(CNN) - The Catholic League sharply criticized Barack Obama Friday for his ties to controversial Catholic minister Michael Pfleger, saying in a statement the Illinois senator should have severed ties with him long ago.
The criticisms come after wide circulation on the Internet of Pfleger's recent sermon, in which he mocked Hillary Clinton for becoming teary-eyed before the New Hampshire primary in January.
"And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,'" Pfleger said during a sermon Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. "And [Clinton] said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!' "
Barack Obama said Thursday he was "disappointed" in the comments, and Pfleger later issued an apology for the remarks.
"Why is it that of all the wonderful Catholic priests in the Chicago Archdiocese, Obama long ago chose Pfleger to hang with?" Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement. "Truth be known, Pfleger has a very troubling history."
“Senator Obama says he wants to bring people together. Then why does he choose as his clerical friends people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger?" Donohue also said. "They are two peas in a pod, both equally divisive, separated only by the color of their skin.”
The Catholic League is an influential non-partisan organization that says its mission is to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics "whenever and wherever they are threatened." The League was an early critic of the Rev. John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor whose endorsement was sought by John McCain but later repudiated.
Pfleger is a priest at St. Sabina's Catholic Church on the south side of Chicago. He had served on the Catholics for Obama committee until recently and the two have known each other for 20 years. As a state senator, Obama once directed a $100,000 grant to a community center affiliated with Pfleger's church.
Watch Pfleger's controversial comments here.
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) – Despite a day of criticism, John McCain isn't backing down from comments he made in a Milwaukee suburb Thursday night when he said troop levels in Iraq were back to where they were before January’s surge.
“I said we have withdrawn three of the five [surge] brigades, we have drawn down the Marines, the rest of them will be home by the end of July,” McCain responded Friday when asked if he had misspoken.
On Thursday, he told a Greendale, Wisconsin crowd that “I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding, we have drawn down to pre-surge levels,” adding that the Iraqi cities of Basra, Mosul and Sadr City are now “quiet.”
Even after all five surge brigades leave, experts estimate there will still be about 10,000 more troops in Iraq than there were prior to the January surge.
On a conference call with reporters, McCain’s campaign accused the Obama campaign and the press of “nitpicking” verb tenses.
“Take the worst possibility here which is that Senator McCain misspoke and that because of the specific words used what he said was not entirely accurate. So what? What does that amount to?” asked Sen. Jon Kyl, a McCain surrogate.
But rather than admit he had not been entirely accurate, McCain continued his effort to highlight Obama's relative inexperience on the ground in Iraq.
“It’s also been 873 days since Senator Obama visited Iraq,” said McCain. “Maybe he would have reached different conclusions about the surge if he had taken the opportunity to go over there and talk to troops on the ground.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Friday he would be willing to comply with a rumored congressional subpoena to discuss the administration’s handling of pre-war intelligence, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he’d be “glad to share my views” if asked to testify.
Facing a firestorm over his book, McClellan also confirmed reports that he had apologized to Richard Clarke for questioning his honesty after the former counterterrorism official published his own book critical of the White House.
“That was part of our talking points at the time. I didn’t even read the book,” McClellan admitted Friday. “…And I think you’re seeing the same thing happening now at this White House, that information – or rather, that people are saying things about my motivations and about me in terms of this book, and they haven’t even had a chance to read the book, or haven’t taken the opportunity to read the book.
“I think that anyone who is objective who reads the book will see that it was a very tough process to come to these conclusions. It wasn’t easy to write these things.”
Former colleagues and top Republicans have been blasting McClellan since his book was released earlier this week. On Friday, Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole – who said he had not read the new book – called McClellan a “miserable creature” in a scathing e-mail that quickly became public.
McClellan told CNN he did not believe he needed to apologize for misleading the public as he now concedes he did. “I have come to terms with it, and realized that some of what I said was badly misguided,” he said Friday. “There's things we did right, and there's things we did wrong. The things that we did wrong overshadowed so much of what we did right. … and I think the American people see through what I have been saying the last few days, that I do regret that I didn't realize some of the things then that I do now.”
(UPDATED 5:50 p.m.)
Watch McClellan defend his tell-all book.
(CNN) - Bob Dole is furious with Scott McClellan's public criticisms of the Bush administration, telling the former White House Press Secretary in an e-mail Thursday he is a "miserable creature" who is "spurred on by greed."
"There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues," Dole wrote in the personal e-mail. "No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique."
Dole spokesman Michael Marshall confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail, first reported by Politico and obtained by CNN.
Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, also tells McClellan he is likely looking to "clean up" as "the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm."
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) - John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for president, said he was wrong to use an image of Gen. David Petraeus in fundraising material, and it "will not happen again."
His admission came hours after the Barack Obama campaign criticized an e-mail showing McCain shaking hands with the general who has been commanding U.S forces in Iraq.
