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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Netanyahu Appears in Conservative Group\'s Ad


Israel and Middle East policy have a tendency of surfacing in presidential politics in rather combustible ways. And a new advertisement that will run in areas of Florida with large Jewish populations attempts to stoke anxiety over American policies in the region, using a news clip of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warning of the risks of a nuclear Iran.

“The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear arms,” Mr. Netanyahu is shown saying.

For dramatic effect, a soundtrack fit for an episodic drama like “Homeland” plays as the prime minister continues. “The world tells Israel, ‘Wait. There's still time.' And I say wait for what? Wait until when?”
Then an unseen announcer concludes: “The world needs American strength, not apologies.”

That line is a not-so-veiled swipe at President Obama. Mitt Romney and other Republicans have criticized his foreign policy as apologetic, toward volatile countries like Iran.

The group that produced the ad, Secure America Now, is run by two longtime Republican strategists, Nelson Warfield ? and John ?McLaughlin, and ?Pat Caddell, a former aide to Jimmy Carter who is now a Fox News contributor. They have reserved $500,000 of airtime in Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Miami.

A senior Israeli official said the government was not consulted on the ad and did not approve it.

Presidential Campaigns Engage Over Obama\'s Comments on Change


President Obama said Thursday that changing the tone of politics in Washington must come from the “outside,” not from inside a town that is deeply locked in a partisan battle.

Mitt Romney quickly pounced, saying they were happy to give Mr. Obama the chance to try - from outside the White House grounds.

Campaigning in Sarasota, Fla., Mr. Romney described the president's remark as a stark admission of political failure and futility.

“The president today threw in the white flag of surrender,” Mr. Romney said at a large outdoor rally. “He went from the president of change to the president who can't get change.”

Mr. Romney, who has promoted himself as a business-minded outsid er, told the 4,600 people gathered inside a museum garden that “I can change Washington, I will change Washington. We'll get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together.”

Mr. Romney's quick attack reflects the intensity of the campaign environment with election day fast approaching. Both campaigns are trying to seize on anything - and everything - that a candidate says as evidence of a gaffe or mistake.

Mr. Romney's statement came just an hour after Mr. Obama's remarks during an appearance at a forum hosted by Univision. Asked by the host what his biggest failure was during almost four years in office, Mr. Obama said he was disappointed that he was not able to change the tone in Washington.

“The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside, you can only change it from the outside,” Mr. Obama said. “That's how I got elected, and that's how the bi g accomplishments like health care got done - was because we mobilized the American people to speak out. That's how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families.”

Mr. Romney treated the snippet of the president's remarks as an admission of a personal failure. Mr. Obama's full comments suggest that he was talking about the power - and the limits - of citizen engagement in trying to help push forward changes in the nation's biggest, most difficult problems.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Obama's campaign said that the criticism from Mr. Romney reflected desperation on the part of the Republican campaign.

“Once again, Mitt Romney is trying to take the heat off himself by taking the president's words wildly out of context,” Lis Smith, the spokeswoman, said. “What the president said today is no different than what he has been saying for many years â€" that change comes from outside Washington, not inside.”

Ms. Smith added: “Mitt Romney apparently doesn't believe that change comes from the American people. Maybe that's because he has written off half the country in this election.”

Michael Barbaro contributed reporting.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Massachusetts Senate Candidates to Meet in First Debate


BOSTON - Senator Scott P. Brown and Elizabeth Warren face off against each other Thursday night in the first of four televised debates in this marquee Senate race.

The one-hour debate starts at 7 p.m. at the studios of WBZ-TV, the CBS affiliate in Boston. It will be streamed live on its Web site and is expected to be broadcast on C-Span. The moderator is Jon Keller, a political analyst with WBZ, and the format is fairly open, with the candidates able to question each other.

Analysts expect sparks to fly as Mr. Brown and Ms. Warren finally confront each other in person after months of lobbing barbs at each other long distance through their campaign appearances and television ads.

