Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
John McCain scares me: war with Iran edition
If you haven't figured out that John McCain's main interest in life is war (he uses the word "whatever" when talking about the economy, and all of his other domestic proposals are cast-off versions of the words "tax cut...) I'm not sure where you've been hiding. Well, to be fair, you've probably been watching the mainstream media give Johnny Mack the "full Monica," so you're confused. But McCain has uttered some of the most extreme, most frightening statements during this campaign, of which this is the latest:
"There is no circumstance under which the international community could be confident that uranium enrichment or plutonium production activities undertaken by the current government of Iran are purely for peaceful purposes. Given the Iranian regime's history of deception with regard to its nuclear program, its continuing lack of cooperation with the IAEA, its still unacknowledged work on weaponization, its defiance of international norms with regard to support for terrorism and threats toward Israel, and the lack of any serious economic justification for the program in the first place, Iran has forfeited any plausible claim to be pursuing a "peaceful" nuclear energy program. Accordingly, we must insist that the government of Iran permanently suspend its uranium enrichment activity and development of a plutonium production capability."
Come again, grandpa? You're telling us that you don't know jack about the U.S. economy, but you know enough about the Iranian economy and energy sector to know that they have no "serious justification" for wanting nuclear power? Who in the hell are you to tell another country what their electricity needs are? Clearly, McCain knows better. But what he's actually saying in this revealing statement, is that Iran can't spell the word "nuclear" without provoking a President McCain to blow them to hell. Really? So what you're saying is that we're guaranteed to be at war with Iran either before, or certainly if, you become president.

Is anybody paying attention to this guy? The New York Times today seems more preoccupied with how well he cuddles up to his Republican colleagues in congress so he can win the election. And the Times is even looking forward to a McCain administration canoodling with Democrats to stymie the right, with the reporter, Carl Hulse, employing the always handily vague term "some," as in, "this is my opinion but I'm generalizing it to make it seem like somebody credible told it to me":
In fact, some see a potentially divided government, with Mr. McCain on one side and a Democratic Congress on the other, as an opportunity to make major agreements. And that is a prospect that could leave some Republicans now in the McCain campaign camp out of the final picture.
Really, Carl? And who might these "some" be? They don't work for the New York Times, by chance, do they?

Not that there aren't perfectly loud voices screaming at the top of their lungs about a potential U.S. attack on Iran. But most of them point to Mr. Bush, forgetting that apparently, John McCain has sold his proverbial soul to the neocons and war profiteers, and if Bush doesn't get to it, HE will take this country to war with Iran, come hell or high water (hell being the most likely.)

McCain has aligned himself with some of the hardest of the hardcore neocons (many forget that McCain was their original candidate in 2000, before it became clear that Bush would win the nomination, and they switched to him), including Joe Lieberman, for whom war with Iran isn't an option, it's an imperative.

Indeed, it's likely that President Bush's constantly elevated threat posture toward Iran is partly being done in the service of Mr. McCain, who backed down dutifully after the nasty 2000 election and then promptly sucked up to Mr. Bush, I believe in a deal that he believes will make him president with Bush's help. Says retired diplomat Dan Simpson:
... Washington's band of war makers, war profiteers, and their theorist lackeys and flacks might lead our weary country into one more unnecessary war in the Middle East is the experience of the run-up to the Iraq war.

Based on the narrowness of Mr. Bush's Florida "victory" in 2000 and realizing that voters had some basic understanding of Mr. Bush's limited talents, the President's campaign team saw that a second-term victory in 2004 was unlikely unless Mr. Bush was a war president, so the drums began to roll. Iraq appeared increasingly to be cast in the role of loose dog on the parkway and the endless shock and awe began.

Now, roll the clock ahead to the 2008 elections, as seen by a Republican strategist looking to hold onto the White House at almost any cost in spite of the dire state of the economy and of our armed forces.

The Republican candidate is a former Navy pilot and bona fide war hero, albeit his experience is at the tactical level. The Democratic candidate is either young and somewhat inexperienced or a woman who would be hard to mistake for Xena Warrior Princess or G.I. Jane.

Taking America to war again in the final months of the current administration would make the case for electing Mr. McCain - with his white uniform, all those medals, and war-seasoning - just what America needs to lead us in a time of war, gas rationing, and maybe even a draft to soak up all those unemployed from the ruined economy.

What an appealing scenario. How else to get 71-year-old John McCain on the grueling campaign trail one more time other than this prospect of victory? The only question is whether it should be Israel or the United States that bombs the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz to set off the war.

The skeptic says that the Bush Administration couldn't be that irresponsible. But how badly do the Republicans not want to relinquish the White House? How much do they not want a reckoning of the real costs of their eight years in power to the American public?
The answer: very, very badly.

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posted by JReid @ 2:44 PM  
Concrete, irrefutable proof that Tom Cruise is gay

He dated Cher:
"It was a long, long time ago and neither one of us ever talked about it and I don't know why," she said. "He didn't mention it and I didn't mention it," Cher told "Entertainment Tonight."

Apparently Cher and Cruise dated between 1983 and 1986, after "Risky Business" and before "The Color of Money." Cher now says she's troubled by what she sees about Cruise in the press, referring to his involvement with the Church of Scientology.
Cher, guys ... he dated Cher... what else do you need? Has this guy got to marry Liza Minelli?


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posted by JReid @ 2:12 PM  
I think they call it "churzpah" ...
So Karl Rove, magically transformed from a lying, scheming, one step ahead of the jailer Bush operative to a respectable columnist and political pundit -- overnight! -- is now dispensing some advice to his new charge, John McCain, via the newly Foxified Wall Street Journal. First, the MacGyver story:
Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complemented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.
All that's left is John McCain making a flying machine out of his pants and, on the strength of his lung power alone, blowing himself and his fellow captive clean out of Vietnam... Next, Rove throws out some ideas for our boys down in Gitmo:
Another McCain story, somewhat better known, is about the Vietnamese practice of torturing him by tying his head between his ankles with his arms behind him, and then leaving him for hours. The torture so badly busted up his shoulders that to this day Mr. McCain can't raise his arms over his head.
Are you taking notes, CIA interrogators...???

Finally, we have Cindy McCain as Angelina Jolie:
n 1991 Cindy McCain was visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh when a dying infant was thrust into her hands. The orphanage could not provide the medical care needed to save her life, so Mrs. McCain brought the child home to America with her. She was met at the airport by her husband, who asked what all this was about.

Mrs. McCain replied that the child desperately needed surgery and years of rehabilitation. "I hope she can stay with us," she told her husband. Mr. McCain agreed. Today that child is their teenage daughter Bridget.

I was aware of this story. What I did not know, and what I learned from Doris, is that there was a second infant Mrs. McCain brought back. She ended up being adopted by a young McCain aide and his wife...
Well I'll bet Karl Rove didn't put together a push polling smear campaign to tell South Carolina voters in 2000 that the goodly McCain aide had an illegitimate black child. Nope. Rove reserved that tactic for McCain, the man whose specialness he's touting today, in order to throw the election to George W. Bush.

"I was aware of the story..." give me a break!

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posted by JReid @ 1:39 PM  
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Wright, meet bus
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, like Tavis Smiley, is about to learn a powerful lesson about Black America: the consensus inside the community, to the extent there is a consensus, can turn on a dime. Black America was skeptical of Barack Obama, until it wasn't. Black America was with Hillary, until they weren't. And Black America supported Rev. Jeremiah Wright against the media, until yesterday. In the wake of his gratuitous performances in Detroit and Washington, Wright will soon learn that he went a bridge too far. (As I keep saying, he should have left it at Bill Moyers.) And given the choice between salvaging Jeremiah Wright and salvaging a potential President Barack Obama, I think it's a safe bet that all over America tonight, most Black Americans are choosing Barack.

Update: Youtuber Obamamania mashes up Jeremiah's revenge, featuring scenes from the Barack-Wright divorce:


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posted by JReid @ 6:41 PM  
The Wright controversy comes full circl
"An insult to me, and a disrespect to what I'm trying to do in this campaign..."

You might say Barack Obama just couldn't take it anymore. The Democratic front runner just finished making a statement and taking questions on the subject of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who horrified the media and Obama supporters Sunday with a speech in which he made fun of the Kennedys, following by a talk at the National Press Club Monday in which, most pundits agree, he pitched his former parishioner directly under the bus -- the wheels, not the tall gap underneath. Well today, Barack isn't the only one feeling the wheels on his back.

I think this has been the single best thing to happen to Obama in weeks.

Why? Because after watching his pastor seize the spotlight for two days, after an absolutely wonderful interview on PBS that should have ended the matter, Barack Obama has a license to get mad. And in getting mad at Jeremiah Wright, he can finally give the teeming masses of the mainstream media what they are downright demanding -- a no-holds-barred, unambiguous denunciation and rejection of Jeremiah Wright. Like it or not, Obama had to do it, eventually. More importantly, it was pretty obvious from his tone of voice that at this point, he also wanted to do it, which was not true during that speech in Philadelphia. The very personal breach between the two men puts real, not artificial or political, distance between Obama and what clearly would be his biggest nemesis in the campaign. It still probably will be. The right will not be mollified by anything Barack does. they will still try to hang him with Wright's statements, right into November. But Obama has now gotten license to jettison Wright, and with him, the fear factor that had begun to cloud his campaign. And when I say fear, I mean middle America's fear of Barack Obama, and the possibility that he's not "one of us... he's one of them..."

So there we are. Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright have thrown each other overboard.

Can we please go back to politics now?

Update: Tamryn Hall, MSNBC's late morning anchor (who has the best haircut in the business, by the way,) just finished explaining the ABCs of church in Chicago to Andrea Mitchell.

Hall is from Chicago, and attended Trinity Church, just like Obama. She just backed up Obama's contention that he didn't see the side of Wright that we all saw on Monday. She also pointed out that for Blacks who move to Chicago, there are two major churches they are often told are the ones to attend, and one is Trinity. She made the common sense point that just because the minister marries you and performs the baptisms of your kids, doesn't make them your spiritual advisor. And no, it also doesn't mean you go to church every single Sunday. I can tell you that I have no relationship whatsoever with the minister who married Jason and me. Ditto with the Episcopalian priest who baptised my daughter. And while I am a member of one of those major, social center churches Tamryn spoke of, here in Miami, I couldn't tell you everything that my very prominent pastor believes, nor could I tell you what he preaches every week.

Oh, common sense ...


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posted by JReid @ 1:38 PM  
News from the Bush boom: Big Oil lovin' it!
How are you enjoying those $3.70 a gallon gas prices? Well, the oil companies are laughing all the way to the bank:
LONDON (AP) -- BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Europe's two biggest oil producers, posted forecast-busting first-quarter earnings on Tuesday thanks to record crude oil prices that are expected to bolster profits across the industry.
The combined profits of $17 billion reignited calls for a windfall tax on oil profits as consumers struggle to pay for food and fuel.

... BP posted a 63 percent surge in first-quarter net profit to $7.6 billion (4.9 billion euros), while Shell reported a 25 percent rise, to a record $9.08 billion (5.81 billion euros).

Revenue at BP jumped 44 percent to $89.2 billion (57.1 billion euros), while sales at Shell soared 55 percent to $114 billion (72.95 billion euros).

Last week ConocoPhillips reported a 16 percent rise in net income to $4.14 billion. Like BP and Shell, the third biggest U.S. producer far outpaced industry expectations. More big profits are expected from the biggest two U.S. companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., when they report first-quarter earnings later this week.

Crude oil hit $111.80 per barrel during the quarter, while gas jumped an average of 22 percent. Crude has pushed even higher since, reaching a record $119.93 per-barrel this week.

BP shares jumped 5.7 percent to 611.5 pence ($12.06, while Shell rose 5.2 percent to 26.03 euros ($40.51).
Mazletov! Meanwhile, home prices are plunging, foreclosures are soaring, and President Bush held a press conference this morning, sparred with reporters and blamed Congress for everything. News at 11.


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posted by JReid @ 11:47 AM  
The NYDN's Errol Louis uncovers what could be a Clinton dirty trick on the Rev. Wright front:
Shortly before he rose to deliver his rambling, angry, sarcastic remarks at the National Press Club Monday, Wright sat next to, and chatted with, Barbara Reynolds.

A former editorial board member at USA Today, she runs something called Reynolds News Services and teaches ministry at the Howard University School of Divinity. (She is an ordained minister).

It also turns out that Reynolds - introduced Monday as a member of the National Press Club "who organized" the event - is an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a blog linked to her Web site- Reynolds said in a February post: "My vote for Hillary in the Maryland primary was my way of saying thank you" to Clinton and her husband for the successes of Bill Clinton's presidency.

The same post criticized Obama's "Audacity of Hope" theme: "Hope by definition is not based on facts," wrote Reynolds. It is an emotional expectation. Things hoped for may or may not come. But help based on experience trumps hope every time."

In another blog entry, Reynolds gives an ever-sharper critique of Obama: "It is a sad testimony that to protect his credentials as a unifier above the fray, the senator is fueling the media characterization that Rev. Dr. Wright is some retiring old uncle in the church basement."

I don't know if Reynolds' eagerness to help Wright stage a disastrous news conference with the national media was a way of trying to help Clinton - my queries to Reynolds by phone and e-mail weren't returned yesterday - but it's safe to say she didn't see any conflict between promoting Wright and supporting Clinton. ...

Here's Reynolds' blog, which strangely enough, doesn't use the spacebar between paragraphs... Reading through a March 17 post on Rev. Wright, you get the clear impression that she is a supporter of the pastor, if not of his parishioner, Obama. An example (with paragraph breaks provided for your amusement):
Pastor Wright is being brutally trashed for his controversial sermons. The mainstream media are the guilty culprit in all of this partly because of ignorance of the historic role of the Black Church, which was born out of the crucible of slavery, lynching and Jim Crow, If those injustices had not been raised with passion, blacks would still be on the plantation, a point that Trinity’s new pastor Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, nicely raised in an interview on CNN.

Secondly, Pastor Wright seems so radical because so many churches aren’t saying anything. Instead of preaching and organizing against the unjust war in Iraq that has claimed more than 4,000 U.S. lives and 30,000 Iranian lives, the cradle to grave prison industrial pipeline, inadequate education, and other social ills, so many mega-church leaders are hooping about prosperity and allowing politicians drive through photo ops in their churches without holding their feet to the fire.

Wright stands out because so many others are sitting down. There are not many churches where the social gospel of Dr. King is preached. The media have watered down the volumes of King’s sermonic contributions to "I have a Dream," although King spoke out strongly against such issues as the Vietnam War just as Wright is campaigning against the horrors of the ill-fated war in Iraq today.
I have no way of knowing what Ms. Reynolds' motives were in organizing the Wright appearance in D.C. But I think it's safe to say that she is a strong advocate of his, and of the idea of confrontational Black politics, which puts her in the same camp as people like Tavis Smiley and Al Sharpton: pro-Wright, not so much on Barack...


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posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
Monday, April 28, 2008
Pentagon suspends propaganda generals
For now, the Pentagon has shelved its program sending retired generals to the major TV and cable networks as propagandists for the war. Official reason: "internal review." Unoficial reason: New York Times...


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posted by JReid @ 4:12 PM  
Happy to hear...
Aaron Brown will be returning to TV, on PBS...


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posted by JReid @ 4:07 PM  
Larry Korb should know
Above: a picture you won't find of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity,
Dick Cheney or any of the chicken hawks attacking Jeremiah Wright
and questioning his patriotism.

I'm privileged to know Lawrence Korb, who served as undersecretary of defense for manpower during the Reagan administration and who now is a senior fellow at the Democrat-leaning Center for American Progress. Dr. Korb remains a Republican, if an iconoclastic one on the subject of Iraq, and he is, in my experience, the smartest analyst on the subject of the war. I met him in December 2003 during a brief journalism fellowship in Maryland, and he was my number one "go to guy" on Iraq when I was with Radio One. I say that to say that Korb's opinion is one I deeply respect. So when I noticed that it is he who co-authored (with fellow military veteran and CAP staffer Ian Moss -- Korb is a Navy man, Moss a former Marine,) this editorial, I took particular notice. So should you:
In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, who has been in the news for comments he made over the last three decades.
The two men go on to disagree with some of Wright's statements, but they add a very important caveat:
... Some of the Wright's comments are inexcusable and inappropriate and should be condemned, but in calling him "unpatriotic," let us not forget that this is a man who gave up six of the most productive years of his life to serve his country.

How many of Wright's detractors, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly to name but a few, volunteered for service, and did so under the often tumultuous circumstances of a newly integrated armed forces and a society in the midst of a civil rights struggle? Not many.

While words do count, so do actions.

Let us not forget that, for whatever Rev. Wright may have said over the last 30 years, he has demonstrated his patriotism.
Thank you, Dr. Korb.


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posted by JReid @ 3:48 PM  
Let Wright be Wright
MSNBC and their regular contributors from the print media are in full lather over Rev. Jeremiah Wright's appearances on PBS, in front of the Detroit branch of the NAACP over the weekend (transcript here), and at the National Press Club this morning. "Why doesn't he just stay away!" moaned Chris Matthews. "How much does this hurt Barack Obama!?" quizzed Andrea Mitchell, and the morning anchors have been filling in the angst gap all morning and afternoon long. He's unrepentant! they're saying. And it burns... He's making more sound bytes to use against Obama! Hooray!!!

Will someone phone the media and inform them that Rev. Wright is not on the ballot in November, nor is he controllable by the Obama campaign? The worst thing about Wright's reemergence, while it has shown him to be a full human being, and a thoughtful, intelligent one at that (who also served in the military for six years, during the same period when Dick Cheney was chalking up six draft deferments to get out of going to Vietnam) and in that way has be rehabilitative, is that it has given the annoying chattering classes yet another chance to bray at Obama that he must, once and for all, distance himself from Wright, eject him from the island, and wrap himself in the biggest goddamned ... ooh ... let's try that again ... God Bless America flag he can find at Costco.

Clearly, the media will never walk away from the Wright sideshow. They're just enjoying it too much. But Obama must find away to walk away, and to make it clear that it is his name, and his beliefs, that will be on the ballot in November.

The good news for Barack is that Camp Clinton doesn't dare touch this one, given their side's already diminishing reputation with Black voters. It will be left to right wing talk radio and the GOP to join the media in keeping this dog of a story alive.

The bad news is that the story will stay alive. It just taps too deeply into white America's most primal fear about black people, and particularly black men: that they haven't gotten over those 400 odd years of slavery, Jim Crow and lynching ... and they want revenge. That's why the John Stewart joke about enslaving white people was so poignant. It's why white pundits are all but foaming at the mouth demanding that Obama begin mouthing the safe platitudes about the greatness of America that they are used to. And it's why Rush Limbaugh on his show today was sputtering about blacks demanding "100 years of payback!" and reparations! if the U.S. were to apologize for slavery. Even in Jefferson's time, white people feared that one day, blacks would exact their revenge on them, perhaps violently. That's why the repression of blacks after the civil war, including their right to vote, was so urgent, and why the most vicious, official violence against blacks dragged on into the latter part of the 20th century. (The same fears coursed through South Africa in the waning days of apartheid in South Africa.) Only now, the fear is economic -- reparations, economic advantage via affirmative action, etc., and it is psychic -- "they'll just hold it over my head forever!"

It's also irrational. And it suggests that perhaps African-Americans aren't the only ones walking around with a chip on their shoulder regarding race.

Did I mention that the Rev. is writing a book?


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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Covering up the cost
Support the troops? Not in the Bush administration...

The Bush administration has a long, sorry history of covering up the costs of the war in Iraq, from their "emergency appropriations" that feed the financial costs piecemeal to the Congress and the American people, to their denial of press coverage of the flag draped coffins of our veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan (or at their funerals), to, apparently, boldfaced attempts to downplay the horrors of war's aftermath for the men and women returning from service.

The latest outrage, which you might have heard on Olbermann's show last week:
WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.

Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.

"Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."
So what did Dr. Katz do?
A number of Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. A e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco starts with "Shh!" and claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment.

"Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asks. ...

...Another e-mail said an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day — and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide.
The former VA Secretary, James Peak had testified before Congress in February that just 144 vets had committed suicide between 2001 and 2005. That's a hell of a difference in scale.

