between executive action, judicial decision and Congressional enactment."

"For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success. A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.

Aiken noted that FISA does not require that the subject of a search be notified, although the Fourth Amendment ordinarily does. In addition, she said, the Fourth Amendment requires particularity -- authorities seeking a search warrant, for example, must list what they are looking for and where they are looking for it.

Named to the bench in 1997 by President Clinton, Aiken is considered one of the more liberal judges on the federal bench in Oregon.

Congressman Michael Arcuri speaking in support of College Cost Reduction act

Binghamton College Democrats at CDNY convention

Fred Thompson: Al Qaeda smoking ban pushed Iraqis to U.S.


Saturday, September 8th 2007, 4:00 AM

SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Freshly minted GOP White House hopeful Fred Thompson puzzled Iowans yesterday by insisting an Al Qaeda smoking ban was one reason freedom-loving Iraqis bolted to the U.S. side.

"They said, 'You gotta quit smoking,'" Thompson explained to a questioner asking about progress in Iraq during a town hall-style meeting.

Thompson said the smoking ban and terror tactics Al Qaeda used to oppress women and intimidate local leaders pushed tribes in western Anbar Province to support U.S. troops.

But Thompson's tale of a smokers' revolt baffled some in the audience of about 150 who came to decide whether the former Tennessee senator is ready for prime time.

"I don't know what that was about," said Jim Moran, 72, who had driven from nearby McCook Lake, S.D.

Iowans, several of whom told the Daily News they were intrigued by Thompson's down-home charm, got their first extended chance to press for details of his broad theme of "common-sense conservatism."

On abortion, Thompson said he would appoint judges in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade but had reservations about a constitutional amendment banning it.

He also said he'd finish a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration: "We get to decide who comes into our home."

Thompson said "things are turning around" in Iraq and that troop reductions should not be linked to some "arbitrary time line."

His cue to stop talking came from 4-year-old daughter Hayden, who came on stage with a bow in her hair to tug on Thompson's pants leg - drawing "oohs" from the audience.

Thompson received mixed reviews from several listeners who had reservations about his late entry into the race.

Carol Perrin, 62, a retired schoolteacher, said, "I was impressed. I don't think he's selling us a bill of goods."

But Ralph Hecht, 61, a farmer and Marine Vietnam veteran whose son served two tours in Iraq with the Army, said Thompson's attempts at folksy appeal wouldn't work with him. "For me, it will be the issues stuff," Hecht said.

Immigration top issue at debate on Spanish-language TV

CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- Questions about immigration dominated a forum for Democratic presidential candidates put on Sunday by the Spanish-language television network Univision.

Democratic presidential candidates at a forum Sunday put on by Univision in Florida.

Front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton condemned what she called "very destructive" rhetoric on the issue.

Other Democrats blasted Republicans for demanding to clamp down on the U.S.-Mexico border. The candidates also took implicit jabs at GOP contenders who refused to sign up for a similar Spanish-language forum.

"There are many in the political world and, frankly, in the broadcast world today that take a particular aim at the Latino population," Clinton said. "I think it is very destructive. It undermines our unity as a country."

She cited an immigration bill the House of Representatives passed in 2006 as a "particularly egregious example."

She said the bill, which would have punished people who aid illegal immigrants, "would have criminalized the Good Samaritan. It would have criminalized Jesus Christ."

Univision offered a similar platform for Republicans, but it was shelved after only one of the nine GOP contenders -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- agreed to appear.

Among the Republican field, McCain has been a lonely defender of the White House-backed immigration bill that foundered in the Senate earlier this year.

That bill would have created a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million-plus undocumented workers believed to be in the United States -- a provision many conservatives denounced as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said construction of a fence along the Mexican border to block illegal immigration was "a terrible example of Washington's misguided policy."

"Congress only funded half of the wall," said Richardson, who also served as energy secretary and U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration. "If you are going to build a 12-foot wall, you know what is going to happen? A lot of 13-foot ladders. This is a terrible symbol of America."

Clinton said she favored tighter border controls, but said the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform.

The failed immigration bill also would have created a guest-worker program for immigrants.

Sen. Barack Obama, who has placed a consistent second in national polls, said President Bush missed a chance to defuse the fears of American workers who believe illegal immigrants will take their jobs.

"They feel that they are losing jobs. They feel like they are losing health care," the Illinois senator said. "They feel that they are falling behind, and their children won't have a better future. So a president has to speak out forcefully against anti-immigrant sentiment and racist sentiment, but also has to make sure that all workers are being tended to."

Since only two of the candidates -- Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd -- speak Spanish, an interpreter relayed questions from the network and translated the answers for the audience.

The debate was held in South Florida, home to an extensive -- and heavily Republican -- Cuban immigrant population. Dodd said he would begin lifting the decades-old trade embargo on the communist government of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, saying Castro is "using that as an excuse for his own failures."

He said Cuba was already looking past the ailing Castro, who temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raul, last year.

"We need to understand it and be part of the transition in that country, to make a difference as it is occurring," Dodd said.

Clinton said Castro has gained allies in Latin America, such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, under the Bush administration "because of the misguided, bullying policies of this president." She said she would work toward democratic change in Cuba.

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was the only Democrat to miss Sunday's event. Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will hold a Tuesday hearing on the Bush administration's highly anticipated report on the progress of the war in Iraq.

Former Sen. John Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, said he was concerned the report -- presented by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker -- would be "a sales job by the White House."

Edwards, of North Carolina, said that if Iraqi leaders don't reach a political solution to the four-year-old war, Congress should set a timetable for American troops to leave.

"And if the president vetoes a bill that has a timetable for withdrawal, the Congress should send him another bill with a timetable for withdrawal until the troops come home," he said.

Nothing in the Bush administration's report will change the fact that there is no military solution to the problems in Iraq, Clinton said.

"I believe we should start bringing our troops home," she said.

But Richardson challenged her and other candidates by saying that he would leave no residual force behind in Iraq.

"I would bring them all home, every one of them," within six to eight months, Richardson said.