Ratche ting up the anticipated drama was the possibility that Mr. Brown might miss the debate because he said he had to stay in Washington to vote. But after Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, canceled a floor vote, Mr. Brown was making his way to Boston Thursday.

Both candidates have been sharpening their messages in recent weeks and they are likely to use this first debate to showcase the main themes that they want voters to remember.

Mr. Brown, a Republican running in a Democratic state, will emphasize his independence from his party, which has been his strategy from the beginning of the race.

He is likely to pivot from that into warning that Ms. Warren, a Harvard Law professor - whom he calls “Professor Warren” to suggest that she lives in an ivory tower - is antibusiness and will raise taxes so much that businesses will have to cut thousands of jobs. His new tag line in his ads is that he is “beholden t o no one,” and listeners will probably hear that again on Thursday.

Ms. Warren will almost surely repeat the refrain from her speech to the Democratic National Convention earlier this month that “the system is rigged” against the middle class and that “Scott Brown” - she almost never elevates him to “Senator” - is part of that rigged system because he votes to protect millionaires and Wall Street.

Mr. Brown had a triumphant debate moment in his first race for the Senate, in 2010, when he declared that he was running not for “the Kennedy seat” but for “the people's seat.” He has an affable presence and an instinctive feel for a crowd, but his need to play down his party affiliation has blurred where he stands on certain issues and what he wants to accomplish. His challenge Thursday night will be to show that he is more than a nice guy.

Ms. Warren has never run for office before, but as someone who went to college on a debate scholarship and has taught law, she is certainly practiced in the art of argument and persuasion. But for all of her smarts, some people find her manner off-putting, and her challenge will be to show that in addition to having a passionate command of the issues, she is someone whom voters want to see in their living rooms for the next six years.

Follow Katharine Q. Seelye on Twitter at @kseelye.

Democratic \'Super PAC\' Raised More Than Republican Counterpart in August


A leading “super PAC” backing Mitt Romney raised less than its Democratic counterpart in August, a rare head-to-head win for Democrats in an area overwhelmingly dominated by Republican groups and donors.

The group, Restore Our Future, founded by former Romney aides, took in about $7 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. Officials at the Democratic group, Priorities USA Action, founded by former aides to President Obama, raised a record $10 million in August, officials told The New York Times this month.

Republican super PACs are still likely to dominate Democratic ones. America Crossroads, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rov e, is planning to raise and spend $300 million this year on the presidential and Congressional races. Restore Our Future is planning to raise upward of $100 million, and Priorities USA about $100 million.

Restore appears far ahead on meeting that goal, raising about $66 million in 2012 and about $30 million last year.

But the group burned through a huge amount of money in August, $21 million, a month during which the Romney campaign was hoarding cash, advertising sparingly, and borrowed $20 million to get through the convention and tap into its general election accounts. Restore Our Future had about $6.2 million in cash on hand at the beginning of September, when Republican outside groups once envisioned burying Mr. Obama in advertising.

Priorities USA has not yet filed its F.E.C. documents for August.

Reid Cancels Floor Votes in Senate After Brown Suggests He Might Miss Debate


The U.S. Senate‘s efforts to close shop and hit the campaign trail became hopelessly mired in the campaign of one particular U.S. Senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, went to the Senate floor to accuse Republicans of dilatory tactics designed to get Mr. Brown out of a high-profile debate tonight with his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. Not wishing to give the Massachusetts Republican any excuses, Mr. Reid blocked any votes until Friday, and quite possibly the wee hours of Sunday morning.

“I've been to a few of these rodeos. It is obvious there is a big stall taking place. One of the senators who had a debate tonight doesn' t want to debate. Well, he can't use the Senate as an excuse. There will be no more votes today,” Mr. Reid declared.

The kerfuffle started when Mr. Reid locked horns with his Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, over when to have the final votes planned before election, one to keep the government open through March, another on foreign aid, and another to take up a bill pushed by yet another senator struggling to keep his seat this November, Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana.