Two veterans groups, including the IAVA, are suing the Veterans Administration over their handling of returning troops' care (including average 180 day wait times for suicidal patients to see a psychiatrist.) According to a recent study by the RAND Corp:
[an estimated] 300,000 U.S. troops — about 20 percent of those deployed — are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The saddest part is, the Bush administration (and their sycophant followers online and in talk radio, plus their acolytes like Joe Lieberman and John McCain,) are willing to feed our finest young men and women into the grinder, slogging on in a war that was long-since over, but they haven't the slightest interest in what happens to them when, or if, they come home.


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posted by JReid @ 5:49 PM  
Thank you, Bill Moyers
PBS' Bill Moyers conducted a thoughtful, intelligent interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright last night that yielded some interesting information, and finally fleshed out the man who has become a media caricature of the ultimate Scary Black Man.

Who knew that Wright, a former Marine and Navy medic, once tended to then President Lyndon Johnson, which is how he met Moyers, who was Johnson's press secretary (Moyers proves, unlike Stephanopoulos, that it IS possible to go from political flak to serious journalist with your integrity in tact.)

That was fascinating information for me, as was the overall story of Wright's ascent to the ministry. He is clearly a serious person with serious ideas, not the cook that talking airheads like Tucker Carlson pretend he is, based on their exhaustive, 30-second knowledge of him.

And Moyers, thankfully, played longer clips of the now infamous sermon snippets that are burning up "the Youtube," and which will form the basis of the GOP war against Barack Obama and the Democratic Party's nominees down-ticket this fall. I hope it will be a revelation to many recalcitrant white voters to find that when Wright uttered the words "God damn America," he was speaking in a fuller context of "governments that can fail and that can lie," and should not be worshipped as if they are God (I'm talking to you, GOP...) and that when he said that on 9/11, "America's chickens [came] home to roost," he was citing a white ambassador, Edward Peck, who served during the Reagan administration. He even says, "that's a white ambassador who says that, not Jeremiah Wright..."

I doubt that any of this will move the mainstream media, which now has it's narrative, and won't dare change it, lest they look stupid, or worse, wrong. They will zero in on the part of the interview where Wright appears to praise Louis Farrakhan for the work he does in the community (next big Youtube clip: "Farrakhan is like E.F. Hutton: when he talks, Black folk listen." I guarantee it. Never mind that, as the WaPo's Colbert King points out in a column today, Hillary Clinton has someone in her camp who's much closer to Farrakhan than either Wright or Barack Obama, and he's a white guy named Ed Rendell...) And they'll continue to harp on what Dan Abrams insists was Wright "throwing Barack Obama under the bus" by saying that Obama, as a politician, does the things that politicians do.

Well knock me over with a feather.

Mostly, the MSM won't be satisfied because Wright did not subject himself to a harangue by one of the pit bull "journalists" nursed by cable news, whose job is not so much to probe, as to accost, their subjects. "He wasn't asked the tough questions," they'll say; questions like, "why do you hate America?", "how can you utter the words "God damn America" from the pulpit?", "would you stay in a church if YOUR pastor uttered words that sound to so many like unpatriotic and racist rants?", "You were a Marine, were you loyal to America then?" and of course, "Do you understand why so many Americans are offended by the words you used, and do you want to take this opportunity to apologize to them?"

Had Stephanopoulos gotten his hands on Wright, he might even have asked him whether he's ever worn a flag pin...

Oh well. At the end of the day, I am grateful to PBS for continuing to provide a platform for Mr. Moyers, who is one of the last remaining Big Men in news. Good for him, and good for Jeremiah Wright, who represented himself well last night. Members of the media, and the public, will have to be left to their own judgment.



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posted by JReid @ 11:13 AM  
Friday, April 25, 2008
Rush Limbaugh: dreaming of riots in Denver
Fat bastard

I listened to a bit of Rush Limbaugh's show today, and was struck by the extent to which he seems determined to fight John McCain to the bitter end, ridiculing McCain for his (tepid) opposition to the North Carolina Republican Party's nasty, Jeremiah Wright-centered ad campaign. But Limbaugh's other theme today was that his so-called "operation chaos" was having an impact, by "keeping the Democratic primary going" so that the Clintons can do what he feels McCain and the GOP will not: "bloody up Obama."

OK. Well guess what else El Rushbo wants his "operation chaos" to do...
DENVER -- Talk show host Rush Limbaugh is sparking controversy again after he made comments that appear to call for riots in Denver during the Democratic National Convention this summer.

He said the riot would ensure a Democrat is not elected as president, and his listeners have a responsibility to make sure it happens.

"Riots in Denver, the Democrat Convention would see to it that we don't elect Democrats," Limbaugh said during Wednesday's radio broadcast. He then went on to say that's the best thing that could happen to the country.

Limbaugh cited Al Sharpton, saying the Barack Obama supporter threatened to superdelegates that "there's going to be trouble" if the presidency is taken from Obama.

Several callers called in to the radio show to denounce Limbaugh's comments, when he later stated, "I am not inspiring or inciting riots, I am dreaming of riots in Denver."

Limbaugh said with massive riots in Denver, which he called part of "Operation Chaos," the people on the far left would look bad.

"There won't be riots at our convention," Limbaugh said of the Republican National Convention. "We don't riot. We don't burn our cars. We don't burn down our houses. We don't kill our children. We don't do half the things the American left does."...
Limbaugh went on to say that "riots in Denver, at the Democratic Convention will see to it we don't elect Democrats. And that's the best damn thing that can happen to this country, as far as I can think." Though later, he began to downplay his comments, perhaps realizing, even with his drug-addled brain, that what he said amounted to incitement to riot.

Well too late, fat boy. The story is all over the Denver media. And as someone who grew up in Denver (from age 2 to age 17) let me invite Rush's flabby, pasty ass to come to the Mile High City and make his threats to wreck it in person. I dare you.


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posted by JReid @ 5:54 PM  
McCainations: New Orleans
John McCain to New Orleans: "Never again! ... and no money for you, either..."

It's all well and good for John McCain to try and help himself by throwing George W. Bush under the bus in New Orleans on the issue of the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, and to try and boost his support by talking about ... rebuilding, not rebuilding the Ninth Ward, or whatever... but there's the small matter of McCain's on record on New Orleans to deal with:
[from Mother Jones] ... McCain's record on Hurricane Katrina suggests that he was part of the problem, not the solution. McCain was on Face the Nation on August 28, 2005, as Katrina gathered in the Gulf Coast. He said nothing about it. One day later, when Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, McCain was on a tarmac at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, greeting President Bush with a cake in celebration of McCain's 69th birthday. Three days later, with the levees already breached and New Orleans filling with water, McCain's office released a three-sentence statement urging Americans to support the victims of the hurricane.

Though McCain issued a statement the next week calling on Congress to make sacrifices in order to fund recovery efforts, he was quoted in The New Leader on September 1 cautioning against over-spending in support of Katrina's victims. "We also have to be concerned about future generations of Americans," he said. "We're going to end up with the highest deficit, probably, in the history of this country."

That attitude was borne out in McCain's actions and votes. Forty Senators and 100 members of Congress visited New Orleans before he did; he finally got there in March 2006. He voted against establishing a Congressional commission to examine the Federal, State, and local responses to Katrina in med-September 2005. He repeated that vote in 2006. He voted against allowing up to 52 weeks of unemployment benefits to people affected by the hurricane, and in 2006 voted against appropriating $109 billion in supplemental emergency funding, including $28 billion for hurricane relief.

Shortly after the disaster in New Orleans, McCain did introduce a bill that sought to improve communications mechanisms for first-responders and authorities. The bill failed to go anywhere, and McCain later voted against other bills that had similar provisions.
... Maybe McCain should have taken Lieberman down there to whisper some corrections into his ear...


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posted by JReid @ 10:29 AM  
Wright speaks out
Rev. Jeremiah Wright gives his first television interview since the Youtube clips heard round the world, sitting down with PBS' Bill Moyers. PBS has released a trio of clips:

Part two:

Part three:

The Moyers interview airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST.

The talking heads are decrying Wright's daring to speak, even calling him "Obama's Bill Clinton" this morning on MSNBC. It's typical of a media that in its own mind has dismissed Wright as an untouchable, unreconcilable racist America-hater, based on hearing about 1 minute of his sermons. Interesting that the MSM never dismissed Jerry Falwell or John Hagee in similar fashion...

Wright speaks at the National Press Club next week.


posted by JReid @ 10:01 AM  
Here we go...
Three NYC detectives have been acquitted on all charges, including manslaughter for two of them, in the "50 shots" death of would-be bridgegroom Sean Bell.
Three detectives were found not guilty Friday morning on all charges in the November, 2006, shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens.

The verdict prompted several supporters of Mr. Bell to storm out of the courtroom, and screams could be heard in the hallway moments later.The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a pack courtroom and was heard by, among others, the slain man’s parents and his fiancee. About 150 Bell supporters had been gathered outside the Queens Criminal Court building before the verdict, handing out leaflets.

The seven-week trial, which ended April 14, was heard by Justice Arthur J. Cooperman of State Supreme Court in Queens. The defendants waived their right to a jury in January, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off with Friday’s verdict.The detectives were charged collectively with committing eight crimes amid the 50 gunshots that brought worldwide attention. Detectives Isnora and Oliver faced the most charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison; felony assault, first and second degree; and a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment, with a possible one-year sentence. Detective Oliver also faces a second count of first-degree assault. Detective Marc Cooper was charged only with two counts of reckless endangerment.

During the 26 days of testimony, the prosecution sought to show, with an array of 50 witnesses, that the shooting was the act of a frightened, even enraged group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two and, in suspecting Mr. Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, quickly got in over their heads.

“We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours,” said an assistant district attorney, Charles A. Testagrossa, in his closing arguments. “Not to risk our lives to protect their own.”

The defense, through weeks of often heated cross-examinations, their own witnesses and the words of the detectives themselves, portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a nonetheless justified confrontation, with Detective Isnora having what it called solid reasons to believe he was the only thing standing between Mr. Bell’s car and a drive-by shooting around the corner. ...
The defense argument won. Now, New York City is bracing for the reaction (and the Sharpton). It will be interesting to see if the reaction is any different because two of the cops are Black ... Meanchilw, the Daily News' Denis Hamil talkes to a couple of lawyers who fault the prosecution. An interesting piece of news:
Another lawyer, who preferred to remain nameless, who used to work for the Queens district attorney's office, said politics is the only reason the case was brought to trial.

He said there was an angry split in the Queens DA's office over bringing an indictment. One faction led by Jack Ryan, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's top aide, argued that there wasn't enough evidence. The other faction said prosecutors owed it to Sean Bell's loved ones, the shooting victims and "the community."

"Traditionally, the Queens DA's office assembled their best ADAs and made them build a great defense of the suspect," the lawyer said. "If the defense was stronger than the prosecution's case, you didn't go into the grand jury. Judging by his own admission during summation that he could not vouch for some of his own witnesses, it's difficult to believe that [lead prosecutor Charles] Testagrossa could have analyzed this case and come away convinced the prosecution had a more compelling case than the defense."
As awful it is for Bell's family and fiancee, the result here is not much of a surprise. Police officers are rarely convicted in shooting cases like this one, since their lattitude on the use of force is so broad, and juries tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, particularly if the defense can get a jury, frankly, that's mostly non-Black. [Sidebar: the verdicts in this case came from a judge. Apparently the defendants waived their right to a jury trial.]

Just keeping it real.

Update: MSNBC just showed a growing crowd outside the Queens courtroom. A Sharpton appearance is imminent, apparently.

Update 2: Mayor Bloomberg and police chief Ray Kelly have issued statements on the verdicts. Bloomberg's reads in part:
There are no winners in a trial like this. An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father, and a mother and a father lost their son. No verdict could ever end the grief that those who knew and loved Sean Bell suffer. Judge Cooperman’s responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority. Today’s decision is no different. There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse – those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it. We have come too far as society – and as a City – to be dragged back to those days.
And Kelly wouldn't comment on the verdicts, but did react to the gathering protests:

I cannot make any comment on the verdict because any disciplinary action that might emanate from this case will ultimately come before me. We have been asked by the U.S. attorney to hold up any disciplinary proceedings until they make a determination whether or not they are going to be involved in this matter. So we’ll await word from the U.S. attorney before we will proceed with any formal investigation.

There have been no problems. Obviously there will be some people who are disappointed with the verdict. We understand that. We have had no history of violence since this incident began as far as the vigils, the memorial services are concerned. We don’t anticipate violence but we are prepared for any contingency.

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posted by JReid @ 9:28 AM  
Three bites of the apple
Having failed to complete a single major prosecution in the so-called "war on terror" since 9/11, the Bush justice department will grind away at the six remaining members of the Liberty City Seven, trying the six for a third time, after two hung juries. The foreman of jury #2 has said, "don't bother", but there's nothing to stop the JD from shopping for jury after jury after jury until they find one filled with enough Bush Kool-Aid to convict. Meanwhile, the government is continuing its push to deport the one member of this hapless crew who was actuallly acquitted by a jury of his peers. From the Herald story:
Six Miami men who survived two mistrials will be tried for a third time on terrorism charges in an unprecedented federal case.
But the jury foreman in the retrial that deadlocked last week questioned the prosecution's decision on Wednesday to retry the Liberty City defendants again, saying it would probably lead to a third mistrial. They were mainly charged with conspiring to assist al Qaeda in a government sting operation.

In the undercover investigation, the FBI recorded the defendants as they pledged their allegiance to al Qaeda in a March 2006 oath led by an FBI informant. The informant, an Arabic man who went by the name Mohammad, posed as a financier for the global terrorist organization.

Prosecutor Richard Gregorie said Wednesday the U.S. attorney's office decided to pursue the third trial because the ringleader, Narseal Batiste, was a dangerous man whose mission was to ''kill all the devils'' in a war against the United States -- beginning with the destruction of the Sears Tower in Chicago, then FBI buildings.

But the jury foreman in the second trial, who did not want to be identified, said the prosecution's conspiracy case wasn't strong enough and that jurors would likely deadlock again on their fate.

''I'm in disbelief they are going for a third trial,'' said the foreman, who contacted The Miami Herald after the government's announcement was reported on the paper's webpage on Wednesday. ``I'm afraid if they go for a third trial the jurors will hang or they will have the same issues we did.''

The foreman said the vast majority of jurors in the retrial wanted to convict Batiste and his alleged second in command, Patrick Abraham, on the central charges of conspiring to provide ''material support'' to al Qaeda in 2006.

But almost all wanted to acquit defendants Naudimar Herrera and Rotschild Augustine, he said.

The jurors split down the middle on the two other defendants, Burson Augustin and Stanley Grant Phanor, he said.

The foreman said the basic problem with the government's case was the lack of evidence to prove all six defendants had the will to carry out a terrorism plot , noting investigators found no explosives, weapons, ammunition or terrorist blueprints on them after their arrests in June 2006. He also said the jurors struggled with the FBI's undercover operation, in which agents used an Arabic informant posing as an al Qaeda representative to test the resolve of the men. ...

I feel safer. Do you feel safer?


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posted by JReid @ 9:07 AM  
The Clyburn smackdown
House majority whip James Clyburn,one of the most respected members of Congress, rips Hillary a new one in a Reuters interview:

“Scurrilous” and “disingenuous” were among the words a top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives used on Thursday to describe Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics in her bid to defeat Barack Obama for their party’s presidential nomination.

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn, of South Carolina and the highest ranking black in Congress, also said he has heard speculation that Clinton is staying in the race only to try to derail Obama and pave the way for her to make another White House run in 2012.

“I heard something, the first time yesterday (in South Carolina), and I heard it on the (House) floor today, which is telling me there are African Americans who have reached the decision that the Clintons know that she can’t win this. But they’re hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win” in November, Clyburn told Reuters in an interview. ...

Then he went after Clinton on her push to count Florida and Michigan:

“I think it’s so disingenuous … (adviser James) Carville and Sen. Clinton were all on TV. I’ve seen them two or three times this week, talking about counting Florida and Michigan.”

Obama did not campaign in those states because the Democratic Party said Florida and Michigan wouldn’t be included in the formal tally for the nomination. “Her name was the only one on the ticket in Michigan and still 42, 43 percent of the vote was against her,” Clyburn said.

Still, Clyburn said “I don’t think she ought to drop out.”

But he added, “There’s a difference between dropping out and raising all this extraneous scurrilous stuff about the guy (Obama). Just run your campaign … you don’t have to drop out to be respectful of other people.”

Ouch... Then it was Bill's turn, courtesy of the New York Times:
In an interview with The New York Times late Thursday, Mr. Clyburn said Mr. Clinton’s conduct in this campaign had caused what might be an irreparable breach between Mr. Clinton and an African-American constituency that once revered him. “When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar,” Mr. Clyburn said. “I think black folks feel strongly that that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation.”
Mr. Clyburn added that there appeared to be an almost “unanimous” view among African-Americans that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were “committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win.”

Mr. Clyburn was heavily courted by both campaigns before South Carolina’s primary in January. But he stayed neutral, and continues to, vowing that he would not say or do anything that might influence the outcome of the race. He said he remains officially uncommitted as a superdelegate and has no immediate plans to endorse either candidate.
At one point before the South Carolina primary, Mr. Clyburn publicly urged Mr. Clinton to “chill a little bit.”

Asked Thursday whether the former president heeded his advice, Mr. Clyburn said “Yeah, for three or four weeks or so. Or maybe three or four days.”

Ouch again! It's getting tight for the former president, who I think has officially lost his Black pass. (Hillary never really had one, so she might not be feeling as much pain...)

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posted by JReid @ 9:07 AM  
Thursday, April 24, 2008
What the Pentagon is hiding
The Washington Post takes on the Pentagon's continued policy of hiding the flag draped coffins of Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties from the American people. Here's Dana Milbank:
Lt. Col. Billy Hall, one of the most senior officers to be killed in the Iraq war, was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon doesn't want you to know that.

The family of 38-year-old Hall, who leaves behind two young daughters and two stepsons, gave their permission for the media to cover his Arlington burial -- a decision many grieving families make so that the nation will learn about their loved ones' sacrifice. But the military had other ideas, and they arranged the Marine's burial yesterday so that no sound, and few images, would make it into the public domain.

That's a shame, because Hall's story is a moving reminder that the war in Iraq, forgotten by much of the nation, remains real and present for some. Among those unlikely to forget the war: 6-year-old Gladys and 3-year-old Tatianna. The rest of the nation, if it remembers Hall at all, will remember him as the 4,011th American service member to die in Iraq, give or take, and the 419th to be buried at Arlington. Gladys and Tatianna will remember him as Dad.

The two girls were there in Section 60 yesterday beside grave 8,672 -- or at least it appeared that they were from a distance. Journalists were held 50 yards from the service, separated from the mourning party by six or seven rows of graves, and staring into the sun and penned in by a yellow rope. Photographers and reporters pleaded with Arlington officials.

"There will be a yellow rope in the face of the next of kin," protested one photographer with a large telephoto lens.

"This is the best shot you're going to get," a man from the cemetery replied.

"We're not going to be able to hear a thing," a reporter argued.

"Mm-hmm," an Arlington official answered.

The distance made it impossible to hear the words of Chaplain Ron Nordan, who, an official news release said, was leading the service. Even a reporter who stood surreptitiously just behind the mourners could make out only the familiar strains of the Lord's Prayer. Whatever Chaplain Nordan had to say about Hall's valor and sacrifice were lost to the drone of airplanes leaving National Airport.

It had the feel of a throwback to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, when the military cracked down on photographs of flag-draped caskets returning home from the war. Rumsfeld himself was exposed for failing to sign by hand the condolence letters he sent to the next of kin. His successor, Robert Gates, has brought some glasnost to the Pentagon, but the military funerals remain tightly controlled. Even when families approve media coverage for a funeral, the journalists are held at a distance for the pageantry -- the caisson, the band, the firing party, "Taps," the presenting of the flag -- then whisked away when the service itself begins.

Nor does the blocking of funeral coverage seem to be the work of overzealous bureaucrats. Gina Gray, Arlington's new public affairs director, pushed vigorously to allow the journalists more access to the service yesterday -- but she was apparently shot down by other cemetery officials.

