From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi
Have things finally calmed down? The candidates at the center of this week's political brouhaha, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, appear today in two different liberal strongholds. Clinton headlines a "Make History With Hillary" luncheon fundraiser in San Francisco, which is open to the press. Meanwhile, Obama holds a rally this afternoon in Austin, TX, for which 16,000 tickets had been requested online as of midweek, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Per Obama's campaign, his remarks will focus on Iraq, especially Britain's announcement that it will begin withdrawing some of its troops there.
Obama has tried to reclaim the high ground after the tussle over David Geffen's less-than-flattering comments regarding the Clintons. NBC's Carrie Dann says that on an unscheduled stop en route to Houston yesterday, Obama told reporters in St. Louis that "pundits in Washington" are responsible for fueling the entire controversy, adding: "This should be a campaign about the issues and not about personalities or what supporters say." He also said this about Clinton: "She and I have a good relationship, and I expect that will continue." And Obama told today's New York Times he had not been aware that his staff released a counterpunch against the Clinton camp. "I told my staff that I don't want us to be a party to these kinds of distractions because I want to make sure that we're spending time talking about issues," he said. "My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it customarily is played."
His battle for the high ground continues. The Federal Election Commission yesterday published a draft advisory opinion that would permit (with a few strings attached) Obama to solicit and receive unlimited contributions in the general election and still remain eligible for public funding. So far, the front-runners from both parties, including Clinton and Obama, have indicated that they will bypass public funds for the primaries and the general election, which will enable them to spend as much as they can raise for these contests. But as a way to bolster his good-government credentials, Obama has proposed that he could still remain eligible for public financing in the general election -- as long as he refunds those contributions and as long as the GOP nominee does the same. If anything, the FEC's draft advisory is nice timing for Obama, given the Clinton campaign's effort to knock him off his high horse.
Like Clinton, John McCain will be on the West Coast, speaking this afternoon in Seattle on international affairs at an event sponsored by the nonpartisan World Affairs Council. McCain's remarks will last about 15 minutes, and they will be followed by a Q&A session and then a brief press conference. Interestingly, one of the co-presenters of the McCain speech -- along with several other organizations -- is the Discovery Institute, the nation's primary advocate for intelligent design.
(For those keeping track, McCain supports the idea of intelligent design being taught alongside evolution. "I'm saying, look, here's an opposing point of view," he told Charlie Rose in October 2005. "Can't people be entitled to hear opposing points of views? And if scientists say that that's worthless, fine. That's their opinion. And they may be right. But why can't people who fundamentally believe in their hearts in creation at least have that view exposed?")
In other news, Senate Democrats are cobbling a measure that would revoke Bush's 2002 Iraq war authorization. And will a verdict be reached today in the Libby trial? NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that the jury returns this morning after deliberating seven hours yesterday and approximately 4.5 hours on Wednesday.