Mr. Brown has maintained a slim lead in his re-election campaign for months, but three out of four polls in recent days have put Ms. Warren on top, raising the stakes for tonight's debate in Boston.

Caught in a Capitol hallway by a Boston Globe reporter, Mr. Brown seemed to say he would miss the showdown in case he had to vote tonight.

“Bottom line is, the people have sent me down here to do my job - and that's to vote,” th e senator told The Globe. With no votes scheduled, Mr. Brown is on his way to the debate.

Waters Ethics Investigation Will Not Result in Formal Charges


A long-running ethics investigation of Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, will be resolved on Friday at a rare House Ethics Committee public hearing and two parties with direct knowledge of the matter said they expect it to conclude without formal charges of wrongdoing.

Ms. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, was accused of using her office in late 2008 to set up a meeting with top Treasury Department officials on behalf of a bank her husband owned stock in, at a time when the bank faced possible collapse because of the financial crisis.

The investigation itself has been mired in controversy, after the House ethics committee's own chief counsel accu sed staff members in 2010 of sharing confidential details about the matter with Republicans, a violation of House rules.

The result was an extraordinary outside investigation by a former Justice Department prosecutor who was appointed first to see if the ethics committee itself had acted improperly before restarting a new inquiry into the allegations against Ms. Waters.

This second investigation is complete and has been submitted to a new panel of House members appointed to review the evidence, two parties with direct knowledge of the case said.

Typically, when the ethics committee holds a public hearing on an investigation, it means that the committee has turned up such evidence of wrongdoing, but the lawmaker has refused to accept a settlement, resulting in a hearing that serves, in effect, as a trial.

That is a very rare step, which took place most recently in November 2010 to address charges against Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, and concluded with a finding that Mr. Rangel had violated House rules by accepting rent-stabilized apartments from a Manhattan developer and failing to pay income taxes on rent from a villa in the Dominican Republic, among other charges.

But two parties with direct knowledge of the investigation said Friday's hearing on the new inquiry into Ms. Waters - led by the former federal prosecutor Billy Martin - has concluded without a recommendation that Ms. Waters be sanctioned by the House for wrongdoing. The report could still include findings that she acted inappropriately or unwisely, without recommending that she be sanctioned. The hearing Friday would give Ms. Waters a chance to respond to such allegations in a public way.

Ms. Waters has long defended her actions in late 2008, when she said she merely called then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and requested a meeting on behalf of an organization of minority-owne d banks. During the first inquiry, House investigators suggested there was evidence of wrong-doing, as her meeting ended up focusing largely on a single bank - OneUnited, a minority-owned institution that her husband had served on the board of and at the time still owned stock in. OneUnited ultimately received bailout funds from Treasury.

The hearing Friday could mean an end to the ethics cloud Ms. Waters has been under since 2009, when the allegations about the meeting she requested with the Treasury Department were first reported in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

An ethics committee spokesman on Thursday declined to comment on the matter. A spokesman for Ms. Waters said he could not discuss the details of Friday's hearing.

Obama Hits Back at Romney on 47 Percent Remark


CORAL GABLES, Fla. â€" President Obama took aim at Mitt Romney for his closed-door observation that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government handouts, do not pay income taxes, and will inevitably vote for Mr. Obama.

“When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government,” Mr. Obama said, “my thinking is, maybe you haven't gotten around a lot.”

Speaking at a town-hall meeting here sponsored by the Univision cable network, Mr. Obama said that in his travels around the country, he was convinced that “the American people are the hardest-working people there are. Their problem is not that they're not worki ng hard enough or that they don't want to work, or they're being taxed too little, or that they just want to loaf around and gather government checks.”

“People want a hand up,” Mr. Obama said, “not a handout.”