Media whining? Perhaps. But the de facto ban on media at Arlington funerals fits neatly with an effort by the administration to sanitize the war in Iraq. That, in turn, has contributed to a public boredom with the war. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this month found that 14 percent of Americans considered Iraq the news story of most interest -- less than half the 32 percent hooked on the presidential campaign and barely more than the 11 percent hooked on the raid of a polygamist compound in Texas. ...
Read the whole thing. It's worth it.


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posted by JReid @ 5:22 PM  
Worst president ever?
WaPo's Gene Pool asks the perennial question about Dubya's place in history.


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posted by JReid @ 9:09 AM  
Petraeus gets his reward
George W. Bush continues his pattern of punish the generals, reward the generals. Admiral Fallon was punished for his apostasy on attacking Iran. David Petraeus will not head to Florida as head of CENTCOM, his reward for being the door to door salesman in front of Congress for the Bush/neocon policy in Iraq. Steve Clemons agrees, and breaks a little news on Petraeus' possible future in politics.


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posted by JReid @ 9:04 AM  
A secret deal on Israeli settlements?
The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration may have cut a secret deal to allow Israel to expand the settlements on the West Bank that it isn't supposed to be expanding:
A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts.

Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.

Many experts say new settlement construction undermines the political standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- who is to meet with Bush today at the White House -- and adds to Palestinian cynicism about the peace process. Palestinians view the settlements as an Israeli effort to claim Palestinian lands, and in a meeting yesterday with Rice, Abbas said settlement construction was "one of the greatest obstacles" to a peace deal.

U.S. and Israeli officials privately argue that Israel has greatly restricted settlement growth outside the settlements it hopes to retain in a peace deal with the Palestinians, and Olmert has said Israel has stopped building new settlements and confiscating Palestinian lands.

Housing starts -- not counting the Jerusalem settlements -- have declined 33 percent since 2003, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. But officials say it is politically damaging for Olmert to admit that, so instead he publicly emphasizes that he is adding to the settlements, which now house about 450,000 Israelis.

"It was clear from day one to Abbas, Rice and Bush that construction would continue in population concentrations -- the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter," Olmert declared in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published Sunday. "I say this again today: Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem," referring to new settlement expansion plans. "It's clear that these areas will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement."

In a key sentence in Bush's 2004 letter, the president stated, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."

In a companion letter to "reconfirm" U.S.-Israeli understandings, Weissglas wrote Rice that restrictions on the growth of settlements would be made "within the agreed principles of settlement activities," which would include "a better definition of the construction line of settlements" on the West Bank. A joint U.S.-Israeli team would "jointly define the construction line of each of the settlements."

Weissglas said that the letter built upon a prior understanding between then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, which would allow Israel to build up settlements within existing construction lines. But Powell denied that. "I never agreed to it," he said in an e-mail. ...


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posted by JReid @ 8:17 AM  
Food rationing?
The latest news from the Bush boom (not...) major food retailers like Walmart and Costco are now rationing rice. Heckuva job, Dubya!


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posted by JReid @ 8:12 AM  
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Race and the Democratic primary
It was a fantasy to think that we would get through an election featuring the first truly viable Black candidate without running smack dab into the issue of race in America. And while its customary for the media narrative to depict Democratic voters as more open minded and "liberal" and Republican voters as more conservative and thus more likely race-insensitive, the uncomfortable but very real fact is that some, though by no means all, older white voters of both political persuasions are uncomfortable voting for a candidate who isn't white. White race-pattern voting is the gigantic elephant in the room; and many younger, less educated, less well off white voters feel the same way.

By the way, it's unremarkable that older white women strongly back Hillary -- many of these women see Hillary as perhaps the best, and maybe last, chance in their lifetimes to see a woman ascend to the White House (just as it's unsurprising that so many black and young voters favor Obama.) But for white voters who are not invested in the history-making aspects of her campaign, one has to ask whether racial tribalism is playing a part in their voting decisions. I think it certainly did in Pennsylvania, and probably in Ohio -- less so in more homogeneous states like Iowa and Wisconsin, where whites and blacks don't bump into one another as much, and thus don't butt heads. It's time for the media to confront the fact that for many white people, voting for a black candidate, whose name sounds Muslim at that, and whose pastor is afrocentric and whose wife isn't Betty Crocker and who doesn't mouth the kinds of jingoistic platitudes that have become standard issue campaign fare, is, as Obama chief strategist David Axelrod says in this very smart NYT piece, "a lot of change."

For a colder splash of water, check out this Kansas City Star piece. It contains the word "colored." Yep. There are still folks out there using that one.


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posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
When a win is just a win
According to CBS, Hillary's haul from her Pennsylvania victory is a whopping 9 delegate net. She'll take home 82 delegates to Barack's 73 according to CBS' number crunchers. And as Chuckie T, MSNBC's numbers guru repeatedly reminds us, there is no math -- none -- not even including Michigan and Florida, that gets Mrs. Clinton to the nomination. None. Zilch. Zero. No wonder Barack doesn't bother to attack her... He's just waiting her out, letting her throw her tantrum, and she'll get her juice box when she calms down.

Meanwhile, the NYT calms the nerves of jittery Obamaphiles with this very sober read on the actual prospects of the Dems in November.

Update: Tim Noah of Slate overthrows the ex-arithmetocracy, or something like that...


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posted by JReid @ 11:28 PM  
GOP v. Obama: Cliffs Notes version
I just finished reading Human Events' supposed bombshell: "Barack Obama Exposed!!!" which is being pimped all over the Web for those willing to fill out a form and be barraged with emails titled "dear fellow conservative." Well if you were thinking of checking it out, as I did, to get a preview of the right's argument against Barack in the general election, permit me to save you the time.

HE's supposed expose is an assemblage of 55 pages of bitching, whining drivel; a cobbled together hodgepodge of op-ed pieces by the likes of Michael Reagan, Bill O'Reilly and Pat Buchanan, that's little more than a rehash of the same tired arguments righties have been making about "Barack Hussein Obama" (or BHO in their cutesy shorthand) for months. Here are the Cliff notes, for all you political strategists out there:
  • Barack is pro-choice! (Amanda Carpenter, page 5)
  • Barack's speeches suck! (Ann Coulter, page 6)
  • Barack knows Tony Rezko! (Tom Fitton, page 8)
  • Barack voted for unionization and the estate tax!!!! (Carpenter again, page 9)
  • Barack is just like Oprah, Collin Powell, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods ... I mean Black... and really, really famous and White people think he's cool! (Steve Chapman, page 11)
  • The media's gonna help Obama win!!! (D.R. Tucker, page 13)
  • Barack Obama is a socialist who thinks "healthcare is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity" like this socialist Catholic cardinal says, instead of the privately owned commercial commodity we say it is!!! (Carpenter, round 3, page 14)
  • How come the media didn't jump all over Barack for doing blow and they jumped all over Dubya just cause he snorted coke and may have mainlined some heroine! (Brent Bozell, really whining hard on page 16)
  • Barack Obama is part Muslim, cause he went to a school in a Muslim country when he was a little kid so Muslims are gonna think he's a MUSLIM!!!!!!! (Robert Spencer, really reaching for the Kool-Aid on page 18)
  • How come I can't call Obama "articulate?" That's not right! (Bill O'Reilly, page 19)
  • Something about a Rorschach test... (Mac Johnson, page 20)
  • Barack Obama is juvenile because he thinks you can talk to Israel's enemies instead of bombing the living hell out of them like a good American should. (Ben Shapiro, praying for another war on page 22)
  • Something about the military and it's written really badly so I stopped reading it... (Monica Crowley ... any progress on that face lift, honey? ... page 24)
  • Some old stuff about Iowa by Erica Anderson (page 26)
  • Drivel, drivel drivel, drivel ... (pages 27-30)
  • A bunch of banks and law firms gave to Obama and Hillary's campaigns (I thought wingers LIKED banks ... page 30)
  • Barack Obama got an earmark for a Chicago hospital and his wife got a really big raise after he became a Senator (page 31)
  • Michael Reagan watches "Saturday Night Live"??? (page 32)
  • Barack Obama is making America more racist because a lot of White people want to vote for him because he's Black. (Ben Shapiro, still working on that war thing, page 33)
  • "I like John McCain." Martha Zoller, (page 35)
  • Bill Clinton isn't Black. Obama, on the other hand, is. (Lisa Richards, page 37)
  • Barack Obama is a wuss, unlike JFK, whom I also would not have voted for because he was a Democrat... (Doug Patton, 39)
  • Look everybody! A "Godfather" reference! (Jed Babbin, 41)
  • Why can't Gerri Ferraro say Barack is only in the race because he's Black! What the hell is wrong with that??? (Pat Buchanan, 43)
  • I'm Armstrong Williams, and nobody is paying me $250,000 to write this opinion! (page 45)
  • Why can't I say Barack is only in the race because he's Black! What the hell is wrong with that ??? Am I repeating myself..!!!??? (Pat Buchanan, page 47)
  • ABORTION AND SOCIALISM! ABORTION AND SOCIALISM!!! Does anybody at all care that I exist..??? (Ken Blackwell, 54)
And that's it. That's the GOP ball game for the fall campaign. And here's the fall campaign in video form.

Rawstory has even more.


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posted by JReid @ 10:07 PM  
The math
CBS's delegate counters score the delegate count as follows, after PA:

Obama - 1,710
Clinton - 1.584

With Hillary picking up 82 delegates last night to Barack's 69. (The NYT and AP score it 1,661 to 1,511.) Is that enough for her to win the nomination? No. Is her 200,000 popular vote pick-up enough to overtake Barack there? No. His popvote lead is now down to about 500,000, and with 9 smaller contests left, the math still doesn't work for HRC. Every analyst working right now agrees that Hillary's only shot at the nomination is to draw the calendar out, and hope Barack implodes, either on his own, or by her doing (or because white voters simply stage a rebellion and refuse to move him forward to the nomination, handing her something like 70-30 wins in the next nine contests.)

That's the ballgame, Hillary fans. It's all over but the screaming and dragging out of the room. Still, there are real perils for Barack, who will have to endure more nastiness from Camp Clinton, and more backlash from a press corps desperate to appease her operatives, and to not appear to be favoring him (they have no similar desperation as regards their clear love for John McCain.) And the race has exposed -- or more accurately, ginned up, real racial divisions that could haunt Barack into November, as WaPo's Dan Balz points out:

In Pennsylvania, Clinton won white voters who did not go to college by about 40 points. In Ohio, it was 44 points. Nor did Obama increase his vote among white college graduates, losing them to Clinton in Pennsylvania by six percentage points after losing them in Ohio by seven.

Clinton won the late-deciders in Pennsylvania handily, an apparent sign again that Obama has had trouble closing the most competitive primaries. In Pennsylvania, in contrast to Ohio, Obama threw everything he could into the final days, airing three negative commercials on television, hammering Clinton with a closing argument that cast the choice as one between a practitioner of special-interest politics as usual versus a reformer who would change the way Washington works.

One clear bright spot for Obama was the nearly one in 10 voters in the Democratic primary who had recently registered with the party. Pennsylvania experienced a huge shift in voter registration over the past year, with Democratic registration rising by more than 300,000 and Republican registration shrinking by about 70,000.

Among newly registered Democrats voting yesterday, Obama won them by about 20 percentage points. His advisers will point to that as evidence that he can draw support from former independents or even disaffected Republicans in a general-election race against McCain.

And so we go on, and on, and on ... to the detriment of the Democrats' chances in November.

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Re-revenge of the white women
More than a year ago on the radio, I said that if Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee, she would be almost irresistible to white women over 50. In fact, I said it all the time. And if you've conversed with women in that demographic, you know that it's true. I predicted that even some Republican women would cross over in November to vote for her, believing it might be their last chance to see a woman win the White House (Gerry Ferraro having been a dud.)

I still believe that's true. What Hillary Clinton primarily has going for her in this election is older white women, who exit polls in Pennsylvania bear out (and New Hampshire made the same case) will stand by her no matter what the polls and pundits say, no matter how much left leaning talk radio and the bloggers dump on her, and no matter how vicious and negative her campaign becomes. Hillary's demographic is tuning all of that out, and if she is not the nominee, white women over 50 will be the biggest challenge facing Barack Obama. Younger women I doubt he'll have much trouble with, except for the fact that they traditionally don't vote in proportion to their population share (ditto with young people.) But older, white women will have to be won over. It may not be easy, because I've also observed that Clinton voters are among the most rabid, the most insistent on their candidate, and frankly, the most angry voters in this campaign.

To that base, Hillary and her team have been very straightforward in adding generic white voters. The conventional wisdom has been that Bill Clinton played the race card by trying to marginalize Barack Obama as "the Black candidate," thus "scaring the hell out of" lower middle class white voters, just as he accused Republicans of doing back in the early 1990s. In this case, the conventional wisdom was right. The Clinton campaign has skillfully isolated white voters, male and female, into their camp, leaving only the most highly educated, and thus most liberal, white voters, plus young voters and Black voters, for Barack. Mathematically, in a state like Pennsylvania, which is significantly older, and significantly whiter, and where white residents have enough proximity to urban Blacks to have a "certain view" of them, Barack can't win, and Hillary, by consolidating voters on the basis of age, gender and race, can. (By way of proof, exit polls show Clinton won ALL white voters, regardless of race.)

Going forward, Barack's challenge will be to begin to peel off white men. Forget older white women until the general: they're as untouchable for him as Black voters are for her. The game, right now, is white men. He can do that through endorsements, he can do it through ads, but at some point, he has to do it directly, probably through a populist economic message that white men who earn around $50,000 a year can relate to. He can also do it by pushing hard against John McCain on the subject of Iraq.

If I were advising Barack's campaign, that's what I would tell them to do.


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posted by JReid @ 10:29 AM  
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Winning the race to the bottom
The New York Times ed board ponders the low road to victory...

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.

The Times is advising Hillary to "call off the dogs." The only trouble is, the Times' analysis is wrong. Pennsylvania voters, at least responded to Hillary's negative campaigning by voting in larger numbers for her than for Barack Obama. They were persuaded by her message of fear and loathing, in part because it gave them a justification for the fear, and in some cases loathing, that they may feel toward Obama. At the end of the day, it has to be assumed that older, white voters, particularly women, would prefer to see a candidate like themselves win the race, just as Black voters would prefer to see one of their own win. It's human nature. Not pretty, but real. Hillary has successfully exploited the tribalism of white voters to her advantage. That may be the "old politics," but sometimes the old politics works. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Camp Hillary to clean it up. I think it just gets nastier on her part, from here on.

This may sound like the sour grapes of an Obama supporter, and maybe it is. But the bottom line is that the Clinton way of doing politics is mean and nasty. It always has been. That's why those of us who supported Bill Clinton through the 90s liked them. We knew they would throw their mother under a moving train to win an election. That was cool then, when the election was against Republicans. Now that they're training the dogs on one of our own, the Clinton's don't look so clever to us anymore.

There is hope for the Obama faithful, of course. Barack can come roaring back by winning North Carolina (though Camp Clinton will dismiss such a win as yet another Jesse Jackson moment) and by beating her in Indiana -- the combined effect of which would neutralize tonight's win for HRC. But it clearly is time for the Obama camp to regroup, to drill down into his weakness with white, working class voters, and to find a message that blunts the hardball sledge hammer being wielded by Hillary and her team.

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posted by JReid @ 11:57 PM  
No we can't

The margin in PA is 10 points with 91 percent of precincts reporting, and she could pick up 200,000 popular votes out of the state, cutting Barack's lead down to about 500,000. Oh, the Hillary people are gonna be impossible to live with now...

Bitterness update: Exit polls show the Democratic race is getting ... to use a fave media word these days ... bitter. It's not limited to PA. My sister, who lives in Los Angeles, just informed me that the bitterness has so calcified in her that she's lost the ability to feel. OK, maybe that's a little bit dramatic, but I can assure you, the numbness is setting in, I'm sure, for Obama supporters everywhere...

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posted by JReid @ 10:34 PM  
Clinton wins Pennsylvania
The crusty old state of the union goes for the gentlelady from Arkansas/New York/Scranton... All we're waiting for now is the margin. If it's not close to or greater than 10 percent, I think Hillary will have a hard time getting much of a fundraising (or superdelegate) sling shot into next week's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. And since her campaign is broke, and her big donors tapped out, she desperately needs that sling shot.

In the exit polls, nearly 30 percent of newly registered voters say that if Hillary became the nominee, they would not support her. Still, more Hillary voters say they would be dissatisfied with Barack as said the reverse. We're looking at a hardcore, entrenched Democratic support for Hillary Clinton that's mostly based on age -- prehistoric voters are sticking with the Clintons, it appears based on the belief that they would provide a stronger hand on the economy (I suspect that a lot of the old gals and fellers figure Bill will be running the country anyway. Sorry, that was mean...)

All jokes aside, the exit polls make it clear that age was a key factor in Hillary's favor tonight, as was the fact that 59 percent of the electorate in PA were women, and 37 percent were between ages 40 and 59; another 32 percent are 60 and over. Older voters clearly were not ready to go out on a limb with Obama. They stayed with the safe candidate: Hillary. Similarly, Hillary won white voters across the age spectrum (I guess they're no different from Black voters, eh?) Interestingly, Barack appears to have won men tonight, 52% to 48%.

And with 22 percent of precincts reporting, it's 53%-47%.

Awaiting the margins and speeches. Balloon drops optional.

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posted by JReid @ 9:41 PM  
How do you keep the music playing...
When al-Qaida keeps undermining the fundamental argument of your campaign ...
Bin Laden's deputy says Iran trying to undermine al-Qaida

By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a new audiotape Tuesday accusing Shiite Iran of spreading a conspiracy theory about who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to discredit the power of the Sunni terrorist network.

Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has stepped up his denunciations of Iran in recent messages in part to depict al-Qaida as the Arabs' top defense against the Persian nation's rising power in the Middle East.

The increasing enmity toward Iran is a notable change of rhetoric from al-Zawahri, who in the past rarely mentioned the country — apparently in a hopes he would be able to forge some sort of understanding with Tehran based on their common rivalry with the United States. Iran has long sought to distance itself from al-Qaida.

How could they do it to ya, John???
"Al-Zawahri wanted to work with Iran, but he's deeply disappointed that Iran has not cooperated with al-Qaida," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert and author of "Inside al-Qaida: The Global Network of Terror."

So now, al-Zawahri "wants to appeal to the anti-Shiite, anti-Iran sentiments in the Arab and Muslim world," said Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.

Al-Zawahri appeared intent on exploiting widespread worry in the Arab world over Iran's influence, particularly in Iraq, to garner support for al-Qaida. At the same time, he sought to denigrate Iran's ally Hezbollah, which has gained some popularity even among Sunnis in the region for its fight against Israel.

Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio posted on an Islamic militant Web site, the second message in weeks in which he answered hundreds of questions sent to the site by al-Qaida sympathizers and others. ...
So wait ... al-Qaida hates Hezbollah, too??? Oh, dear, that's gonna upset Lieberman...

("Psst!... John ... can we start bombing Iran yet?" "Patience Joe ... Patience...)

Oh wait, there's more...
... in many of his answers, al-Zawahri went out of his way to criticize Iran. He said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders (the United States) and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq.

One questioner asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor. "The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added. Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.

And now for the big finish:
... the change in tone could be because of al-Qaida's failure to win the release of al-Qaida figures detained by Iran since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including al-Qaida security chief Saif al-Adel and two of bin Laden's sons.

Gunaratna said that up to 200 al-Qaida figures and their families are under house arrest in Iran and that Tehran has rejected al-Qaida attempts to negotiate their release.

Al-Qaida doesn't have the strength to launch attacks in Iran, but it intends to do so "in the future," he said. "If al-Qaida becomes strong in Iraq ... Iran believes al-Qaida in Iraq could become a major threat."
Al-Qaida has previously claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.

In an audiotape last week, al-Zawahri denounced what he called Iran's expansionist plans, saying Tehran aims to annex southern Iraq and Shiite areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula as well as strengthen ties to its followers in southern Lebanon. He warned that if Iran achieves its goals, it will "explode the situation in an already exploding region."
So al-Qaida is not only NOT cooperating with Iran, it intends to "strike it in the near future..." and Iran is not only NOT arming, training or helping al-Qaida (a ridiculous notion repeatedly put forward ... accidentally...??? ... by John McCain and his neocon friends) ... they are detaining al-Qaida prisoners?

