|Condoleezza Rice says she plans to return to Stanford.|
WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton emphasized her opposition to a proposed free trade agreement with Colombia, two days after her chief campaign strategist was demoted for his role in supporting the deal.
"As I have said for months, I oppose the deal, I have spoken out against the deal, I will vote against the deal, and I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia free trade agreement," she told a gathering of the Communication Workers of America.
But her campaign acknowledged later yesterday that her husband, former president Bill Clinton, has spoken in favor of the deal. On Sunday, Mark Penn left his post as top campaign strategist after confirming that he had met with Colombia's ambassador to the United States to discuss passage of the agreement. Colombia was a client of Penn's large public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller.
Many labor unions, including the CWA, oppose such trade deals, saying they displace US jobs and encourage abuses of workers and the environment in other countries.
Clinton's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, also noted his opposition to the Colombia deal when he spoke to the CWA group moments after Clinton left the stage. He said he opposes the treaty "because when organizing workers puts an organizer's life at risk, as it does in Colombia, it makes a mockery of our labor protections."
On Monday, President Bush sent the proposed Colombia deal to Congress, which has 90 days to ratify or reject it. The administration says it would help the United States by eliminating high barriers for US exports to Colombia.
Obama did not mention Penn in his 25-minute speech to CWA activists. But in a conference call arranged by Obama's campaign, James P. Hoffa, Teamsters president, called on Clinton to cut all ties with Penn, who continues to advise her campaign.
"Senator McCain is an extraordinary American, a really outstanding leader, and obviously a great patriot," Rice said at a State Department news conference with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico. "That said, I am going back to Stanford, back to California, west of the Mississippi. I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter."
Rice, who served as provost and taught at Stanford University, said she'll be busy with her work at the State Department before returning to the campus.
A group on the popular social networking site is already pushing the former Massachusetts governor as a presidential contender in 2012.
It has posted a video on YouTube that shows excerpts from Romney's speech in February to the Conservative Political Action Conference when he dropped out of the Republican race, pairs it with an uplifting soundtrack from the rock band Death Cab for Cutie, and ends with the slogan: "One man can answer the call and bring America back."
The group is also promoting Romney as a possible vice presidential pick for John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee. It has a website that lists seven reasons why the choice would make sense, including that Romney would be a "very strong candidate" in 2012 if McCain, who would be the oldest person elected to a first term as president if he wins in November, serves only one term.
Among other arguments: "Romney doesn't have any skeletons in his closet that could hurt McCain" and "Romney could still sell his turnaround-the-economy strategy."
Rockefeller, an Obama supporter, told the Charleston Gazette that McCain "was a fighter pilot who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit."
"What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground?" Rockefeller is quoted as saying. "He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."
Yesterday, Rockefeller called McCain to apologize for his remarks.
"While we differ a great deal on policy issues, I profoundly respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words," Rockefeller said in a statement.
McCain's campaign had Orson Swindle, a former Marine lieutenant colonel who was a prisoner of war with McCain in Vietnam, issue a statement calling Rockefeller's comments "an insult to all the men and women who are serving or have served in America's military."
Swindle added that Obama has a "responsibility to denounce Senator Rockefeller's smear against John McCain's character and military record."
Jen Psaki, Obama spokeswoman, issued a statement saying Obama disagreed with Rockefeller's comments.
But McCain wasn't satisfied, saying on Fox News, "If he is surrounded by people like that, then I think he should have a direct repudiation."