Mr. Obama's comments were his most extensive, and barbed, response to Mr. Romney's comments, which were videotaped at a Republican fund-raiser in Florida. The president acknowledged that some people abused government largess, but he noted that “there are a bunch of millionaires who aren't paying taxes.”

The Caucus Click: Boehner and Pelosi Set the Stage


TimesCast Politics: The Romney Campaign Tries to Reboot

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Agenda: America\'s Greenest Presidents


What do Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter have in common? They are viewed as environmentally progressive presidents - at least to the 12 groups that ranked them in a survey released this week. Still, the challenges faced by presidents who stand up for the environment have shifted greatly over time, some of those organizations point out, making it hard to compare one leader's achievements with another's.

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Corporate Knights, a media and financial services company that promotes “clean capitalism” for companies, asked 12 leading environmental groups to name the three presidents they felt did the most for t he environment and to rank them from first to third. Point values were assigned to each rank. Theodore Roosevelt was the overwhelming victor, scoring 28 points; Richard Nixon was a distant second with 15; and Jimmy Carter followed with 12.

Perhaps most strikingly, of the 44 presidents who have held office over the last 223 years, only eight received votes. The others, ranked in order, were Barack Obama, Thomas Jefferson, Gerald R. Ford, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, said that Teddy Roosevelt was a predictable top choice. “He really initiated a lot of the conservation programs,” he said, including setting aside dozens of forest preserves for protection as well as wildlife refuges and venerated national parks and monuments like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

To this day, Dr. Zelizer said, Roosevelt remains a popular figure because of his rugged persona as an explorer and a “man's man” who loved the outdoors.

“I think above all, he created an ethic in Americans to visit, explore environments,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, one of the 11 organizations for which Theodore Roosevelt was the top choice.

While memories of Nixon's record (beyond the Watergate scandal) have faded for many Americans, any environmentalist with a sense of history is mindful of the pathbreaking protections he championed, including the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and his signing of the Clean Air Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Mr. Carter wins points for supporting Superfund legislation for the cleanup of toxic contamination and protecting swaths of land in Alaska. Then there were his appeals for energy conservation, said Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute, which was the only group to give Mr. Carter the highest ranking.

In a l andmark television speech in April 1977, Mr. Carter exhorted Americans to rein in their consumption of gasoline and electricity. “We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren,” he said. “We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.”

“No other before or since has asked Americans to consume less energy than they do,” Mr. Engelman said. The pitch was not a popular one, however.

“He was laughed at then, and he is laughed at now,” he said. “No one would have the courage to make that point now.”

Dr. Zelizer argues that land protection was an easier sell for presidents in the not-too-distant past because the goal seemed straightforward and could generate some popular enthusiasm. “Now we're in an era when that enthusiasm has gone.” he said. “A lot of the time, problems are more prevalent in the minds of Americans than the possibilities.”

Today, some major environmental goals - reining in the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, for example - seem more abstract, Mr. Engelman said. Because the goal is mainly to avert disaster for future generations, mustering support is one of the hardest things to do politically, he added.

Another problem today, said Mr. Brune of the Sierra Club, is the blurring of issues, or what he calls “manufactured confusion.”

“You have climate skeptics that are deliberately and intentionally trying to make it appear like a clear environmental issue is up for debate” - even though a scientific consensus exists on human-induced global warming, he said. Such efforts, abetted by money flowing from the coal, oil and gas sectors “pollute the political process,” he said.

Still, Mr. Brune points out that conflicts over the environment have a long history in the United States. At the turn of the last century, “you had railroad interests th at were fighting for more exploitation,” he said. “You had even more crass examples of all of these extractive industries literally buying members of Congress.” The main difference between now and then, he said, is that more industry money is flooding the political scene than ever before.

Mr. Engelman observed that partisanship on environmental matters, with Republicans pitted against environmentally minded Democrats, is a more recent trend. “Much of the environmental legislation that was passed in the 1970s had very bipartisan support,” he said. The pendulum began to shift after 1980, he said, with environmental protections cast by Republicans as a form of regulation and taxing. Yet addressing climate change will require both, he said.