Recall that in his testimony, General Petraeus declared that the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is Iran. But John McCain and the neocons claim the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is al-Qaida (all 1,000 of them...) so which is it, and if they're not working together, as John McCain would have the American people believe, is one of them more or less working in line with our interests? And if al-Qaida, wherever they are, including the franchises like al-Qaida in Iraq, constitute our single worst enemy, then isn't the enemy of our enemy ... Iran ... kind of on our side?

Does your head hurt, too?

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posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
The politician and the preacher
Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones (third from the right) and
Rev. Gaston Smith (far right) at a cultural event in Miami in
February 2006. Photo Credit: J. Perez/City of Miami

Rev. Gaston Smith, the high-flying Miami preacher accused of stealing money from a non-profit named after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., turns on his friend and parishioner, Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones:

In police interview, pastor says he feels used

BY SCOTT HIAASEN [I wonder if that's Carl Hiaasen's son...]

The Rev. Gaston Smith sat in the Miami-Dade state attorney's office last October facing a veteran prosecutor and a pair of investigators with some uncomfortable questions about one of his parishioners: Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
The investigators wanted to know about $8,000 in consulting fees that Smith paid Spence-Jones before she was elected in 2005. The money came from a $25,000 Miami-Dade County grant to Friends of MLK, a nonprofit organization the pastor ran.

Under questioning, the pastor said Spence-Jones, then an aide to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, had urged him to create the nonprofit in the first place -- and that she had helped arrange the county grant without his knowledge. Smith said he felt like he had been used.

''It's almost like date rape,'' Smith told investigators, according to an interview transcript. ``I've been violated.''

The transcript was among more than 4,000 documents the state attorney's office released last week to defense lawyers for Smith, who was charged in January with stealing $10,000 in grant money for himself. The Miami Herald obtained these records under a publicrecords request.

Smith's statements -- secretly recorded by a Miami-Dade police detective -- cast a new light on the ongoing investigation of Spence-Jones. Prosecutors and police have been examining the commissioner's finances while also pursuing allegations of influence peddling since Spence-Jones joined the commission. ...

Note to pols: preachers don't do well in jail...

Prosecutors would not discuss the theory of their investigation of the commissioner. The transcript of the Oct. 9 meeting shows that prosecutor Richard Scruggs told Smith, ``Either you got taken advantage of or you're a co-conspirator.''
No theory yet? Really?

Nearly four months later, Smith, the pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, was arrested on one count of grand theft, accused of taking $10,000 in grant money through ATM withdrawals -- including a $500 withdrawal at a Las Vegas martini bar.

Smith's lawyer, Michael Tein, said Friday that the grant money went toward legitimate expenses. He said he believes his client was arrested in attempt to pressure him to provide more evidence against Spence-Jones -- but he insists his client has said all he knows.
Let me stipulate to the fact that I really like Michelle Spence-Jones. She's a lovely person, and comes across as sincere, and truly interested in bettering her community. But there are so many allegations being made about her conduct, that you've got to wonder just how business is being done down in Miami. I also don't think she is the ultimate target of this investigation. It goes beyond her, and once prosecutors are finished squeezing the chubby Rev. Gasston, they're going to start squeezing her. There are other fish on that line. Let's just leave it at that.

Blogging Black Miami is following the story too.

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 AM  
They're votin' in PA
It may be a bit over-the-top to say this is an election about whether white men "hate Blacks more than they hate women," as Nora Ephron delicately put it on the Huffpo, but the Pennsylvania primary will tell us something about the demographics of the Democratic party -- namely, which demos are more motivated: white, working class men and older women, or affluent whites, Black voters and voters under 30. If the former are more exercised, Hillary wins. If the latter are more 'bout it, Obama will make it close, or could even pull off an upset. And boy, what an upset that would be.

Coverage watch:

Pittsburgh (Post-Gazette)
Philly (Enquirer, Daily News)
Allentown (Daily Call)
Erie (Times and News)

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posted by JReid @ 9:16 AM  
It's 12 a.m. ... do you know where your voters are?
PA votes this morning! Get some sleep, Matthews and Olbermann...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 AM  
CNN gets its own Stephanopoulos
ABC has George, Fox Noise has Karl Rove, and now CNN has Tony Snow. Nothing at all the matter with the news biz...

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Monday, April 21, 2008
Focus on McCain
We now know what the Republican strategy will be against Barack Obama. He will be tarred as an unpa man tied to terrorists (Ayers, Hamas), an Angry Black Man (Rev. Wright), and a liberal taxoholoic (Charlie Gibson's capital gainst taxes, beware.) But how should the Democrats define John McCain?

My take is that McCain should be lashed to George W. Bush. An apt slogan might be "four more years." But John McCain also has a temperament problem, as outlined in the Washington Post this weekend:
McCain: A Question of Temperament

By Michael Leahy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 20, 2008; A01

John McCain cupped a fist and began pumping it, up and down, along the side of his body. It was a gesture familiar to a participant in the closed-door meeting of the Senate committee who hoped that it merely signaled, as it sometimes had in the past, McCain's mounting frustration with one of his colleagues.

But when McCain leaned toward Charles E. Grassley and slowly said, "My friend . . ." it seemed clear that ugliness was looming: While the plural "my friends" was usually a warm salutation from McCain, "my friend" was often a prelude to his most caustic attacks. Grassley, an Iowa Republican with a reputation as an unwavering legislator, calmly held his ground. McCain became angrier, his fist pumping even faster.

It was early 1992, and the occasion was an informal gathering of a select committee investigating lingering issues about Vietnam War prisoners and those missing in action, most notably whether any American servicemen were still being held by the Vietnamese. It is unclear precisely what issue set off McCain that day. But at some point, he mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him. Grassley stood and, according to two participants at the meeting, told McCain, "I don't have to take this. I think you should apologize."

McCain refused and stood to face Grassley. "There was some shouting and shoving between them, but no punches," recalls a spectator, who said that Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey helped break up the altercation.

Grassley said recently that "it was a very long period of time" before he and McCain spoke to each other again, though he declined, through a spokesman, to discuss the specifics of the incident.

Since the beginning of McCain's public life, the many witnesses to his temper have had strikingly different reactions to it. Some depict McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, as an erratic hothead incapable of staying cool in the face of what he views as either disloyalty to him or irrational opposition to his ideas. Others praise a firebrand who is resolute against the forces of greed and gutlessness.
That was the opener. A bit later on:
Part of the paradox of McCain is that many of the old targets of his volcanic temper are now his campaign contributors. Former Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson is one example. In 1992, during a private meeting of Arizona officials over a federal land issue that affected the state, a furious McCain openly questioned Johnson's honesty. "Start a tape recorder -- it's best when you get a liar on tape," McCain said to others in the meeting, according to an account of their "nose-to-nose, testosterone-filled" argument that Johnson later provided to reporters.

But Johnson, who once was quoted as saying that he thought McCain was "in the area of being unstable," today says that he has mellowed, citing a 2006 face-to-face apology that he said he received from his old adversary. "He's not the same guy, as far as I'm concerned," Johnson said. "And nothing has happened during the course of this year's campaign."

Cornyn is now a McCain supporter, as is Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, himself a past target of McCain's sharp tongue, especially over what McCain regarded as Cochran's hunger for pork-barrel projects in his state. Cochran landed in newspapers early during the campaign after declaring that the thought of McCain in the Oval Office "sends a cold chill down my spine."

Indeed, aside from a single testy exchange in March with New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller over whether he had had a conversation in 2004 with Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry about being his running mate -- a tape of which appeared immediately on YouTube -- McCain has been noticeably unflappable throughout the primaries. Advisers posit that his temperament ought to be a dead issue. ...

..."I heard about his temper more from others," said Grant Woods, McCain's first congressional chief of staff, who is generally regarded as McCain's closest confidant in his early political years. "According to them, he really unleashed on some of them, and they couldn't figure out why. . . . It happened enough that it was affecting his credibility with some people. If you wanted a programmed, subdued, always-on-message politician, he wasn't and will never be your guy."

Woods helped orchestrate McCain's first House campaign in 1982 and worked to get him elected to the Senate in 1986. That year the Arizona Republican Party held its Election Night celebration for all its candidates at a Phoenix hotel, where the triumphant basked in the cheers of their supporters and delivered victory statements on television.

After McCain finished his speech, he returned to a suite in the hotel, sat down in front of a TV and viewed a replay of his remarks, angry to discover that the speaking platform had not been erected high enough for television cameras to capture all of his face -- he seemed to have been cut off somewhere between his nose and mouth.

A platform that had been adequate for taller candidates had not taken into account the needs of the 5-foot-9 McCain, who left the suite and went looking for a man in his early 20s named Robert Wexler, the head of Arizona's Young Republicans, which had helped make arrangements for the evening's celebration. Confronting Wexler in a hotel ballroom, McCain exploded, according to witnesses who included Jon Hinz, then executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. McCain jabbed an index finger in Wexler's chest.

"I told you we needed a stage," he screamed, according to Hinz. "You incompetent little [expletive]. When I tell you to do something, you do it."

Hinz recalls intervening, placing his 6-foot-6 frame between the senator-elect and the young volunteer. "John, this is not the time or place for this," Hinz remembers saying to McCain, who fumed that he hadn't been seen clearly by television viewers. Hinz recollects finally telling McCain: "John, look, I'll follow you out on stage myself next time. I'll make sure everywhere you go there is a milk crate for you to stand on. But this is enough."

McCain spun around on his heels and left. He did not talk to Hinz again for several years. In 2000, as Hinz recalls, he appeared briefly on the Christian Broadcasting Network to voice his worries about McCain's temperament on televangelist Pat Robertson's show, "The 700 Club." Hinz's concerns have since grown with reports of incidents in and out of Arizona.

In 1994, McCain tried to stop a primary challenge to the state's Republican governor, J. Fife Symington III, by telephoning his opponent, Barbara Barrett, the well-heeled spouse of a telecommunications executive, and warning of unspecified "consequences" should she reject his advice to drop out of the race. Barrett stayed in. At that year's state Republican convention, McCain confronted Sandra Dowling, the Maricopa County school superintendent and, according to witnesses, angrily accused her of helping to persuade Barrett to enter the race.

"You better get [Barrett] out or I'll destroy you," a witness claims that McCain shouted at her. Dowling responded that if McCain couldn't respect her right to support whomever she chose, that he "should get the hell out of the Senate." McCain shouted an obscenity at her, and Dowling howled one back.

Woods raced over, according to a witness, and pulled Dowling away. Woods said he has "no memory" of being involved, "though I heard something about an argument."

"What happens if he gets angry in crisis" in the presidency?" Hinz asked. "It's difficult enough to be a negotiator, but it's almost impossible when you're the type of guy who's so angry at anybody who doesn't do what he wants. It's the president's job to negotiate and stay calm. I don't see that he has that quality."

Having reunited with his old boss after a falling out in the '90s, Woods is back on board. Barbara Barrett, too. Other Arizona Republicans, once spurned or alienated from McCain, have accepted invitations to rejoin him, though not Sandra Dowling or Jon Hinz, who said, "I've just seen too much. That temper, the intolerance: It worries me."

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posted by JReid @ 10:26 AM  
Several prominent journalists have signed an open letter denouncing ABC News for last week's shameful conduct of the 21st Democratic debate. Among the signers are Eric Alterman, Ezra Klein and Joe Conason. Meanwhile, George Stephanopoulos claims to be "taken aback" by the backlash, according to the WaPo's Howard Kurtz:
"Senator Obama is the front-runner," said Stephanopoulos, the network's chief Washington correspondent and a former Clinton White House aide. "Our thinking was, electability was the number one issue," and questions about "relationships and character go to the heart of it."

Besides, he added, "you can't do a tougher question for Senator Clinton than 'six out of 10 Americans don't think you're honest.' "

Mm-hm. Whatever you say, Stephanopoulos.

Buzzfeed tracks the slings and arrows here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:57 AM  
The propagandists
I'm not sure how much of a bombshell it is that the military analysts paraded constantly on television in the lead up to, and during, the war in Iraq, were there to promote and propagandize the conflict. As far back as 2003, I had discussed creating an online backgrounder on analysts like Gen. Wayne Downing, who was part of the planning for the war, and other retired generals who a quick Google search would reveal were members of various pro-war think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute (think about that one for a second -- a group pushing for war, devoted to "enterprise" -- not a long leap.)

Still, it's good that the NYT is making the facts plain, for those who didn't Google their analysts, to see. From Sunday's report:
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”
When I did a Knight journalism fellowship at the University of Maryland in December 2003 for editorial writers, we were given the same sort of treatment. We were given briefings by top Pentagon officials, including Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone, etc., and those briefings were clearly designed to present the administration's view in a way that might reflect in our editorial writing. For about half of our group, it just made us more cynical, and more skeptical.

Back to the generals. Some of them were obvious plants from the start. Take the late (and legendary) Gen. Wayne Downing, in December, 2001, the Washington post wrote of him:
Wayne Downing is the most famous terrorism fighter you've never heard of. Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, he shelved his semi-retirement to coordinate the nation's far-flung campaign "to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them," as the White House put it. He has the president's ear -- but whatever he's saying is not for public consumption. Even the size of his staff has been deemed a national security secret.

As a young Ranger, Downing, now 61, learned to stalk the enemy at night and capture rattlesnakes for food. In 34 years he rose through the ranks to command all special operations troops, including the clandestine Delta Force commandos whose close-quarter tactics are vital in places like Afghanistan. Battle-tested in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf, Downing is revered among the elite soldiers who call themselves "the quiet professionals."

He reports to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. He has more experience with terrorism than either of them. His unwieldy title is national director and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. Those who admire Downing would suggest a more concise one: the president's secret weapon.

"They brought him in because he knows how to get things done," says L. Paul Bremer, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. "The bureaucracy very often needs a very good kick in the pants. He's going to have to crack some heads together."
And this:
But for brief periods he has ventured into the limelight, usually to sound the alarm about terrorism. Since leaving the Army in 1996, he has served on task forces investigating how terrorists operate and urging heightened security.

"They and their state sponsors have begun an undeclared war on the United States," he wrote in an August 1996 review of the truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 and wounded hundreds more. "They must be seen as 'soldiers' employing different means of achieving their political and military goals. They wear uniforms we cannot recognize and use tactics that we find repugnant and cowardly . . . Fanatics will be prepared to sacrifice their lives to achieve their goals."

Downing also war-gamed a scenario that exposed America's vulnerability to chemical and biological attacks. It foresaw terrorists releasing chemical agents with crop-dusting planes. Carl Stiner, a fellow retired general, recalled that he and Downing delivered their findings to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 1997.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Downing was on ABC, explaining to viewers of "Nightline" the notion of "asymmetric" warfare: These foes, though small in number, knew exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the strongest nation on Earth. "The paradigm has changed," he said. "And this isn't going to be over in a month or two months or six months. But this may well take years."

ABC quickly signed him up as an on-air consultant. These days Downing wears his gray hair slightly longer than when he was a West Point plebe; on camera he looked a bit uncomfortable, his neck tightly cinched in a button-down shirt. But his authority was obvious.

"We're going to find out where they are," he said of the perpetrators. "And then we're going to go get them."

It was no saber-rattling act. He made it sound like his destiny.

Downing once was courted for the job of White House drug czar, but friends say he felt that was an unwinnable war. He later vowed he wouldn't return to the government unless there were a national emergency. He preferred to stay in Colorado, enjoying the fishing and skiing, the time with his wife and grandkids. He also had enough land for four hefty Labradors.

But on Oct. 9, he reenlisted for public service, leaving the army of TV talking heads and giving up his seat on the board of an Australian high-tech weapons firm, Metal Storm, which boasts of inventing a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. And he put aside another of his passions: serving as military adviser to a group of Iraqi dissidents who have been hoping for years to depose dictator Saddam Hussein.

He was no longer interested in media attention. He spoke for a minute and a half at the news conference announcing his White House post before concluding, "It's going to be a tough fight, but we will prevail. Thank you very much."

Then he exited to the shadows.
Downing, and another MSNBC favorite, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, also sat on the board of an organization called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which pushed for the invasion of that country prior to the war. Other familiar names from that group: Deocon Richard Woolsey and the Dark Lord himself, Richard Perle, along with two elected officials who served as honorary co-chairs: Joe Lieberman and John McCain...

Back to Sunday's NYT piece:
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.

In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.
And the person behind much of the campaign, is none other than Torie Clarke, now a TV analyst in her own right:
By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.

And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.

In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

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posted by JReid @ 8:29 AM  
Sorry, mainstream media...
Tomorrow's the big day in PA.

And apparently, hell has frozen over, because Richard Mellon Scaife -- funder of the vast right wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton during the 1990s, has completely rolled over for Hillary. His Pittsburgh paper gave the New York Senator its endorsement this weekend.

Meanwhile, the MSM "Get Obama" campaign doesn't appear to be having much effect. Barack was greeted by a record crowd of 35,000 people independence Park in Philly Friday night (5,000 more than his record Oprah crowd), and he has regained his Gallup daily tracking poll lead after a sustained pounding by Hillary (and her china) and the full weight of the televised press.

My TiVo crapped out on me so I didn't catch Stephanopoulos' interview of John McCain. I'm assuming it was a love-fest. I did see some of the self-justification spree with George, George, Cokie and Sam (I guess he needed to assemble the core self-justification team this time) and found it boring and useless. Saving the TiVo of SNL until later.

Meanwhile, Stephanopoulos has succeeded in making attacking Obama for supposed "radical ties" fashionable outside the wacky world of right wing blogs.

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posted by JReid @ 8:16 AM  
Friday, April 18, 2008
The Huffpo's October Friday surprise?
First, they posted the ill-gotten recording of Barack Obama's closed to the press fundraiser in San Francisco, taped by an opinionated non-reporter. Now, they've got secret video on Hillary, also at a closed-door event. The Huffington Post is fast becoming the "Inside Edition" of the web.

So now, Hillary will get a taste of what it's like to be zapped by secret audio. Her offense: spouting off at
At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the "activist base" of the Democratic Party -- and in particular -- for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had "flooded" state caucuses and "intimidated" her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post.

" endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] -- which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said to a meeting of donors. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."
The audio is on the site.

For the record, I think it's just as smarmy for someone to have secretly taped Hillary as it was for Mayhill Fowler to pull the same sleaze on Barack Obama. And I think the only way that Hillary will be truly hurt by this is if there somehow are lefties in PA who haven't yet made up their minds, and I doubt that. Most of the undecideds aren't MoveOn's constituency. The main problem for Hillary is beyond PA, where MoveOn's millions will surely mount a massive campaign to take her down in subsequent states.


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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
Back in the day
George Stephanopouls used to decry the focus on trivia instead of issues in a presidential campaign ...

Oh George, how you've changed...

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 PM  
Mr. Stephanopoulos under the microscope
Fairly or unfairly, George Stephanopoulos is taking the lions share of the blame for Wednesday night's disastrous Democratic debate on ABC. Charles Gibson, though he turned in an equally crappy performance, is mostly being belittled for his seeming fixation on capital gains taxes, but it is Stephanolpoulos, the former Bill Clinton flak, who is being pilloried (and rightly so, in my opinion,) for his seeming bias against Barack Obama, his rude, off key questions about trivia, and especially for his cribbing of debate question ideas from Sean Hannity.

It's in that environment that George will interview media darling John McCain on "This Week" on Sunday. Damn the boycott. I'm watching this. The host will be under some pressure, to say the least, to be as tough on the Republican as he was on Obama. Some are even pulling a Hannity and suggesting some questions for him to ask. I'll just skip to numbers 11 and 12:

11) How can you call yourself a straight-talker in light of the fact that you have changed your positions or rhetorically flip-flopped on the following issues: Abortion, Creationism in science class, immigration, intervention abroad, tax cuts for the wealthy, civil unions, a Martin Luther King holiday, the Confederate Flag, the Christian Right, Bob Jones University, whether Rumsfeld did a good job, whether Dick Cheney is doing a good job, whether President Bush is an honest man, a Patient's Bill of Rights, global warming, campaign finance reform in general, public financing of campaigns specifically, lobbying reform, whether the War in Iraq would be "easy," whether Sunni and Shiite are working together, whether "Iraqi blood should be traded for American blood," military readiness, how many troops are necessary for the suge to succeed in Iraq, ehtanol subsidies, the continuing existence of a minimum wage, closing the gun-show loophole, healthcare for children...and I could go on, but how about we start with those?