It was not the first time McCain had used the picture of himself with Petraeus; it appeared on the candidate's website for several days in April before being taken down.
McCain has been hammering Obama for days over the length of time been since the Democratic front-runner last visited Iraq, mentioning Friday it was "873 days."
"I have visited Iraq on many occasions because I think the most vital decision that any president of the United States can make has got to be about the security of this nation and the lives of the young Americans who are serving," McCain said in an e-mail to supporters sent Thursday afternoon.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently took the unusual step of admonishing all members of the military to stay out of politics as the presidential campaign heats up.
Despite worries on the home front about the economy, the housing market and record high gas prices... the war in Iraq has made it to center stage once again in the presidential campaign.
Turns out both of the likely candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, think the debate over the war can work to their advantage.
McCain has been blasting Obama about Iraq, criticizing him for making decisions without visiting the war zone since 2006. McCain argues conditions on the ground have changed drastically since then. The RNC says, "the fact that there are 2-year-old Iraqi children who weren't born the last time Obama was in their country raises questions about what he is making his decisions on."
It's part of a larger strategy to paint Obama as inexperienced. It's also pretty convenient to shift attention away from domestic issues – like the economy, energy and health care – where Obama polls much stronger than McCain.
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(CNN) - A day before the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to determine how to seat the delegations of Florida and Michigan, the Clinton campaign's chief lawyer said the committee is compelled to seat both delegations fully and not award Barack Obama any delegates from Michigan.
In a letter addressed to the co-chairs of the RBC, Clinton lawyer Lyn Utrecht said both states have already been sufficiently punished because of lack of campaign activity.
"It is a bedrock principle of our Party that every vote must be counted, and thereby every elected delegate should be seated," Utrecht wrote. "The States have already been punished because no campaign activity was conducted in Florida or Michigan. There is no requirement or need to punish their duly elected delegates who represent the 2.3 million voters in Michigan and Florida who participated in the nominating process."
Utrecht also made clear the campaign will not accept a resolution in Michigan that awards Obama any delegates, since the Illinois senator took his name off the ballot there.
"Neither the DNC Rules nor the Michigan Delegate Selection Plan allow arbitrary reallocation of Uncommitted delegates to a candidate or arbitrary reallocation of delegates from one candidate to another," he wrote.
The Clinton campaign also said Friday that former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard and Florida State Senator Arthenia Joyner will make the case for the campaign at the hearing Saturday.
(CNN) - Could Scott McClellan be an unlikely supporter of Barack Obama?
In several interviews with media organizations Thursday night, the former White House press secretary hinted that he was strongly leaning toward the Illinois senator's White House bid over his own party’s presumptive nominee.
McClellan, a former White House official who has angered several Republicans this week for his scathing critique of the Bush Administration, said he hasn't made an official decision on which candidate he will back, but offered that he is "intrigued by Sen. Obama's message."
"It's a message that is very similar to the one that Gov. Bush ran on in 2000," McClellan told CBS News.
The former White House press secretary struck a similar tone in an interview with USA Today, saying that he is attracted to both party's likely nominees.
"I have a lot of respect and admiration for Sen. McCain," he said. "I'm also intrigued by Sen. Obama."
McClellan, who played a key role in the president's 2000 campaign, isn't the first member of Bush's inner circle to express support for Obama. In 2007, former Bush strategist Matt Dowd also said he had become disillusioned with the president and said Obama was the only candidate that appealed to him.
(CNN) - Geraldine Ferraro – who sparked controversy earlier this year with her comment that Barack Obama was only a viable presidential candidate because he was black – wrote in an op-ed published Friday that the Illinois senator’s campaign and the media may be responsible for “the effects of racism and sexism on the campaign [which] have resulted in a split within the Democratic Party that will not be easy to heal before election day.”
“Perhaps it's because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn't an issue, but reverse racism is,” the former Democratic vice presidential candidate wrote in the Boston Globe Friday.
Reagan Democrats feel they have been mistreated during the campaign season, she writes, and since her March resignation from the Clinton campaign have repeatedly told her that “If you're white you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist...”
“They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white,” writes the former New York congresswoman. “It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory ‘Our Time Has Come’ they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.”
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton is spending her second straight weekend campaigning in Puerto Rico before the island territory's June 1 primary. It could be one of her last chances to boost her popular vote total.
For Clinton, it's a family affair - with both husband Bill and daughter Chelsea making the rounds.
"Chelsea and I and Hillary have now been to 42 of Puerto Rico's municipalities campaigning for the votes of the people of Puerto Rico," Bill Clinton said Thursday.
"She represents more Puerto Ricans than anyone in the world except someone who is elected here. Send the message back to the mainland on Sunday that Puerto Rico deserves to be considered and its potential is unlimited if only you had a genuine partner in the White House," he added.
She's counting on a strong showing on Sunday. With 55 delegates up for grabs Tuesday, it's the last big prize before the primaries end.