A sharp divide in Congress between Democrats and Republicans and an entrenched aversion to compromise have made it difficult for President Obama to push through - or on the 2012 campaign trail, even mention - some of th e legislation and regulatory steps he favored early in his administration. “If you look at Clinton or Carter or Nixon - every single president was able to sign legislation that Congress passed,” Mr. Brune said. “Go through each one.”

“Obama doesn't have that,” he said. “He has to do it in the face of this head wind from Congress.”

On another level, judging success by markers like pristine forests, clean air and protected whales may be simplistic from today's perspective. The landscape is more complex and more challenging now, Mr. Brune said, although he remains hopeful.

“I like to think that the politicization of energy and environmental issues is a temporary ailment that afflicts our society,” he said.

A Tool for Comparing Post-Law School Prospects


Law schools have been getting a lot of attention lately, and not of the good kind. Too many law school graduates can't find decent-paying, long-term legal jobs and are having trouble paying back their student loans.

To help prospective legal scholars sort out their options, the Web site NerdWallet has introduced an online law school comparison tool. The tool uses employment information provided to the American Bar Association by law schools, as well as salary information gleaned from the law schools themselves. The tool is part of the financial site's new education-related offerings.

The tool allows users to choose up to four schools and - unlike other school ranking site s - lets them compare their stats side by side, said Joseph Audette, vice president of education and financial literacy at NerdWallet. Right now, the tool offers an analysis of 50 top schools, but it will eventually be expanded.

The goal is to help students choose a law school based on what they would like to do afterward, Mr. Audette said, “because the employment situation for law students is pretty challenging right now.”

With a few clicks, you can see the school's average graduating class size; how many students have jobs; how many go to law firms, clerkships or graduate school; and where the graduates end up geographically.

Or users can click on preset headings to see, for instance, the “best” schools in terms of the highest starting salaries for graduates (the University of Michigan, at an average of $128,201 overall), or the school with the best record of placing graduates students in judicial clerkships (Yale, 34 percent of its graduating cla ss).

The tool uses only long-term employment figures, and averages the numbers over two years (2010 and 2011; 2012 data isn't available yet).

Are you considering law school? Take a look at NerdWallet's tool and let us know what you think.

Kaine and Allen Face Off in Debate


A sunny but policy-vague George Allen faced off with a wonkish Tim Kaine on Thursday in a Virginia Senate debate that highlighted the perils of policy specifics when Mr. Kaine, the Democratic candidate, suggested he would entertain a minimum federal tax for all households.

The race for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim Webb, a Democrat, is among the closest in the country. It has not, however, been among the most heated. Two former governors, Mr. Allen, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, have largely waged the careful campaigns of seasoned candidates.

But Mr. Kaine's off-the-cuff suggestion about a minimum tax could heat things up, especially with fresh polling suggesting he may be opening a lead.

The moderator, David Gregory of NBC, pressed both candidates to comment on Mitt Romney's secretly taped comments disparaging the 47 percent of households that pay no federal income taxes as dependent on the government. While Mr. Allen flicked the question away, Mr. Kaine said, “I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone, but I do insist, many of the 47 percent that Governor Romney was going after pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than he does.”

That comment sounded more like conservative Republican sentiments than the moderate Democrat Mr. Kaine is presenting himself as, but it may well find its way into attack ads as the race heads into the homestretch.

Brandi Hoffine, a spokeswoman for the Kaine campaign, said Mr. Kaine was only showing that he would like to pursue a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code in the Senate and is keeping an open mind to any i deas that may come his way.

“You can't just take things off the table. You have to be open to other perspectives and other views,” Ms. Hoffine said

In general, the debate featured two men tackling policy issues with very different approaches. Both candidates railed against automatic defense cuts scheduled to begin in January unless Congress intervenes. But Mr. Kaine laid out a list of alternatives: Allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire on households earning at least $500,000, repeal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and allow the federal government to bargain for lower prescription drug prices for Medicare. With those changes, Congress would have only $23 billion more cuts to shut off the so-called “sequester” - or automatic cuts, he said.