12) Finally, if Barack Obama must account for everyone he has ever passed within a 100 square mile radius of, then here are some associations you might want to explain, with the indicted, the white supremacists and the downright corrupt: Rick Renzi (indicted), Terry Nelson (racist ads against Harold Ford in 2006), Trent Lott (pining for a Strom presidency), The Wyly Brothers (corrupt), Bob Perry (Chief Swift Boater), Richard Quinn (white supremacist), Rev. Richard Land (homosexual hate), Ken Blackwell (Ohio election suppression), Charlie Black (lobbyist and according to John Gorenfeld's new book, Bad Moon Rising, Reverend Moon lover). That would be a start.
Mr. Stephanopoulos? You're up.

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posted by JReid @ 8:29 PM  
Newsweek poll: Obama pulling away (nationally)
For all the media's efforts to close this race up and keep it going, a Newsweek poll shows Barack Obama pullling away:
Despite her campaign's relentless attacks on Barack Obama's qualifications and electability, Hillary Clinton has lost a lot of ground with Democratic voters nationwide going into Tuesday's critical primary in Pennsylvania, a new NEWSWEEK poll shows.

The survey of 1,209 registered voters found that Obama now leads Clinton by nearly 20 points, or 54 percent to 35 percent, among registered Democrats and those who lean Democratic nationwide. The previous Newsweek poll, conducted in March after Clinton's big primary wins in Ohio and Texas, showed the two Democrats locked in a statistical tie (45 percent for Obama to 44 percent for Clinton). The new poll puts Obama ahead among women as well as men, and voters aged 60 and older as well as younger voters. (For the complete poll data, click here).

One of the more devastating results for Clinton was that a majority of all registered voters now see her as dishonest and untrustworthy. According to the poll, just four in 10 (41 percent) registered voters view the New York senator as honest and trustworthy, while 51 percent think the opposite. This compares with solid majorities of voters who see Obama and McCain as honest and trustworthy (both polled 61 percent).

The results suggest that Clinton was damaged more by being caught in a tall tale about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire than Obama has been by his recent controversies, including the firestorm of criticism provoked by the Illinois senator's remarks that blue-collar voters "cling" to religion, guns and other issues because of their bitterness. In addition, over half (53 percent) of voters say they believe Obama shares their values, more than those who say the same thing about Clinton (47 percent) or McCain (45 percent).

Even so, the poll indicates that both Obama and Clinton have been harmed by the fierce attacks they have aimed at each other. While Obama has a 57 percent favorable rating among all voters in the latest survey, that represents a 4 percent drop from March, and his unfavorable rating has jumped from 28 percent to 36 percent. Clinton is viewed favorably by just 49 percent, compared to 56 percent in March, while 47 percent view her as unfavorable, compared �"This is not a year for negative campaigning and Clinton's pounding of Obama on his controversial description of small town voters in Pennsylvania does not seem to be working. Obama leads in the Philadelphia and eastern part of the Commonwealth, among African Americans, and Very Liberal Pennsylvanians. He also has a slight lead among voters in union households and has an 18 point margin over those who have lost a job. Clinton maintains her lead among whites, Catholics, Liberals, and Hispanics.

"The gender gap is huge with Obama leading among men by 15 and Clinton leading among women by 15. But Clinton holds a wide advantage on the question of understanding Pennsylvania (58%-27%) and handling the economy of the country (47%-38%). She also is ahead in understanding the personal financial situation of individuals (41%-35%).

"On the other hand, Pennsylvanians by a two to one margin (60% to 29%) are more likely to agree with supporters of Obama that voters in Pennsylvania are bitter about their economic situation than with Clinton and critics of Obama that he is an elitist who does not understand working people.

to 40 percent in the previous poll. Even so, the unopposed McCain has also suffered a setback: his favorable rating has dipped to 52 percent from 55 percent, while his unfavorable rating has increased to 42 percent from 35 percent. ...

Time is running out for Hil. Look for her to take the really big clubs to Obama's knees going forward.

Full poll results here.

Meanwhile Zogby, who's been very unreliable lately (maybe it's because he's partnering with Newsmax...) has the PA race down to 1 point. The undecideds in the Zogby poll: 9 percent. Here's Zogby's take:

�"This is not a year for negative campaigning and Clinton's pounding of Obama on his controversial description of small town voters in Pennsylvania does not seem to be working. Obama leads in the Philadelphia and eastern part of the Commonwealth, among African Americans, and Very Liberal Pennsylvanians. He also has a slight lead among voters in union households and has an 18 point margin over those who have lost a job. Clinton maintains her lead among whites, Catholics, Liberals, and Hispanics.

"The gender gap is huge with Obama leading among men by 15 and Clinton leading among women by 15. But Clinton holds a wide advantage on the question of understanding Pennsylvania (58%-27%) and handling the economy of the country (47%-38%). She also is ahead in understanding the personal financial situation of individuals (41%-35%).

"On the other hand, Pennsylvanians by a two to one margin (60% to 29%) are more likely to agree with supporters of Obama that voters in Pennsylvania are bitter about their economic situation than with Clinton and critics of Obama that he is an elitist who does not understand working people. ...

We shall see. But most polls show Pennsylvania closing. Rasmussen has Clinton up by 3% (47%-44% with 9% undecided in a poll taken the night of the ABC debate debacle) but with 6 percent of Obama supporters saying they could still change their minds (to 2 percent for HRC.)

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posted by JReid @ 7:32 PM  
Nunn, Boren and Reich
It's not a high powered Washington law firm. It's three new, big endorsements for Barack Obama:
Two former senators with long records on foreign policy and national security issues -- and who come from "red" states where Republicans dominate -- have just endorsed Sen. Barack Obama's bid for the White House.

Sam Nunn of Georgia and David Boren of Oklahoma, both Democrats (as is Obama), will also be serving as advisers on Obama's national security foreign policy team.

Meanwhile, New York magazine reports that one-time "friend of Bill" and former Clinton administration Labor secretary Robert Reich will this afternoon also endorse Obama. Reich is set to make his announcement official around 1 p.m. ET, on his blog.

According to New York Magazine's John Heilemann, the reasoning behind Reich's decision to endorse is particularly biting:

Now, in one sense, the Reich endorsement comes as no great surprise. For some time, it's been clear to anyone paying attention that Reich favors Obama. Back in December, in a blog post titled "Why is HRC Stooping So Low?," Reich loudly and sharply criticized Clinton's conduct in Iowa and defended Obama's proposals for health-care and Social Security reform. Two days before the race-charged South Carolina primary, he assailed Bill Clinton's "ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks" on Obama, arguing that they were "doing no credit to the former president, his legacy, or his wife's campaign." And all throughout the primary season, he has spoken and written of Obama's candidacy with evident admiration and enthusiasm.

But Reich insists that the endorsement does indeed come as a surprise — to him. As we chatted in Washington, where Reich had come from Berkeley, where he teaches, to give a speech and meet with some Democrats on Capitol Hill, he explained that, despite the criticisms he's made of the Clintons ("I call it as I see it"), he had planned to refrain from offering an official backing for Obama out of respect for Hillary. "She's an old friend," Reich said. "I've known her 40 years. I was absolutely dead set against getting into the whole endorsement thing. I've struggled with it. I've not wanted to do it. Out of loyalty to her, I just felt it would be inappropriate."

So what's changed? I asked Reich.

"I saw the ads" — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama's bitter/cling comments a week ago — "and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It's the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we've developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn't possibly believe and doesn't possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I've seen growing in Hillary's campaign. And I've come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can't in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They're lending legitimacy to a Republican message that's wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past twenty years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It's old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It's just so deeply cynical."

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posted by JReid @ 7:13 PM  
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Purple haze
I was talking with my mentor in radio earlier today, about the prospects for the Democrats to win back the White House in the fall (assuming HRC hasn't foreclosed any possibility of that already.) The bottom line is, the Democrats have to hold all of the John Kerry states, and add Ohio, or Florida (less likely) or two Western states (say, Colorado or Nevada and New Mexico) in order to win the Electoral College vote. What I said this morning is that I have no doubt that the Dems can win the popular vote -- Democrats are more motivated, more numerous (based on party identification) and they dominate in terms of new registrations in every state that has voted so far except for Florida. Independents, meanwhile, are siding with Dems on nearly every issue. Last but not least, John McCain is a less than inspiring candidate, whose lack of personal magnetism, combined with his lukewarm support from hard core religious and other conservatives, should mean that he brings out fewer voters overall.

That said, McCain doesn't necessarily need to generate enthusiasm in order to win, and as we discovered in 2000, he doesn't need to win the popular vote, either. All John McCain has to do is hold the states George W. Bush won in 2004, even if he does so by slim margins.


Gallup today has an analysis of where the statewide races stand so far, in the red, blue, and "purple states." They find that:

Democratic front-runner Barack Obama has a four-point advantage over presumptive Republican nominee John McCain among registered voters residing in states that were competitive in the 2004 election. Obama has a comfortable lead in states John Kerry won comfortably in 2004, as does McCain in states George W. Bush won easily. ...

... Hillary Clinton also leads McCain by the same 47% to 43% margin among purple-state voters. But she does not fare quite as well as Obama does in blue states, and she trails McCain by a slightly larger margin than Obama does in red states.

... Hillary Clinton also leads McCain by the same 47% to 43% margin among purple-state voters. But she does not fare quite as well as Obama does in blue states, and she trails McCain by a slightly larger margin than Obama does in red states.

Gallup includes the following as "purpole states": New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.

That's not as good news for the Dems as it sounds, because:
McCain and his supporters can take solace in that there are more red states, more voters, and thus, more electoral votes in those states. So even though he trails by four points in the most competitive states, he is down by only two points to Obama (46% to 44%), and is down by just one point to Clinton (46% to 45%), among registered voters when all states are combined.

According to 2004 election statistics, 36% of all voters in that election resided in red states, 33% lived in blue states, and 31% in purple states. So the Democratic candidate is starting out at a disadvantage, everything else being equal. Thus, in order to win the election, the Democratic candidate probably has to defeat the Republican by at least a couple of percentage points in the competitive states, assuming the vote distributions in the red and blue states stay relatively constant. The Republican can probably win by essentially breaking even in the competitive states, as Bush did in 2004. (While this analysis focuses on the popular vote, the electoral vote results should generally follow a similar pattern, in which the candidate who wins a greater share of the popular vote in the competitive states will probably also win a greater share of the electoral votes in those states.)

The final 2004 popular vote results were more polarized than the current poll data suggest is the case now. McCain is not faring as well as Bush did in 2004 in red states, where Bush defeated Kerry 59% to 40%. And Obama only matches the 13-point advantage Kerry had in blue states (56% to 43%). The two candidates essentially split the vote in the most competitive states in 2004, with Bush winning 50% and Kerry 49%.

Bottom line, red state voters are impervious to the realities on the ground. They will vote for whatever Republican is put in front of them, even if not enthusiastically. Therefore, the Dems have a slimmer margin of error than John McCain, as crazy as that sounds given the fix this country is in.

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posted by JReid @ 4:30 PM  
Where it counts
In the wake of the Philly disaster, the reaction from the city of brotherly love is in. Barack gets the endorsement of the Daily News (he already had the Inquirer). also calls Charlie Gibson on citing an arcane Consitutional provision that was wiped out 200 years ago.

And Attytood writes an open letter to the moderators.

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posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
Stephanopoulos comes to his own defense
George says, "why no, I'm not carrying water for Sean Hannity OR Hillary ...that WAS water, wasn't it guys...?"
Amid a storm of criticism that Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate focused too heavily on “gotcha” questions and not enough on substance, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos defended his decision to ask Illinois Sen. Barack Obama about his relationship with former political radical William Ayers. Stephanopoulos denied he’d been spoon fed the question by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“We have been researching this for a while,” Stephanopoulos said in a phone interview from New York. ABC News political correspondent Jake Tapper, he said, had blogged about the issue April 10, after it was first reported by Politico, the political news website. “Part of what we discovered is that Sen. Obama had never been asked directly about it, even though it’s being written about and talked about and Republicans are signaling that this is gonna be an issue in the general election.” ...

... Stephanopoulos dismissed the idea that he was doing Hannity’s bidding.

“The questions we asked were tough and fair and appropriate and relevant and what you would expect to be asked in a presidential debate at this point,” he said. “The questions we asked…are being debated around the political world every day.”

By this morning, more than 14,000 viewer comments had been posted on the ABC News website, the overwhelming majority critical of the debate moderators, who spent most of the first hour on what Stephanopoulous called “electability questions.”

“The way we thought about it was, it made sense to hit the electability questions first, then move on,” he said. “I can see where reasonable people would differ with that.”

Well, so long as it's just reasonable people...

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posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
Have a beer with Steve Doocy's son!
ABC News isn't the only network getting secret face time for Fox News spawn. MSNBC apparently got into the act, though perhaps by accident, when Steve Doocy's boy made the clip that Chris Matthews and Company just can't stop playing...

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posted by JReid @ 3:34 PM  
Even more approbrium for ABC
It's the lapel pins, stupid...

Meanwhile, the slams on ABC go international, as a Guardian commentator chronicles blog reaction to the Worst. Debate. Ever.

Inside the journalistic fold, Editor and Publisher editor Greg Mitchell is downright savage (and rightfully so):
In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.

Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on.

More time was spent on all of this than segments on getting out of Iraq and keeping people from losing their homes and other key issues. Gibson only got excited when he complained about anyone daring to raise taxes on his capital gains.

Yet neither candidate had the courage to ask the moderators to turn to those far more important issues. But some in the crowd did -- booing Gibson near the end. ...

And the New York Times digs into the inconvenient ties that bind members of the major media with the politicians they cover:
After he dropped out of the race, Mr. Richardson endorsed Mr. Obama. News reports said Mrs. Clinton had privately told him that Mr. Obama could not win in November. The Clinton camp denied any such statement, and the ill will between Mr. Richardson and the Clintons spilled into public view — and apparently simmers on.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, a debate moderator, posited that Mrs. Clinton had said it, then moved on. “I’m not going to ask you about that conversation; I know you don’t want to talk about it,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said in an edgy, we-both-know-better tone. Mrs. Clinton gave him a quelling glare but he persisted. “But a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think Senator Obama can beat John McCain or not?”

Eventually, after he asked again, Mrs. Clinton answered the question, saying, almost in exasperation: “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

The debate between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, in Philadelphia, was fierce and hostile, and Mrs. Clinton managed to keep her opponent on the defensive for much of it, bludgeoning Mr. Obama for his gaffe about bitter voters and his less savory personal connections. When she talked about the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., he shifted from foot to foot, looking down and squirming, if not seething, struggling to hang on to his soft diction, flat affect and refusal to project anger.

But viewers were also treated to another, less common spectacle: the veiled ties and tensions between news media stars and political figures that sometimes make voters bitter, leading them to cling to political satire by the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as a way to explain their frustration.

It was weird to see hints of the disgruntled employee/imperious boss dynamic between Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mrs. Clinton. But it was also strange to observe the intramural promos tucked into some of the moderators’ questions. Charles Gibson, another moderator, opened by citing a notion proposed by former Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York, whom Mr. Gibson described as an “elder statesman” of the Democratic Party. Mr. Cuomo’s son Chris is an anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where Mr. Gibson also worked for years. ...

In short, it's nearly unanimous among non-right wingers (and the Clinton campaign) that last night's debate was a disaster, for voters, for viewers, and for ABC News and its two star anchors.

It's almost not worth debating, particularly with the likes of David Brooks, or the newly Murdoched Wall Street Journal, both of whom have a clear interest in just the sort of outcome we saw last night.

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posted by JReid @ 12:37 PM  
Sean Hannity, ABC prep man

ThinkProgress has the audio of George Stephanopoulos' guest turn on Sean Hannity's show on Tuesday, in which he received his insturctions on nailing Barack Obama on the William Ayers story that Hannity has been peddling relentlessly both on Fox News, and on his radio show. Read and listen here.

DKos has a slew of contact numbers for ABC News, and a nifty flashback picture of Stephanopoulos when he was the Clinton's corner man, here.

Ultimately, I think that ABC News will be forced to respond to this issue, particularly if it continues to be hammered in the blog-world, where admittedly, TV news culls many of their story ideas these days. (It's all part of this move toward "responsive news" -- giving the viewers what producers think they want, rather than the old system of finding news that the networks thought were important.) I for one will break my planned boycott and watch the opening segment of "This Week" on Sunday, just to see if George makes a statement.

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posted by JReid @ 10:42 AM  
The more I think about last night's presidential debate on ABC, the more pissed off I'm getting...

What is it about Philly, that when you let members of the national media enter the city limits, they instantly turn into hit men? First, Tim Russert went all 6th century on Hillary Clinton in November, prompting his colleagues at MSNBC to begin asking "is Hillary finished!!!???" ... and now ABC's Gibson and Stephanopoulos, who should officially form a media partnership and call it Murder, Inc. (with all due apologies to Irv Gotti), performing one hell of a hit job on Barack Obama.

On the flip side, there's an outside chance last night's debacle might actually help Barack, by engendering the sympathy (or outrage) of enough voters to help him close the gap even further in PA. Or, the undecideds will go running for cover in Hillary's camp to escape all the "terrorists" in Obama's corner, as sold to them by ABC. Only Tuesday will tell.

So far, the online polls are all scoring it two to one for Barack, and if the ABC message boards are to be believed, they may have lost a number of viewers, and Barack may have gained some new support.

Meanwhile, Tom Shales of the Washington Post has today's must-read piece. Here's the opening:

When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent. ...

Even the WaPo's straight reporters are picking up on ABC's less than dignified staging:

The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates.

MSNBC's morning team was piling on ABC this morning, but the network can't claim too much seniority, having driven the "bittergate" non-story into the ground for a full week (with no signs of slowing down). But Shales is right when he says the cable networks have been better at staging these debates, in part because they aren't driven by the need to go to commercial nearly as often. One cable network that is the clear exception is Fox News, which has been denied the opportunity to host a Democratic debate -- at least until last night, when by all evidence, they co-produced the one purportedly staged by ABC.

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 AM  
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
...And another thing...
Is it just me, or did tonight's "debate" -- I hesitate to call it that -- on ABC seem designed more to answer the concerns of Republican voters, than the concerns of those who actually get to vote in Philadelphia a week from now? Pennsylvania holds a closed primary, meaning that it is Democrats who will be headed to the polls. But apart from Limbaugh and Hannity listeners, and lets place their numbers, generously, at 5 million people nationwide (out of 180 million adults, and some 300 million overall) ... how many people really care about flag pins, the capital gains tax (which only benefits very large stockholders), William Ayers and why white people don't get affirmative action? If you said Republicans, you've wandered into the same zone of confusion that I'm in.

By the way, if these are also the concerns of so-called "downscale Democrats," that's news to me. If they are, then these people are probably Reagan Democrats, who will pull the lever for Hillary now, but be just as likely to vote for John McCain in the fall. So what was the point of this exercise tonight, other than to prove that members of the media are ready, willing and able to go commando on Barack Obama? The only thing I can think of, is that ABC's management decided to take this opportunity -- a high profile debate in Philly, where 20 percent of men remain undecided, according to the latest polling -- to go after Fox News' viewers. That may sound odd, but consider the fact that Stephanopoulos literally lifted the Ayers question from a caller on Sean Hannity's radio show. Consider that Charlie Gibson seemed literally obsessed with the cap gains tax tonight. Consider the entire tone of the debate and you've got to admit, it sounded a lot like Fox.

Bottom line: if this was not a stealth ratings grab, why would ABC stage a debate so unrooted to the concerns of the voters most relevant to the debate? Earth to earthlings: right wingers who think Obama is an un-American, Muslim terrorist sympathiser were never going to vote for him anyway, and don't need convincing via a debate with Hillary Clinton.

Lastly, before I call it quits for the night, here are some of the questions that were not asked tonight:

What would you do about the mortgage crisis if you were president today?

What would be your plan to turn things around in Afghanistan?

What should be the U.S. stance on the China Olympics?

