Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Regional Conference

Tuesday's announcement that Iraq has invited Syria, Iran and other countries to a regional conference that will be attended by the U.S. was characterized in The Washington Post as "an abrupt shift in policy" by the Bush administration.

Katie Couric on CBS described it as "a major strategy change." ABC's Charles Gibson said it was "a dramatic change in policy." The Associated Press said it was "a diplomatic turnabout."

In fact, the administration has long said it would take part in such a conference at Iraqi invitation. White House Spokesman Tony Snow, for example, said back on December 6 that if the Iraqis convened such a meeting and, "want our help and our participation, we would be happy to do so."

Indeed, the U.S. has already taken part in regional discussions that included Iran and Syria as part of what is called the International Compact on Iraq.

Unhappy Campers

Some Senate Democrats are criticizing their leaders for mismanaging efforts to block the president's troop surge in Iraq. The Capitol Hill newspaper,The Politico, quotes a top Senate Democratic aide as calling the plan by Senators Joe Biden and Carl Levin to revoke the president's war authorization "a mistake," adding, "presidential candidate Joe Biden wanted headlines and got them."

Insiders reportedly fault Biden and Levin for telegraphing their plans to Republicans before Democrats were briefed. Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson said his party's strategy could unfairly hamstring the president and military commanders. And Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold complained the strategy was too timid — saying a vote for a new war authorization resolution would be the same as voting for a new Iraq war.

Carbon Offsets

Yesterday we told you that Al Gore is buying what are called "carbon offsets" to compensate for high energy consumption at his Nashville mansion. He is not the only one.

The Los Angeles Times reports California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are also buying the offsets to make up for their use of private aircraft.

The Times reports a Gulfstream Four like the one owned by Feinstein's husband releases up to 90,000 pounds of carbon dioxide on each cross-country flight — almost double what the average American produces in a full year.

The president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch says politicians should lead by example. And some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of the carbon offsets — saying things like the planting of trees and the use renewable energy may have a limited impact on carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

African-American Support

Just days after the dustup between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns over the Clintons' truthfulness or lack of it, a new Washington Post/ABC news poll finds support for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama sharply increasing among African-Americans.

Obama now leads Senator Clinton 44 to 33 percent among blacks. Polls in December and January showed Clinton with a lead of 60 percent to 20 percent over Obama among blacks. Clinton still has a 36-24 lead over Obama among all of those surveyed. In early January she had a 41-17 lead on Obama.

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.