Mr. Allen, who has made those defense cuts the centerpiece of his campaign of late, offered only vague solutions. He said repealing President Obama's health care law would help, although the Congressional Budget O ffice says repeal would raise the deficit over 10 years, not lower it. And he proposed a flat tax that households could voluntarily choose over the existing tax code. Tax analysts say that too would likely increase the deficit by giving taxpayers the ability to choose whichever tax code saved them money.

What he said repeatedly was that he would not entertain any tax increases to solve nation's budget morass or keep the government from heading off a “fiscal cliff” in January, when all Bush-era tax cuts expire and across-the-board spending cuts go into force. He accused Democrats of using the pending defense cuts to force Republicans to bargain over taxes.

“The men and women in our armed forces should never be used as bargaining chips to raise taxes on job-creating small businesses,” he said.

Mr. Allen instead focused on an almost Reagan-like optimism. As he does on the campaign trail, he said he should have the backing of 99 percent of Virginians, a nyone who pays an electric bill, drives a car or has a job. And he concluded his return to the Senate, after a six-year absence, would be about “making sure America is ascending once again and is a land of opportunity once again.”

It\'s Official: Capitol to Display Douglass Statue


The District of Columbia achieved a small victory in the fight for equal representation on Thursday as President Obama signed a law allowing a statute of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass to be displayed in the Capitol.

Congress passed the bill last week allowing the District of Columbia its first statue in the Capitol. In addition to living, breathing representation in the form of two senators and a number of representatives, each state is allotted two statues to represent it in the halls of Congress.

But, as lawmakers had long pointed out, the District of Columbia is not a state.

Though a seemingly minor achievement, it has been years in the making for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's nonvoting representative. She has been fighting to bring the statue, which was completed in 2007, to the Capitol from its current home in a District government building.

Born into slavery in 1818, Douglass escaped as a young man and became a leading abolitionist, speaking and writing about equal rights and advising President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. He died at his home in Washington, D.C., in 1895.

The bronze statute will be placed in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol's visitor center, joining the 18 statues already on display there. The hall itself was named in 2007 in honor of the slaves who helped build the Capitol.

Some New Math for Romney


CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Forget the 47 percent: Mitt Romney is now tossing in the remaining 53.

On Wednesday night, during a candidate forum in Miami, Mr. Romney repeatedly said that his campaign “is about the 100 percent in America.”

The new language, which Mr. Romney has never before used on the campaign trail, is an attempt to take the sting out of secretly recorded remarks that he made a fund-raiser in May, about how 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims” dependent on government help. “My campaign is about the 100 percent in America,” Mr. Romney said.

It represents a change in tone from earlier in the week, when Mr. Romney unapologetically stood by what he had sai d during the fund-raiser, arguing that is was not much different from what he has said in public about the need to create a economy reliant on the free markets, not the government. Now, Mr. Romney is talking about the need to lift Americans out of poverty.

During the candidate forum in Miami, Mr. Romney said “This is a campaign about helping people who need help. And right now the people who are poor in this country need help getting out of poverty.”

The 100 percent word (or, more accurately, number) choice is striking because it evokes the numerical identity politics that took root during the Occupy Wall Street movement this year. Protestors adopted the phrase The 99 percent, suggesting that they wanted to take back the country from the wealthiest 1 percent, of which Mr. Romney is a member.

Even as Mr. Romney aims to be a president for 100 percent of the country, he conceded that he is not likely to win all their hearts.< /p>

“I know that I am not going to get 100 percent of the vote,” he said on Wednesday night.

Clinton to Appear on \'Face the Nation\'


President Bill Clinton plans to return to the Sunday talk-show circuit with an appearance on CBS's “Face the Nation.”