How can America boost exports, and restart our manufacturing economy?

What is your answer to the rising costs of food and fuel?

How would you handle trade differently than George W. Bush?

Feel free to post or email me other questions you'd have liked to see asked. I plan on forwarding mine to ABC News. The link to send programming feedback is here. Or you can call ABC News at 212-456-2020. If you do, be polite to the switchboard person. It's not their fault the news management are an embarassment to their profession. When you call, ask for ABC News president David Westin's office. He'll love that. DKos has info on where you can call to leave Stephanopoulos a direct message, plus Kos had the heads up on the former commentraitor's plan to make good to Hillary, by way of Newsmax and Fox News:
Tonight's debate will be moderated in part by ABC News Political Director, and former Clinton War Room lieutenant, George Stephanopoulos. Yesterday, George was documented conspiring with TWO Right Wing Blowhards against Obama. Expect a GOTCHA tonight, and ahead of that, We need to let ABC News know we are watching ... If this is his standard, why not let Cheney Moderate the debate, or McCain even!

To put it bluntly, should a Former Clinton Official be the one asking GOP questions to Barack Tonight?!?

George spent time yesterday taking Notes on Sean Hannity's Show
ABC contacted UIC for a photo of Ayers to be used tonight. Granted, this may be simply for the sake of having it on hand, but it seemed pretty clear that it IS going to be coming up in the debate.

... When Hannity asked about the first question below about Ayers and whether George had plans to ask such a question, George replied, "Well, I'm taking notes now Sean." It did actually sound like he was pausing to take notes. And Hannity continued to feed him more:
Ask Obama about his relationship with Ayers and WeatherUnderground and Axelrod's comments, "They're friendly"

Ask Obama why he attended the Million Man March

This should be item one on Countown tomorrow, with any luck.

Update: The scoop was not actually from the Koskids, it was from a poster at Democratic Underground. Proper credit must be given. DKos does provide an alternate telephone number to place a call -- to either Stephanopoulos, Charlie Gibson, or ABC President David Westin.

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posted by JReid @ 11:33 PM  
Dirty debating
You've got to Love ABC's pick for the topline photo: the candidates smiling away
in this rare moment from a debate in which most of the facial expressions were glowers.
Their headline is even stranger: "Clinton, Obama find brotherly love in Philly" Really?

I just finished watching my TiVo of the umpteenth Democratic debate on ABC, and I have to say, not since the group pile-on against Hillary Clinton in Philly have I seen a more concentrated media gang tackle of a candidate. Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos (you have to wonder about the propriety of having a debate featuring Mrs. Clinton co-moderated by a man who used to work for her husband) spent the first 27 minutes of the debate pounding Senator Obama -- asking so many negative questions of him that Gibson had to admit to not giving Hillary equal time. (She smiled). And then, George and Charlie proceeded to dredge up every media-created "scandal" (they opened with "bittergate," then re-racked Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then Stephanopuls incredibly, teed up the Sean Hannity-inspired William Ayers schtick (Obama's flimsy supposed ties to a former member of the Weather Underground, who did his dirt when Barack was 8 years old.) That was the moment I almost turned off the TV.

Were it not for Keith Olbermann, I think I would be on meds by now. Keith pointed out in his Countown post-debate show opening that "the campaign may be nasty, but it has had nothing on one of the moderators tonight." (Your guess is as good as mine which one he meant. I think the two were an evenly matched set.)

ABC News should be embarassed by tonight's performance. I can tell you, I won't be spending a moment more of my Sundays watching Bill Clinton's former lackey pretend to be a news man. I have no need to shun Gibson, since there's nothing he does on television that I watch anyway.


Now, an observation. Hillary was on her game tonight. She usually is in these forums. And I've noticed a fundamental stylistic difference between these two that could be problematic for his campaign going forward, and it is this: given the opportunity to bury Barack over something he has said, or something someone he knows has said (such is the nature of his campaign,) she wastes no time in going for the jugular. But given the chance to bury her (on Bosnia, for instance,) he plays the gentleman, and gives her a pass. He does it consistently, and only broke from the chivalrous stance a couple of times (such as when he nailed her on Ayers, pointing out after she declared the issue fair game, that her association with the Weather Underground is quite a bit closer given the fact that he just sat on a board with Ayers, while her husband commuted the sentence of two of Ayers' boyhood bomber colleagues.

This was a stunning display of journalistic neglegence on the part of ABC News. The debate contained not a moment of substance for the first half hour. And they seemed to begin dealing with issues like Iraq only reluctantly. And the amount of time spent belaboring issues of gun ownership and the Second Amendment seemed more aimed at satisfying right wing radio, than elucidating issues important to voters.

Even the atmospherics of the debate were ridiculously slanted. How many cutaways of HRC supporters does one need to see in a debate? We were treated to shots of Lil' Chelsea, Wes Clark, Ed Rendell, and the Philadelphia mayor, all of whom are Clinton surrogates. And Hillary was smart to keep pointing people out in the room, so that the camera would cut to them. Can't blame her for playing the game. But ABC made not even the slightest pretense of balance. Surely there were one or two Obama supporters in the room?

Anyone who cares about fairness in media, and who is as alarmed as I am by the taint of Fox News on ABC (the same outfit that ran that ridiculous 9/11 mockumentary, and which originally spawned Chris Wallce) should write to them. Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, people are already getting things started on the ABC comment board.

My outrage over tonight's absurd, embarassing spectacle aside, I can come up with exactly three things to remember about tonight's debate:

1. Hillary has now laid down the most compelling argument so far for the superdelegates to swipe the nomination from Barack. Essentially, she has proven tonight that she can and will mimic the Republican attack machine, and play as dirty as they do. For some Democrats, that is an asset, while Barack's almost endemic congeniality could be seen as a weakness once he's facing the full onslought from the right (think Charlie Gibson's eye-bulging on the capital gains tax mixed with Stephanopoulos' Hannity pandering on William Ayers, time 100...)

2. The sole substantive point in the debate was that Hillary promised to extend the dubious concept of extending the "security umbrella" the U.S. currently deploys over Israel -- a nuclear-armed military bohemoth -- to other countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, yes, THAT Saudi Arabia. And that means the U.S. would reverse George W. Bush's reversal on Saudi bases, presumably stationing a military presence not just in Iraq, but across the Middle East. That almost out-neocons the neocons, and rewards the prinicipal financiers of al-Qaida to boot.

3. It should now be clear to Team Obama that the meme about media bias in their favor is officially dead. They should be prepared to fight both the Clinton campaign and a preponderance of the Washington press corps, not because the press love Hillary. They don't. But they love the ratings that come with phony, tabloid "news." And lately, Barack generates lots and lots of it. And once the general election comes along, Barack will meet the politician the elite D.C. media really loves: John McCain.

If ever a candidate needed a 527 on his side ...

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posted by JReid @ 10:24 PM  
Barack up 10 in new ABC/WaPo poll
...and Hillary's negatives rising.

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posted by JReid @ 9:58 AM  
The continuing adventures of Traitor Joe
As we await the news that Joseph Lieberman is officially joining the Republican Party, the better to live out his neoconservative creed... there's word that the Senator better known as Benedict Lieberman is looking for some face time at the Republican Convention:

McCain has yet to ask Lieberman to speak, either in primetime or elsewhere, at the convention. But if McCain thinks it will help make his case for the White House, as some of his allies suspect, Lieberman would be willing to speak on his behalf.

“If Sen. McCain, who I support so strongly, asked me to do it, if he thinks it will help him, I will,” Lieberman said in a brief interview.

Lieberman said he doubts McCain will ask him to give a keynote address, but acknowledges the subject has yet to come up in the two senators’ discussions.

A Lieberman aide said even though there are no plans for the Independent to give a speech at the convention, it is a “likely possibility” he will address the Republican audience in some form.

So if he does it, will there be consequences?

Appearing before the Republican convention carries some risk for Lieberman. His Democratic colleagues could seek retribution by taking away his gavel on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next Congress.

Lieberman has had a long leash this Congress because his decision to caucus with Democrats — despite losing Connecticut’s 2006 Democratic primary — allows them to hold their narrow 51-49 majority. If Democrats pick up more seats as expected in November, and Lieberman angers Democrats along the campaign trail, some privately expect there might be an attempt to deny him his bid to retain his chairmanship.

One Democratic leadership aide said losing his chairmanship could happen in that scenario, but “the bar would have to be very high.”

That’s because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a close relationship with Lieberman.

Unlike a number of Democratic colleagues
Nah, too wimpy ... er ... collegial up there in the Senate.

So I guess it will be left to the voters of Connecticut (the majority of whom oppose Lieberman's warmongering) to not screw it up for a change, by electing themselves a new Senator the next time around.

Back to the convention. I wonder what John McCain's little jerk thinks of Joe crossing the aisle to speak for McCain... why, he thinks it's a swell idea, of course!
“I think it would be a great idea,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain’s closest Hill ally. “If you looked at economic issues and social issues, I bet you we disagree a vast majority of the time. But when you look at what the primary job of what a United States senator is in the age in which we live, we have pretty much universal agreement — and that’s to protect the homeland.”

I mean, anything for the love of his life best friend he has in the whole world... John McCain...


posted by JReid @ 8:58 AM  
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Who knew?
Ohmigod, Cindy McCain writes all the recipes for the Food Network!!! Rachel Ray is such a poser, passing off Cindy's fabulous recipes as her own...

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posted by JReid @ 9:03 PM  
Sound and fury
For all the media's fulminating and braying on behalf of the gun owning, churchgoing, illegal immigration opposing, small town Americans that most of their East Coast elite backsides quietly despise, it appears that so far, Americans are proving to be much smarter than the people who bring them the news.

To whit, the "bittergate" flap -- five eye-rolling days rolling, with no end in sight -- has had exactly zero impact on the presidential primary race. Zilch.

The new LAT/Bloomberg poll finds the race in Pennsylvania actually getting tighter -- it's down to five points in a poll taken Thursday through Monday, meaning all but one polling day included this stupid, tedious, non-story about who's bitter and who's the salt of the earth. The same outfit has Hillary losing her lead in Indiana, and going down 13 points to Barack in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs spent the better part of his show today spouting off at Obama, but when he tried to put it in a poll, that too fell flat. Lou's poll asked whether the viewers of his show would desribe themselves as "partisan and pathetic," "bitter and angry" or "independent and proud." I think he was pulling for "independent and proud." the results, instead the results were as follows:

Partisan and pathetic - 3%
Independent and proud - 45%
Bitter and angry - 52%

52% Lou. That's a majority of your viewers who describe themselves as bitter and angry. I mean, you do listen to your show, right?

BTW, Hillary's PA lead according to Quinnipiac: 6 percent. No change from last week.

And Barack is up one point in Gallup's daily tracking poll - 51% to 40%.

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posted by JReid @ 7:58 PM  
A little truth telling
It's clear from the coverage (or the non-coverage) that the Washington press corps has a soft spot for John McCain. Mostly, it's because of his "openness" (mistaken for honesty by the quote-hungry reporterati), but it could also stem from their having been burned by his year 2000 rival, George W. Bush, and a sense among them that the better man stayed on the "straight talk express." Whatever the cause, the meme that the press is in love with Barack Obama would be better applied to McCain.

... which is why it's not surprising to learn that the recent appearances before a press organization, the American Society of Newspaper Editors. went very differently for the two men ...
At a luncheon for the editors hosted by the Associated Press, AP Chairman Dean Singleton quizzed Obama about whether he would send more troops to Afghanistan, where "Obama bin Laden is still at large?"

"I think that was Osama bin Laden," the candidate answered.

"If I did that, I'm so sorry!" Singleton said.

"This," Obama told the editors, is "part of the exercise that I've been going through over the last 15 months."

McCain's moderators, the AP's Ron Fournier and Liz Sidoti, greeted McCain with a box of Dunkin' Donuts. "We spend quite a bit of time with you on the back of the Straight Talk Express asking you questions, and what we've decided to do today was invite everyone else along on the ride," Sidoti explained. "We even brought you your favorite treat."

McCain opened the offering. "Oh, yes, with sprinkles!" he said.

Sidoti passed him a cup. "A little coffee with a little cream and a little sugar," she said. ...

Mmmm. ... Donuts...
The dueling appearances by McCain and Obama nicely captured the current dynamic in the presidential cycle. McCain, his nomination secure, had the luxury to joke and pander. Obama, wounded by the Democrats' internecine fighting, was defensive and somber.

Singleton, Obama's moderator, pointed out that a new poll showed the Democrat had lost the 10-point lead over McCain that he had in February. "The fact that our contest is still going on means that John McCain comes in here, and he's feeling pretty good," Obama answered. "He can be a little more deliberate and pace himself. And that probably explains the close in the polls."

McCain was indeed in high spirits as he entered the ballroom and invited the editors' "questions, comments or insults." Reading from a teleprompter, McCain said he was among friends. "I made a decision to be as accessible to the press as the press would prefer me to be, and perhaps even more than they would prefer." Accepting the doughnuts, McCain had a gift for the editors, too -- his support for a law shielding reporters from identifying their sources.

This left everybody in a good mood for the criticism of Obama that McCain tacked on the end of his speech. Americans don't "turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment," he said. The candidate then took a seat with the two AP reporters and crossed his legs casually for the questions. Asked about his advanced age, he pretended to nod off in his chair. "Watch me campaign," he challenged. "Come on the bus again, my friends, all of you."

McCain got a standing ovation -- an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.

The words, "in the tank" come to mind (wonder if SNL will pick up on THAT ... nah... they have their narrative, too...) The question is, when the general election rolls around, will the media continue to overplay every Obama statement (five days of "bitter" and still not signs of slowing down by the MSM) while ignoring the more substantive errors made by their friend, McCain (not knowing a Suni from a Shiite in Iraq? Probably more of a "commander in chief test" than whether you're enough of a "regular guy" to relate to hunters. ... but then, I'm not on MSNBC.

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 PM  
Arianna Huffington is having a grand old time criticizing Hillary Clinton for trying to score cheap political points on the "bittergate" non-story (which the press is continuing to flog, five days on.) Writes Arianna today:
Here's Sen. Evan Bayh, commenting on the political firestorm surrounding Barack Obama's remarks -- broken here on HuffPost's OffTheBus -- about economically-depressed small town voters: "The far right wing has a very good track record of using things like this relentlessly against our candidates, whether it's Al Gore or John Kerry. I'm afraid this is the kind of fodder they might use to harm him."

They? They? It's not the far right wing relentlessly using these comments for political gain, Senator. It's your candidate, Hillary Clinton, adopting the frames, lies, stereotypes and destructive clichés long embraced by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. She has clearly decided that the road to victory runs through scorched earth.

The question is, if she succeeds, what kind of Party will she be left to lead? She's burning down the village to save it -- or to prove that she would make the best fire chief. But the village won't be saved; only one house will be left standing. A house with room for just two occupants. Hill and Bill.
The trouble is, scoring cheap political points is, for better or for worse, Hillary's political strategy at the moment. She is losing the campaign, and is throwing the "kitchen sink" at her opponent in an attempt to wrestle away the nomination.

The Huffington Post, on the other hand, is a multi-contributor blog purporting to also be a journalistic outfit. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to ask, as Howard Kurtz did briefly in his WaPo column yesterday, whether it is ethical for the Huffington Post to send a supposed "Obama supporter" (Mayhill Fowler) into an Obama fundraiser, for which she purportedly made a donation in order to enter, and whether having her secretly tape the procedings and post a rambling cavalcade of personal opinion bears the slightest resemblance to actual journalism.

Fowler as blogger infiltrator, OK I get that. But Fowler as crack journalist? Hm. Today, Jay Rosen, Arianna's partner in crime on the blog that originally published Fowler's story (OfftheBus,) is complaining that the HuffPo and Fowler were not credited by Tim Russert and other MSM types for her story.

... Would Russert pick up on the novelty of the situation? An Obama supporter and donor, who also wrote regular dispatches for Huffington Post's pro-am campaign news site, OffTheBus, recorded Obama's words at an April 6th San Francisco fundraiser, and then wrote about what concerned her in them. From there it exploded. Pretty good story! (As the Guardian recognized today.) Plus, it would allow Russert to sound a savvy warning: "Heads up, candidates, your supporters include bloggers and they exercise their First Amendment rights. Barack Obama found
that out this week...."

Tim and his staff decided on erasure. You'd have to ask them why. Mayhill Fowler's Obama quotes were shown on screen, but Meet the Press made no mention of her, or OffTheBus, or the Huffington Post.
Huh??? So the problem isn't that Ms. Fowler, a woman squarely in Hillary Clinton's age and gender demographic, faked her way into an Obama event and then conducted what amounts to a bugging of the candidate ... and the problem isn't that her "report" contained only her personal opinins, with nary a quote from another soul who attended the event, hence, it doesn't contain any actual journalism ... the problem isn't that the Huffington Post is now orchestrating campaign "gotchas" rather than covering them ... the problem is that Fowler didn't get her 15 minutes of fame? Interesting ethics over at the Huffpo.

Related: One HuffPo contributor agrees with me.


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posted by JReid @ 10:39 AM  
Monday, April 14, 2008
Meanwhile, in the real world...
States are looking for new ways to limit guns and gun violence.


posted by JReid @ 10:56 PM  
The wingers won't like that
[Warning! Moonie Link!!!] McCain says "greedy Wall Street investors" are to blame for the recession we're in. And no coverage from RedState? How much does it cost to sell out your principles, guys?

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 PM  
Now THAT's a major political gaffe!
Dan Abrams came to the rescue tonight, and with a little help from Lawrence O'Donnell mocked the "bittergate" story with all the snidery it deserves (though it did look like he was about to give poor Pat Buchanan a heart attack...) I think it's time for the MSM to find something more interesting to talk about ... like a REAL political gaffe that merits the attention of the media beastie:

Davis apologizes for calling Obama 'boy'

U.S. Rep Geoff Davis apologized Monday for calling presidential contender and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama “boy” during a Northern Kentucky dinner over the weekend.

“My poor choice of words is regrettable and was in no way meant to impugn you or your integrity," Davis wrote in a letter that staffers said was hand-delivered to Obama’s U.S. Senate office. "I offer my sincere apology to you and ask for your forgiveness.”

Davis continued: “Though we may disagree on many issues, I know that we share the goal of a prosperous, secure future for our nation. My comment has detracted from the dialogue that we should all be having on legitimate policy differences and in no way reflects the personal and professional respect I have for you.”

The word “boy” is considered extremely offensive by many African-Americans, as it was used by Southern whites in the Jim Crow South to assert racial superiority.

Um, ya think???

The offending comment was first reported on the Herald-Leader’s political blog, Pol Watchers. (Click here to listen to Davis' remarks.)

Davis spoke at the Northern Kentucky 4th Congressional District Lincoln Day Dinner, also attended by Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning.

Davis compared Obama, a Democratic contender for president, and his message to a “snake oil salesman.”

He said in his remarks at the GOP dinner that he also recently participated in a “highly classified, national security simulation” with Obama.

“I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button," Davis said. "He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.” ...

Um ... mainstream media? A little help here? If you didn't use the link above, let me give it to you again, so you can listen to the audio. Note the applause and laughter after he calls Obama "that boy." Who was this guy speaking to, a Klan rally? And by the way, this clod is from Kentucky, so don't tell me he didn't understand what he was saying. Clearly he knows that a George "Macaca" Allen defense won't work, and that's why he fell on his sword today.

But what's really interesting are the comments below the story. Note the wingers whining about how the "PC police" jump ... on ... every ... thing ... you ... say ... meanwhile, they're busy jumping on what Barack said, claiming he's disparaging small town people, while beeyatching that poor Geoff didn't mean to disparage anyone.

I think you've got to be a Republican to understand. Look for the MSM to completely ignore this one, even with the Drudge link. Too much like an actual controversy. Better to stay with the idiotic "bittergate" story. Hillary likey much better.

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 PM  
Hillary's very own extra special wild west adventure
There's a new Mahatma Hillary posted. And in case you haven't checked out the blog, it chronicles HRC's long history of service to ... well ... everything that ever happened in history that could be useful to recount on the stump during a presidential campaign. Here's the main link.

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posted by JReid @ 10:14 PM  
Monbiot on the global food crisis
George Monbiot's take is up on the Guardian website:

Never mind the economic crisis. Focus for a moment on a more urgent threat: the great food recession that is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch. You have probably seen the figures by now: the price of rice has risen by three-quarters over the past year, that of wheat by 130%. There are food crises in 37 countries. One hundred million people, according to the World Bank, could be pushed into deeper poverty by the high prices.

But I bet that you have missed the most telling statistic. At 2.1bn tonnes, the global grain harvest broke all records last year - it beat the previous year's by almost 5%. The crisis, in other words, has begun before world food supplies are hit by climate change. If hunger can strike now, what will happen if harvests decline?

There is plenty of food. It is just not reaching human stomachs. Of the 2.13bn tonnes likely to be consumed this year, only 1.01bn, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation, will feed people.

I am sorely tempted to write another column about biofuels. From this morning all sellers of transport fuel in the United Kingdom will be obliged to mix it with ethanol or biodiesel made from crops. The World Bank points out that "the grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol ... could feed one person for a year". This year global stockpiles of cereals will decline by around 53m tonnes; this gives you a rough idea of the size of the hunger gap. The production of biofuels will consume almost 100m tonnes, which suggests that they are directly responsible for the current crisis.

On these pages yesterday Ruth Kelly, the secretary of state for transport, promised that "if we need to adjust policy in the light of new evidence, we will". What new evidence does she require? In the midst of a global humanitarian crisis, we have just become legally obliged to use food as fuel. It is a crime against humanity, in which every driver in this country has been forced to participate.

But I have been saying this for four years, and I am boring myself. Of course we must demand that our governments scrap the rules that turn grain into the fastest food of all. But there is a bigger reason for global hunger, which is attracting less attention only because it has been there for longer. While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760m tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals - which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If you care about hunger, eat less meat.

While meat consumption is booming in Asia and Latin America, in the UK it has scarcely changed since the government started gathering data in 1974. At just over 1kg per person per week, it's still about 40% above the global average, though less than half the amount consumed in the United States. We eat less beef and more chicken than we did 30 years ago, which means a smaller total impact. Beef cattle eat about 8kg of grain or meal for every kilogram of flesh they produce; a kilogram of chicken needs just 2kg of feed. Even so, our consumption rate is plainly unsustainable.

Monbiot's solution? Those in the developed world, those of us who have an endless supply of food choices, should eat less meat. Specifically, we should consume less beef (which health experts advise anyway.) That cattle industry wouldn't like to hear of such a thing, but cows happen to be the greediest, most inefficient eaters of all livestock. Better, says Monbiot, to eat more tilapia (the most efficient eaters.)

Well, I do like tilapia...

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Who's feeling your pain?
The media continues to carry Hillary Clinton's water on the Obama "bittergate" foolishness. But on Thom Hartmann's show today, a caller reminded us of another young politician who opined about the cynicism of lower middle class white voters:

As the rumination continues over Barack Obama's comments about economically-depressed small town voters, statements made by Bill Clinton on the same topic -- uttered while he was running for president in 1991 -- have now surfaced.

"The reason (George H. W. Bush's tactic) works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death," Clinton was quoted saying by the Los Angeles Times in September 1991.

A couple months later, Joe Klein, writing for the Sunday Times, reported that Clinton made the following remarks:

"You know, he [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, Bobby wants my job, my promotion, then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, 'What happened to everybody's job? What happened to everybody's income? What ... have ... you ... done ... to ... our ... country?'"
This guy at NewsBusters (I can't believe I'm quoting them...) dug up even more:

Clinton told a meeting of the Alabama Democratic Party black caucus that Republicans "find the most economically insecure white folks and go scare the living daylights out of them." -- AP, October 13, 1991

  • Why does the President refuse to let a civil rights bill pass? Because he knows that the people he is dependent on for his electoral majority -- white working class men and women, mostly men, have had their incomes decline in the 1980s and they may return to their natural home, someone who offers them real economic opportunity. And so he is dredging up the same old tactic that the hard right has employed in my part of the country, in the South, since I was a child. When everything gets (hyped ?) and you think you're going to lose those people, you find the most economically insecure white people and you scare the living daylights out of them. -- Georgetown University, October 23, 1991

  • 1,000 Illinois Democrats had gathered in Chicago for their annual fund-raising dinner. Clinton, 45, was determined to give them his best shot. And he did, vigorously attacking George Bush: ''You know, he wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this,'' Clinton croaked. ''This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them.'' -- Sunday Times, November 3, 1991

  • "If you were in the do-nothing faction and you were about to get voted out, you just found the most economically insecure white people and scared the living hell out of them. We were raised on his. . . What did it do for us? Nothing. Kept us down. Kept us flat. All the progress we've made in the South, we've made since we started working together again.'' -- Houston Chronicle, June 7, 1992

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posted by JReid @ 6:49 PM  
Food is the new oil
The next wars, and John McCain says there will be more wars (he can dream, can't he?) if they occur, could be over things more basic than oil and energy resources. They could be over food (and water...)

Haiti's government has been thrown into instability once again, this time by the rising price of food, which has spawned riots that upended Haiti's fragile government once again over the weekend. That country's prime minister was sacked, and a U.N. peacekeeper killed trying to deliver food aid in the last few days.

Meanwhile, world leaders are edging close to calling food prices an international crisis:

World leaders yesterday called for urgent action to tackle soaring global food prices, while promising to quickly implement measures to strengthen the international financial system and prevent a repeat of the credit crisis.

The call for a global effort to deal with both the immediate food crisis in the developing world and the longer-term challenge of ensuring adequate food supplies came on the final day of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings in Washington DC.

Earlier, the Group of Seven industrialised nations and the IMF governing council made up of global finance ministers and central bank governors endorsed a 65-point plan to reform the global financial market.

The G7 also expressed fresh concern about "sharp fluctuations in major currencies" which it said potentially threatened financial and economic stability.
Among the culprits in the skyrocketing cost of food around the world: America's continuing insistence on subsidizing ethanol -- a useless biofuel that's not nearly as promising as biodeisel, which can be made from things other than corn. The ethanol giveaway is pushing corn prices to the bursting point, while the actual use of ethanol fuel in the U.S. continues to stagnate. Of course, the subsidy is all about Iowa and heartland politics.

Of course there are many other factors pushing food prices to a 17-year high in the U.S. alone:

USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag explained the jumps in a recent presentation to the Food Marketing Institute, starting with the factors everyone knows about: sharply higher commodity costs for wheat, corn, soybeans and milk, plus higher energy and transportation costs.

The other reasons are more complex. Rapid economic growth in China and India has increased demand for meat there, and exports of U.S. products, such as corn, have set records as the weak dollar has made them cheaper. That's lowered the supply of corn available for sale in the U.S., raising prices here. Ethanol production has also diverted corn from dinner tables and into fuel tanks.

Soybean prices have gone up as farmers switched more of their acreage to corn. Drought in Australia has even affected the price of bread, as it led to tighter global wheat supplies.

The jump has left people in the food business to do their own explaining. Twin Cafe Caterers in lower Manhattan posted a letter on its deli cooler: "Due to the huge increase of the gas, the electricity, the water and all the other utilities, we had to raise the prices a little bit." It went on to say that all its food prices have risen, too.

Meanwhile, world poverty combined with population explosions across the third world are pressing the world's food supply to the limit.

And even if world governments can get a handle on food prices, the next issue will be water rights. Just ask the Palestinians and Israelis.

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posted by JReid @ 5:31 PM  
Being Mayhill Fowler
Howard Kurtz asks a relevant question this morning (I'm tempted to add, "for a change..."):
What are the ethics, by the way, of being an Obama donor--which is how Fowler got into the closed event--and surreptitiously taping the speaker? Fowler did not respond to a request for comment. That doesn't let Obama off the hook, of course, since speaking to an audience, even a paying audience, is not exactly a secret event.
Good question. To review, Ms. Fowler is the HuffPo blogger who broke the "bittergate" story by secretly taping Barack at that now infamous San Francisco fundraiser, and then releasing the audio, plus a long, rambling story about Barack, on her Huffblog.

Well ... I've been to closed door campaign events -- I went to one for Barack not too long ago. And even though I work in (and out) of journalism, I would never for a second dream of taping one of these events. In fact, I scrupulously keep names, dates and places out of my posts on this blog regarding those events (in favor of the vague ("a high level campaign operative addressed supporters...")

This is not to say I'm such great shakes. But it is to say that Ms. Fowler (appropriately surnamed) is either 1) not really an Obama supporter, but rather a Hillary girl who infiltrated the event hoping to get some news out of it (shades of the way Macaca was caught on tape); 2) an online journalist who went to the event for the same reason, or 3) just a schmuck. Either way, her goal was clearly to attend the event for purposes not favorable to the candidate, and that raises other questions, including, was she reimbursed by either the Huffington Post, or worse, by someone in the Clinton campaign, for the Obama donation she had to make in order to get in the door in San Fran? Just sayin...

I suppose all's fair in Hillary love and blogging, but for Obama's team, it's a cautionary tale when attending "closed to the media events": don't say anything you wouldn't want to read on the Huffpo, or in HRC's campaign literature.

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posted by JReid @ 11:21 AM  
What's the matter with Pennsylvania?
... Thomas Frank. That's the name of the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?" (ca 2004). I've been talking about his book in several posts so I might as well give him a plug by name. Here's an LA Times review:
One of “our most insightful social observers”* cracks the great political mystery of our time: how conservatism, once a marker of class privilege, became the creed of millions of ordinary Americans With his acclaimed wit and acuity, Thomas Frank turns his eye on what he calls the “thirty-year backlash”—the populist revolt against a supposedly liberal establishment. The high point of that backlash is the Republican Party’s success in building the most unnatural of alliances: between blue-collar Midwesterners and Wall Street business interests, workers and bosses, populists and right-wingers. In asking “what ’s the matter with Kansas?”—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where’s the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism? The questions are urgent as well as provocative. Frank answers them by examining pop conservatism—the bestsellers, the radio talk shows, the vicious political combat—and showing how our long culture wars have left us with an electorate far more concerned with their leaders’ “values” and down-home qualities than with their stands on hard questions of policy. A brilliant analysis—and funny to boot—What’s the Matter with Kansas? presents a critical assessment of who we are, while telling a remarkable story of how a group of frat boys, lawyers, and CEOs came to convince a nation that they spoke on behalf of the People. -- Los Angeles Times
And a quote from Thomas Frank himself, which sums it up nicely (or that will get him into the same hot water as Barack Obama, if you leave it up to the lazy MSM:
"The problem is not that Democrats are monolithically pro-choice or anti-school prayer; it's that by dropping the class language that once distinguished them sharply from Republicans, they have left themselves vulnerable to cultural wedge issues like guns and abortion and the rest whose hallucinatory appeal would ordinarily be overshadowed by material concerns. We are in an environment where Republicans talk constantly about class -- in a coded way, to be sure -- but where Democrats are afraid to bring it up."
Uh ... duh...

The only difference between what Barack Obama said and what Thomas Frank said is that Barack Obama used the word "bitter" to describe disaffected lower-middle class white folks who vote primarily on "cultural" issues or who retreat to GOP-inspired positions on things like immigration "as a way to explain their frustrations." But the notion that many Americans are angry, indeed, bitter, about the state of the U.S. economy and their shrinking lot in life is clearly evidenced by EVERY FREAKING POLL IN THE KNOWN WORLD, and by previous polls that described a plurality of Americans as not just dissatisfied (8 in 10 are that), but angry; about Iraq (2004), about gas prices (2005), or hell, about just every damned thing (2006).

And before we let our TV news spokesmodels get into a further lather about Obama's supposed "big gaffe," let's have a look back, say, to 1994, when a certain president whose surname begins with "C" was in the White House. This, at the time, was a rather unremarkable headline, from the Virginian Pilot:


DATE: Wednesday, September 21, 1994

Americans are in an ugly mood, and that's a dangerous fact for politicians and others dependent on the kindness of strangers.

That's the bleak conclusion of a major new poll by the Times Mirror Center assessing the national political climate.

The survey paints a picture of an America that has become an increasingly bitter, frustrated, cynical and selfish place over the last seven years. And it portrays a public ever more distrustful and hopeless about its government.

``This is an electorate that is angry, self-absorbed and unanchored politically,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Times Mirror Center.

Among the grim details:

Americans are increasingly indifferent toward the problems of blacks and minorities and resentful toward immigrants.

Fewer Americans think government should take care of needy people.

Public disgust with Washington is significantly worse than in 1992. More voters want traditional politicians replaced with a fresh, new batch. And a third party is looking better all the time.

More than 70 percent of Americans think the media, especially television news shows, hurt the country more than they help.

The poll's analysts concluded that the Clinton administration's agenda of change and economic recovery have failed to reverse an overwhelming political cynicism in the country.
Fancy that...

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
$100 Million Hillary rides out! (Or, like Annie Oakley in a duck blind...)
The most overblown "controversy" of the year -- Barack's "bitter" moment -- continues to roll along, as the mainstream media desperately casts about for something to talk about regarding the never-ending Democratic campaign. (Sigh.) I'd love to boycott the entire issue, because as I've said before, it's stupid. (I await David Plouffe's phonecall to the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas." Encourage him to do some TV. He'll tell you about bitter, lower income folk voting on guns, god and gays...)

However, I'll roll with it, if only to mock the whole silly thing. First, the news:

Hillary and Barack did the CNN "Compassion Forum" last night (McCain skipped it. Compassion. Phthewww! Johnny Boy likes WAR, WAR, BEAUTIFUL WAR!!!!!!! COMPASSION IS FOR SISSIES!!!!...) speaking separately with Campbell Brown and that creepy faith guy from Newsweek. Hillary used her time on the stage to berate Obama as an "elitist," and to ensure that Al Gore casts his super delegate vote for her opponent:
"We had two very good men and men of faith run for president in 2000 and 2004," Mrs. Clinton said at a forum on faith televised live on CNN last night. "But large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or frankly respect their ways of life."
Well at least she can't lose Kerry twice.

Hillary is also resorting to doing shots and pretending to be a hunter in order to solidify the "downscale Democrat" faithful. The notion that she, a wealthy lawyer and wife of the former president of the United States, who hasn't held a non-professional job ever in her life, is more the commoner than a kid from a single family whom whose family once got on food stamps, is fairly laughable but hell, the press is buying it...

The Obama campaign, however, is not, and Hillary was rightly ridiculed for her present line of attack by her rival yesterday:

“I expected this out of John McCain,” Obama said in Steelton, Pa., last night, striking a theme that we expect to hear more of.

“But I’ve gotta say, I’m a little disappointed when I start hearing the exact same talking points coming out of my Democratic colleague, Hillary Clinton,” he said, before getting downright derisive of the multimillionaire former First Lady for casting him as the elitist and herself as the in touch with regular folk.

“Shame on her. Shame on her,” Obama said to approval from his crowd. “She knows better. She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen. She, how she values the Second Amendment, she’s talking like she is Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s out in the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six shooter. Come on. She knows better. That’s some politics being played by Hillary Clinton. I want to see that picture of her out there in the duck blind. You know, come on.”

Now Hil', you know you brought that one on yourself. Here's the video:

Hillary is fighting harder than ever, and Politico re-racks the story that she's doing so because she and Bill think Obama can't win in the fall.
Why, ask many Democrats and media commentators, won’t Hillary Rodham Clinton see the long odds against her, put her own ambitions aside, and gracefully embrace Barack Obama as the inevitable Democratic nominee?

Here is why: She and Bill Clinton both devoutly believe that Obama’s likely victory is a disaster-in-waiting. Naive Democrats just don’t see it. And a timid, pro-Obama press corps, in their view, won’t tell the story.

But Hillary Clinton won’t tell it, either.

A lot of coverage of the Clinton campaign supposes them to be in kitchen-sink mode — hurling every pot and pan, no matter the damage this might do to Obama as the likely Democratic nominee in the fall.

In fact, the Democratic race has not been especially rough by historical standards. What’s more, our conversations with Democrats who speak to the Clintons make plain that their public comments are only the palest version of what they really believe: that if Obama is the nominee, a likely Democratic victory would turn to a near-certain defeat.

Far from a no-holds-barred affair, the Democratic contest has been an exercise in self-censorship.

Rip off the duct tape and here is what they would say: Obama has serious problems with Jewish voters (goodbye Florida), working-class whites (goodbye Ohio) and Hispanics (goodbye, New Mexico).

Republicans will also ruthlessly exploit openings that Clinton — in the genteel confines of an intraparty contest — never could. Top targets: Obama’s radioactive personal associations, his liberal ideology, his exotic life story, his coolly academic and elitist style.

This view has been an article of faith among Clinton advisers for months, but it got powerful new affirmation last week with Obama’s clumsy ruminations about why “bitter” small-town voters turn to guns and God.

There’s nothing to say that the Clintonites are right about Obama’s presumed vulnerabilities. But one argument seems indisputably true: Obama is on the brink of the Democratic nomination without having had to confront head-on the evidence about his general election challenges.

That is why some friends describe Clinton as seeing herself on a mission to save Democrats from themselves. Her candidacy may be a long shot, but no one should expect she will end it unless or until every last door has been shut.
The caveat there, of course, is that the Clintons also prognosticated that her victory in the Democratic primary was inevitable, and would be sealed after February 5th ...

Of course, Hillary's people do have one point: Barack Obama is a former college professor, and sometimes talks like one (though he can also get gully, as he did with the "Annie Oakley in a duck blind dis...) And his support is so heavily concentrated in upscale, suburban whites and African-Americans, that he does run the risk of being an ultra-blue state candidate.

But ... and this is the important part ... Barack Obama doesn't have to win the rural south or midwest in order to become president. He needs to win all of the states John Kerry won, and add one big one (Ohio or Florida) or a couple of smaller ones (New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada...) That's it. Winning the south may be a lovely idea, but it's not a necessity. That said, Barack will need to hold on to states like Pennsylvania, which I suspect that Hillary's ground crew, led by Ed Rendell, will work vigorously to help him do in the fall. In fact, the only things that could really hurt Barack's electability in the fall would be 1) a major gaffe, 2) a major, negative revelation late in the campaign, or 3) an ingrained impression formed among voters that he is Mike Dukakis, John Kerry or Al Gore -- and it is Hillary Clinton who is working to accomplish that at the moment.


posted by JReid @ 10:29 AM  
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Bush admits to knowledge of lawbreaking, Washington yawns
So George W. Bush has no problem admitting to ABC news' Martha Raddatz that not only did his top cabinet officials meet inside the White House to game out torture techniques, but also that he knew about the meetings, and approved. Two questions: why isn't Dubya ever allowed in the room when the big kids are talking, and did the president of the United States just admit to war crimes on a national television network?

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posted by JReid @ 12:52 AM  
No pope for you!
Pope Benedict will make his first visit to the U.S. next week, and while he will meet with Bush at the outset, he apparently has declined an invitation to dinner:
The pontiff will be greeted by the president and first lady upon his arrival to the US Tuesday and participate in a Rose Garden appearance and Oval Office meeting with President Bush the next day. A dinner scheduled for later Wednesday night didn't make it onto the Benedict's schedule, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Friday.

From Friday's press briefing:
Q Just to clarify, for the pope's visit to the White House, you said that now there's a dinner in the East Room in honor of the pope?
Q Will the pope actually be attending that dinner?
MR. STANZEL: I don't believe so, no.
Q Okay. Thank you.
Q I'm sorry. The pope doesn't attend a dinner in his honor?
Q (Off mike.)
MR. STANZEL: He doesn't come into the building.
Q Well, then it's not a dinner for the pope, is it?
MR. STANZEL: It's in honor of his visit. There will be leaders from the Catholic community from all over the country who are in town for that visit.
Q Is there a reason the pope doesn't attend the dinner?
MR. STANZEL: I don't know. I don't have the full extent of his schedule.

Benedict's schedule does not indicate any events that would conflict with his ability to attend the 7:30 p.m. dinner that Wednesday. He is just scheduled to return to the Vatican embassy in Washington at the same time after a meeting with US bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Well ... I mean what would they talk about? I don't think the pope likes baseball...

It's unclear why the Pope won't be attending the dinner in his honor, but he is expected to touch on issues upon which he and President Bush disagree during the visit, especially the Iraq war.