The interview coincides with the annual meeting of Mr. Clinton's philanthropic organization, the Clinton Global Initiative, which convenes in New York on Sunday. President Obama and Mitt Romney both plan to speak at the three-day conference.

Since he delivered a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month, Mr. Clinton has been a featured player on the campaign trail, scheduling visits to key swing states and appearing in campaign ads.

Mr. Clinton's appearance on CBS comes at the height of his popularity. Two-thirds of registered vote rs have a favorable view of the former president, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll - meaning he is more popular now than he has been at any time since he was a presidential candidate 20 years ago.

Mr. Clinton's appearance comes after a rough week for Mr. Romney. Hoping to sharpen the Republican message after the candidate's widely criticized response to the embassy attacks in the Middle East and a damaging Politico report of discord within the campaign, the Romney team instead found itself in damage-control mode, defending comments captured in a leaked video about Americans who feel they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

It has been a year since Mr. Clinton appeared on any of the Sunday shows; he went on “Face the Nation,” NBC's “Meet the Press” and ABC's “This Week” ahead of the Clinton Global Initiative's meeting last September.

Your Worst Financial Mistake


My husband and I have managed, so far, to avoid making a truly devastating financial mistake. I wish I could say this is because we're super savvy about money. But the truth is that, while we are diligent about saving, cautious with debt and try to do our homework on investments, there's a strong element of luck involved.

That's not to say we haven't made boneheaded choices that have hit our bank accounts - sometimes hard. Take my brilliant (not) decision 12 years ago, at the height of the Internet bubble, to put $2,000 in the Janus Mercury fund, which had dazzled us with its soaring performance. (I know, I know! All I can say is that I wasn't alone. At the peak of the dot-com bubble in early 2000, half o f the money flowing into mutual funds went to Janus funds, according to the Times columnist Joe Nocera.)

We all know how that story ended: Mercury burst along with the tech bubble, and so did most of my hard-earned money.

So I was somewhat comforted to read the results of a study just released by the Consumer Federation of America and the financial services firm Primerica, which found that two-thirds of middle-class Americans admit to having made costly financial mistakes.

Sixty-seven percent said that in the past they had made at least one “really bad” financial decision, and nearly half acknowledged making more than one. The median, or typical, cost of these blunders was $5,000, but the average was $23,000 (apparently because a few of those errors were real whoppers).

The analysis is based on a national telephone survey of 2,015 adults, conducted in July by ORC International. The margin of sampling error is plus or m inus 4 percentage points for middle-class queries.

Despite conceding such errors, though, large majorities of those surveyed said they thought they were “good” or “excellent” at managing their finances, like budgeting their income, managing credit card debt and saving for retirement.

Maybe that's because they learned a lesson from their mistakes. (My painful Mercury debacle taught me a hard but important one, about the folly of following the crowd and chasing hot returns.)

Or, maybe they're just all in denial.

What's the worst financial decision you've ever made, and how much did it cost you? Do you still think you're good at handling your finances, despite your mistake?

Romney to Do Bus Tour in Critical State of Ohio


Mitt Romney‘s campaign - which in recent weeks has come under criticism for having a schedule light on public events and heavy on closed door fundraisers - has announced that the candidate will start ramp up his campaign schedule in coming days.

Cue the Ohio bus tour.

On Thursday, Mr. Romney's campaign announced a three-day bus tour with Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney's running mate, through the critical battleground state of Ohio.

Unlike some of Mr. Romney's pervious, highly orchestrated bus tours, however, the Ohio tour has a slightly cobbled-together feel. Mr. Ryan will kick-off the “Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class” bus tour Monday in Lima and continue onto Cincinn ati on Tuesday. From there, Mr. Romney will pick up the tour route, with stops in Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo. It is unclear if the two men will ever appear together.

And fundraising is never far from the surface. Prior finance commitments, for instance, will keep Mr. Romney from spending all three days in Ohio.

Pawlenty Is Leaving Romney Campaign for Lobbying Post


Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, is resigning as a national co-chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign to take a job in Washington as a top lobbyist for a group representing banks and financial companies.

Mr. Palwenty's new role as President and chief executive of the Financial Services Roundtable was announced by the organization Thursday morning. In a statement, the group said that Mr. Pawlenty would step down from his role at Mr. Romney's campaign because the organization is bipartisan.

“My time in public service was rewarding and focused on achieving results,” Mr. Pawlenty said in the statement. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve, but I am now moving on and committed to focusing fully on this new opportunity.”

In a statement issued by Mr. Romney's campaign, Mr. Pawlenty added: “My work with Mitt has been a privilege. Mitt Romney is a truly good man and great leader. As the campaign moves into the home stretch, he has my full support and continued faith in his vision and his policies.”

Mr. Palwenty was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination last year but dropped out of the race early after a disappointing performance at the Iowa straw poll. He endorsed Mr. Romney early in the fall of 2011 and campaigned for him during the height of the primaries.

He was also on the short list to be Mr. Romney's vice-presidential running mate. But despite an aggressive campaigning effort by Mr. Pawlenty earlier this year, Mr. Romney passed him over in favor of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

In a brief interview at the Republican National Co nvention in Tampa, Fla., last month, Mr. Pawlenty played down his role on Mr. Romney's behalf.

“I'm just a volunteer,” he told The Caucus, “so I've got other stuff I've got to do. So as my schedule allows, I'll go out and do surrogate speaking.”

That “other stuff” apparently involved seeking the top job at the roundtable, an organization that seeks to shape federal regulations on behalf of about 100 major financial services companies. The group's Web site says that its mission is to “protect and promote the economic vitality and integrity of its members and the United States financial system.” It has spent $4.7 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year.

The group says it seeks to achieve those goals through “legislative and regulatory advocacy; strong industry reputation of trust and confidence; and premier executive leadership forums.”

In a statement, Mr. Romney praised Mr. Pawlenty as “a dear friend” who brou ght “energy, intelligence and tireless dedication to every enterprise in which he's ever been engaged.”

Mr. Romney said that he regretted Mr. Pawlenty's need to step down from his campaign, but said that “his new position advancing the integrity of our financial system is vital to the future of our country. I congratulate him on his new position and wish him every success in carrying out his new mission.”

Mr. Pawlenty will begin his new role on Nov. 1.

Congressman Selling His House


The appearance of a real-estate listing for the Washington home owned by Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who is on a leave of absence from Congress while under treatment for depression, contributed to speculation on Wednesday that he would not return to finish his term.

The red-brick Victorian house in the upscale Dupont Circle neighborhood went on sale for $2.5 million on Sept. 8. It was not until Wednesday that the news media began linking the listing to Mr. Jackson.

But his office sought to play down the suggestion that the sale was related to Mr. Jackson's future in Congress. “Like millions of Americans, Congressman Jackson and Mrs. Jackson are grappling with soaring health care costs and are selling their residence to help defray costs of their obligations,” a statement issued by his office said.

Mr. Jackson, above, took a medical leave of absence from Congress on June 10, and last month his office announced that he was being treated for Bipolar II depression at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

On Sept. 7, the day before the house went on the market, a spokesman for Mr. Jackson told The Associated Press that Mr. Jackson was “at home in Washington convalescing with his wife and children.”

Mr. Jackson, a Democrat who has represented Chicago's South Side and suburbs in Congress since 1995, bought the home on O Street in 1998, according to property listings on LexisNexis. The house is advertised as having five fireplaces, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two kitchens and a rooftop Jacuzzi.

Thursday Reading: More Expected to Pay Penalty Under Health Law


A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.

Thursday Reading: More Expected to Pay Penalty Under Health Law


A variety of consumer-focused articles appears daily in The New York Times and on our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them together here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit you in your wallet.