During his visit to the United Nations a few days later, the Pope will address "the false notion that might makes right," according to a Vatican representative.

You mean, like torturing people to "protect the homeland...?" (such a Germany, circa 1939 term, homeland...) Oh, that wouldn't go over well...
Some experts also predict the Pope would criticize the "culture of fear" in the United States. The Rev. David Hollenbach, director of Boston College's Center for Human Rights, said recently that this culture is seen as integral to the US involvement in Iraq.
Yes ... probably best to skip the dinner...

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posted by JReid @ 12:40 AM  
It had to happen...
Not surprised to hear that Tavis Smiley has quit the Tom Joyner Morning Show over the firestorm surrounding his repeated criticisms of Barack Obama. Joyner is an Obama supporter, and he has recently become much warmer with people like Al Sharpton, who very shrewdly dropped his early attacks on Barack and became tactically neutral, and Michael Baisden, who's unabashedly pro-Obama. Here's the story:

One of Sen. Barack Obama's toughest African American critics is quitting his long association with a national radio show after facing a backlash from the program's listeners.

Tavis Smiley said yesterday he will resign in June as a twice-weekly commentator on the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" after more than 11 years with the program. He cited fatigue and a busy schedule in a personal call to Joyner on Thursday night, but Joyner indicated otherwise on his program and in his blog yesterday, writing: "The real reason is that he can't take the hate he's been getting regarding the Barack issue -- hate from the black people that he loves so much."

Smiley has taken on Obama in a series of commentaries that began as the Democrat from Illinois emerged as the party's front-runner for the presidential nomination in early January. Days after Obama's win in the Iowa caucus, Smiley warned on Joyner's show: "Don't fall so madly in love [with Obama] that you surrender your power to hold people accountable. . . . I'm not saying overlook Senator Obama, but you now better be ready to look him over."

That commentary brought a hail of critical phone calls and e-mails down on Smiley, who replied two days later on the Joyner show that he stood by his criticism. "It's all about accountability," he said at the time.

Since then, amid mounting counter-criticism, Smiley has stepped up his critiques, contending that Obama wasn't sufficiently attentive to issues involving African Americans.

He was also critical of Obama's decision not to attend an annual forum, the State of the Black Union, that Smiley hosted in February in New Orleans. Obama's rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, accepted Smiley's invitation to the event. When the Obama campaign offered Michelle Obama, the senator's wife, as a substitute speaker, Smiley said publicly the offer was unacceptable.

He also rebuked Obama this month for not traveling to Memphis for the 40th anniversary ceremonies marking the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and for Obama's decision to distance himself from controversial remarks made by the Obama family's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. ...
Roland Martin, another up and comer in the Black commentary world, has also implied that Tavis is used to getting accolades, and can't take the barbs, but it's easy to say that when you're not on the receiving end. I have sharply disagreed with and been disappointed by what has come across to me as "hateration" on Obama by Smiley (I've even reported on it.) In many ways, Tavis seems to resent the fact that Obama's "post-racial" candidacy (or his formerly post-racial candidacy) makes people like him, for whom racial politics is the stock and trade, appear less relevant.

However, I'm reluctant to jump on the "get Smiley" bandwagon, perhaps because I was doing a talk radio show in the early days of the Obama campaign, and remember defending Barack on the air against far greater and more voluminous bashing from my callers, co-host and bosses, than I heard support. I also recall that the majority of Black Americans were ardent Hillary supporters, and actually rejected Barack's candidacy until he managed to win the lily white state of Iowa. Only then did the mass of Black folk relent, and back down on the cat calls of "he's not Black enough." The only difference is, Tavis kept talking when the others jumped on the bandwagon.

Tavis, like Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, and God knows, BET's Bob Johnson, strikes me as a man on the wrong side of history, fighting against the furtherance of what had appeared to be their own dreams, by so doggedly resisting Barack's candidacy (Lewis excepted -- he seems to be genuinely struggling, because of the aforementioned group, he seems to be the only one who knows he's on the wrong side of history...) But Smiley's commentaries have been a highlight of the Tom Joyner show, which otherwise, I must admit I don't listen to. So in that sense, I'm sorry to see him go.

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posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
Friday, April 11, 2008
Fake outrage of the week: Obama and the bitter white people
This has got to be the dumbest "scandal" I've ever heard of. To be honest, as cynical as I am about the media, I can't believe that this is even a story, or that Keith Olbermann ... MSNBC ... the sanity network ... would bother to make this breaking news. First, the set up, courtesy of ABC News:
In the midst of an assault from his rivals, a defensive Barack Obama said Friday that many working-class Americans are angry and bitter over economic inequalities and have lost faith in Washington — and, as a result, vote on the basis of other issues such as gun protections or gay marriage.

The Illinois senator's analysis of what motivates working-class voters came after chief rival Hillary Rodham Clinton accused him of looking down on such voters. Clinton rebuked Obama on Friday for similar remarks he made privately last Sunday to a group of donors in San Francisco.

"People don't vote on economic issues because they don't expect anybody is going to help them," Obama told a crowd at a Terre Haute, Ind., high school Friday evening. "So people end up voting on issues like guns and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. They take refuge in their faith and their community, and their family, and the things they can count on. But they don't believe they can count on Washington."
I see nothing controversial in that. In fact, I hear some version of that on "Hardball" about every other day. So what did Barack orignially say, that caused such a firestorm? Let's go to the folks who broke the story: The Hillarycentric Huffington Post:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

So ... if Barack is "looking down" on these voters, as HRC later accused him of, then what do you make of the guy who wronte "What's the Matter With Kansas?" a book all about people voting against their economic interests and turning to marginal social issues instead. And isn't what Hillary is really pissy about is that Barack included her husband's administration as one of the periods during which people fell through the cracks?

By the way, tanks alot, HuffPo, for exploiting the Obama statement for link ratings. It came as part of an extended piece by Mayhill Fowler on Obama's travels in the Keystone State, but Ariana & Company chose to elevate it as the headline. Nice work.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp has responded ... by essentially ignoring Hillary and going after John McCain (the other front in this Friday, slow news day war of words):

"Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities. And if John McCain wants a debate about who's out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent,” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

But back to my original point. What morons in the media find it perfectly reasonable to ask whether Michelle Obama is "angry" and "bitter," and various pundits feel free to drone on and on about hte bitterness of lower middle class whites in the aftermath of Barack Obama's speech on race, but if Barack Obama says precisely the same thing, in I have to say, rather mundane fashion, it's somehow a scandal. Why? Because Camp Hillary says so?

Give me a break.

The real reason the MSM cares about this story is that it fits the narrative the East Coast elite media has written about Barack: that he is an elitist who only attracts elitists, and who can't connect to the common man. Like the "bowling-gate" story, it reinforces the notion of the Chris Matthews crowd -- an elite, wealthy East Coast bunch whose children go to Ivy League schools, but who style themselves as men with the common touch who can still belly up to the bar and have a cold one with the boys -- even though they haven't actually done so in a generation and now enjoy a good, fine wine and cigar -- that somehow Barack is the sell-out that they are not. Except that they are.

This whole notion of wanting the president to be a "common man" doesn't even jibe with American history. America has a history of preferring aristocratic presidents -- from Teddy Roosevelt, the ultimate elite sportsman, to FDR to JFK to Ronald Reagan. We've only fallen in love with the "Bubba concept" since Bill Clinton, who chumped Bush I with the help of the media, who exposed the former veep as a man who didn't know the cost of a loaf of bread. But right after Clinton, Americans turned around and elected Bush's blue-blood son, knowing that he was an elite, Ivy league educated SON OF A FORMER PRESIDENT, but falling for the completely phony media-enabled narrative that he is some sort of common Rancher Joe. Give me a break.

The only reason Bush gets away with the "regular guy" gag is because the mainstream media suck-ups let him get away with it. And they are doing the same thing with Hillary "$109 million" Clinton and John "Married to a Liquore Heiress' McCain. Apparently, Ivy educated reporters feel inadequate in the manliness department, and so they project whatever qualities they think are common and manly onto the politicians they enable.

Unfortunately for Barack, he is too much like the members of the media for them to feel good about loving him.

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posted by JReid @ 11:37 PM  
What the ...
Congress is moving forward to solve the foreclosure crisis! ... or not:
WASHINGTON - Homebuilders and the mortgage industry are emerging as big victors in a bipartisan agreement reached by Senate leaders on legislation designed to limit the housing crisis.

The $15 billion Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008, expected to be debated Thursday afternoon on the Senate floor, is drawing fire from critics who say it would do little to actually prevent foreclosures. The bill contains a $6 billion emergency tax break that would let companies use losses from 2008 and 2009 to offset profits earned over the previous four years, instead of the usual two-year timeframe.

That's good news for big homebuilders such as KB Home and Pulte Homes Inc., which have been saddled with massive losses over the past year.

Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders, said in an interview that the tax break is "very important to the building community." It will keep many small homebuilders out of bankruptcy, he said, and will prevent large builders from having to liquidate assets.

Other big beneficiaries would be Wall Street banks such as Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and Morgan Stanley. In fact, any company now struggling after years of healthy profits that pumped up their tax bills could benefit.

While Democrats and Republicans called the bill a productive bipartisan compromise, Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, questioned whether the trade off was worthwhile for Democrats. "This is first and foremost helping the big villains in the story," he said.

So why would Congress go through all the trouble of dealing with do-nothing, recalcitrant Republicans and a looming presidential veto threat if any bill they produce actually helps anybody less wealthy than, say, Michael Bloomberg?
Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders was so dissatisfied by lawmakers' actions — notably not including the tax provision in the economic stimulus bill_ that it snapped shut its political purse. NAHB said it would stop making contributions to congressional candidates "until further notice."

Oh ... things are becoming clearer...
Since 1990, the trade group has given nearly $20 million to federal candidates, with 35 percent going to Democrats and 65 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A trade group spokesman could not be reached to comment on whether it plans to open its coffers again if Congress passes the housing bill.

I'll bet. What else does the Helping Homebuilders and Other Rich Muckey-Mucks Act of 2008 do?
The bill also contains $4 billion in grants to local governments to buy and refurbish foreclosed homes, new authority for states to issue bonds to be used to refinance subprime mortgages — those made to borrowers with poor credit — and a $7,000 tax credit for people buying properties in foreclosure.

It includes an additional $100 million — half of what Democrats proposed — for credit counseling to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. And the agreement permanently raises the limit for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration to $550,000. That amount had been temporarily raised to nearly $730,000 as part of the economic stimulus bill signed by President Bush in February.

Credit counseling??? That's it? Wow, I feel the collective sigh going up from homeowners on the brink all over the nation...

Meanwhile, the House and the Bush administration are trading ideas on inadequate homeowner assistance programs of their own.

God bless America!

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posted by JReid @ 11:26 PM  
There are metaphors, and then there are ... metaphors
Clinton campaign office in Indiana goes up in flames.

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posted by JReid @ 9:50 AM  
Our long national nightmare is almost over
I'm a little biased. I onced worked for CBS, in the company's "Black Rock" building in New York City. When I could, I used to hustle over to the west side studio where Dan Rather produced and anchored the evening news. And I grew up in time to catch the tail end of the great Walter Cronkite, who anchored the news up until 1981, when I was in junior high school. So forgive me if I CURLED UP IN THE FETAL POSITION AND PUKED when CBS hired bubbly Katie ... (ahem) Katherine ... Couric as "the first woman news anchor" to helm a nightly broadcast. See, I also grew up watching "The Today Show," and remember when Bryant Gumbel's co-hosts began to shuffle, ultimately winding up with Couric. In short, she sucked. She is waaaaay too bubbly for my tastes, and she really made Gubel look like a jerk, because it was obvious that he wasn't exactly feeling her either (not because he doesn't like white women ... I mean he left his wife for one ... and then tried to hide his assets ... sorry ...getting off track.)

Anyhoo, word on the street is that Katie Couric will soon leave the "tiffany network" for greener pastures, not defiling the very concept of news with her presence. Did I mention that they cut our department at an NBC affiliate in South Florida right around the time they raised that heiffer's salary to $30 million ... and she split for CBS anyway???? Well, I would have too, for that kind of dough ($75 mil, by some accounts)

So is she leaving? Media Bistro runs down te media frenzy, and comes to no conclusion.

Meanwhile, the Daily News says, leaving or not, the whole experience hasn't been a good one for CBS, which apparently will soon outsource its once vaunted news operation to CNN. Does that mean Anderson Cooper will be the anchorman? Oh my god ... it's getting WORSE....

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posted by JReid @ 9:34 AM  
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Twilight of the torturers (or, the rehabilitation of John Ashcroft, part II)
I think I've said before that when John Ashcroft is the voice of reason, you know that you've gone over the cliff. But Ashcroft, the one-term Bush attorney general, is slowly emerging as one of the few occasional voices of reason inside an administration bent on lawbreaking.

First, there was his really rather heroic refusal to supercede the authority of his equally heroic deputy, James Comey, who was acting attorney general at the time the administration sent errand boy Al Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital bed to get him to sign off on domestic eavesdropping. Now, comes a report from ABC News that Ashcroft sounded the alarm as the highest possible level members of the Bush administration torture of detainees, one at a time. They did so at the insistence of the CIA, which wasn't going to allow its agents to become the fall guys for the Bush team's illegal torture policies. So, Tenet and Co. sought legal and political cover from the White House and its "legal team." And yes, I use the term lightly. From ABC today:

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
So much for vice president Rice. So what did Ashcroft ultimately do this time? Well, I wish I could say he repeated the heroism he displayed in the later spying situation by declaring the torture of detainees in U.S. custory unlawful, unconostitutional and un-American. He did not. However, Ashcroft did make a prophetic statement, according to ABC's sources, that rings truer than true. A bit more from the exhaustive ABC report:

Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

And indeed it won't. War crimes have been committed by agents acting under the color of authority of the president of the United States. His own cabinet signed off, not just on the notion of torture, but on the specific techniques and use of torture on individual detainees. Each "enhanced interrogation" constitutes an explicit war crime. And the people in those meetings -- all of them, Ashcroft included -- should be held liable for those crimes, up to and including the man they worked for, the president of the United States.

If we had a real Congress, rather than a cowering hall of shameful derelicts on Capitol Hill, someone might even do something about it.

P.S.: Right wingers will likely cheer the ABC report, along with the Vanity Fair story by Philppe Sands that says interrogators, strapped for torture ideas, began getting their techniques from the show "24," the Bible for right wing warmongers and torture afficionados. They represent an ideology that is infected, in a very real sense, with Saddamism. They wish to see the president of the United States become more like Saddam Hussein, in order to defeat those about whom they are paranoid: Muslims. They, too, are acting in a manner that absolutely flies in the face of everything America is supposed to stand for. At the end of the day, we are being governed by a bunch of criminals in the White House, who will likely go unprosecuted for the rest of their miserable lives, at least in this country.

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posted by JReid @ 9:06 PM  
Five reasons why the horserace polls don't matter
I love a good poll as much as the next political junkie. In fact, I follow them pretty asiduously, including on this blog. But it's fair to say that most of the horse race polls pitting either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton against John McCain to see who's more "electable" in the general don't matter a whit. Here are three reasons why:

1. It's April. Much could change in the U.S. between now and the election. Those events will influence the way voters feel about the eventual nominees versus one another.

2. There are two many people in the race. With no conclusion on the Democratic side, the horse race polls are polluted with passionate Clinton voters who lean to McCain because they don't like not seeing their girl on the ticket, and Obama voters who do the same on behalf of their guy. The latest polls say as much, showing something like a quarter of Obama supporters saying they'll vote for McCain if Barack doesn't get the nod, and a third of Hillary supporters saying the same thing. That, too, will change as we get into the general election, and John McCain is defined more starkly against just one Democrat. Then, those who claim they'll switch will be confronted with a whole new reality, and most of them will likely vote party line.

3. John McCain has not been defined. The media has done a woeful job of covering McCain, whom many reporters appear to worship even more than they worshipped George W. Bush after 9/11. The lack of coverage of McCain gives him the natural advantage of being defined in potential voters' minds only by his amorphous "cliche qualities," which have been drummed into the public's mind by the same mainstream media: "McCain is a maverick"; "McCain is no George W. Bush"; "McCain is a hero." With those platitudes substituted for actual probing of his actions and views, it's no surprise that he is dead even with either Democrat in the polls.

4. The Democrats aren't helping themselves. By attacking each other something like ten times more than they attack McCain, the two Democratic contenders are building up each other's negatives, and their own, and leaving McCain in the arms of the suck-ups in the Washington press corps. Of course, that will change too, once Miss Hillary accepts that this thing is over. ... I mean, once the contest has run its course... (ahem)

And the fifth reason why the horse race polls don't matter?

5. National polls don't matter nearly as much as statewide polls. The latter gauge how candidates might do in the real contest in November -- the contest for electoral college votes. That's why statewide polls like the DNC's arguably Democratic friendly internal polls matter more inside campaigns. DNC pollsters surveyed 17 swing states and found some troubling trends for Grandpa McCain, whose age and stands on issues will undoubtedly become major subjects of the fall campaign. Another set of polls that can tell a compelling story: daily tracking polls like Gallup's, which are good at identifying trends.

If you want to read some polls that matter, check out the polling out of states that are headed to the polls in the next several weeks (PA, IN, etc.) Those are the polls, right now, to watch.

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posted by JReid @ 8:45 PM  
Bush gives a speech about Iraq. Film at 11
Forgive me if I don't get all exercised about President Bush giving his umpteenth speech on Iraq today. The fact of the matter is that mosts Americans, myself included, have long since tuned him out. Nothing he says could move me, or most of you. That said, there are two ways in which Bush's ongoing prattle about Iraq are in fact important:

1. George W. Bush intends to drag the Iraq war into the next president's term, and to achieve that goal, he is willing to destroy the United States military, and the men and women in it, without remorse. For the families of the men and women who will now be assured of yearlong deployments instead of 15 month deployments, implying that this war will drag on, for years, and for the troops themselves, that is disastrous, and more than important. It's everything.

2. Bush used his speech today to imply that before his term ends, he will give in to the ongoing neocon demand that he extend the war into Iran. Cheney clearly wants it, and his would-be successor, John McCain wants it so badly he can probably taste it. The danger is that Bush will make good on that threat, leaving us a nation waging three wars as we head into the November elections. What that will do to the election is anybody's guess. Maybe the American people really are dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice (three times if you count Vietnam.) Or maybe they will pull a Laos on Bush and reject his attempts to use his endless wars for politics, or to twist politics in order to ensure more financially lucrative war.

We need to watch those developments. Trust me when I tell you, the major media will not.

Keith Olbermann explained the speech, and exposed its many lies, much better than I could tonight, since I didn't watch it. When the Youtube is up, I'll post the link.

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posted by JReid @ 8:34 PM  
Things you never thought you'd hear a gay man say
"What's the matter with you ... you don't like women?"

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posted by JReid @ 8:27 PM  
Randi, out? (or, rumors of radio wars)
Media Bistro's Fish Bowl LA blog says Randi Rhodes has quit Air America over that "ho" business. Apparently, Air America has released the following statement:
Air America Media was informed last night by Ms. Rhodes that she has chosen to terminate her employment with the company. We wish her well and thank her for past services to Air America.
And Randi's headed to a station in ... San Francisco??? No, not just San Francisco: she's going to Nova M, according to an anonymous FBLA tipster:
She's going to be signing a deal with Nova M Radio in the next few hours for about the same money Air America was paying her. She will broadcast Monday afternoon on all Clear Channel affiliates and several other stations. The folks at Air America don't miss her one bit, in fact she's widely hated among everyone who has actually met her. She has moved from New York City to West Palm Beach, FL and she will broadcast from the WJNO studios.
So it's back home for Randi. And she should feel right at home at WJNO, where her show is currently the only non-right wing wack job program on the air (well, there's George Noory and his space cadets...) Anyhoo, she used to work there in the mid-1990s so it's all good. And a huge opportunity for the very able Sam Seder, who deserves to get the spot (he's been filling in for most of the time Randi has been suspended.) Unless, of course, he's too Obamaphilic for pro-Hillary Mark Green's tastes... in that case, he could lose the gig to Rachael Maddow, who's on TV more (Keith O loves her) and who tends to come off as more pro-Hillary.

Update: Here's the full Air America statement:

Last week Air America suspended Randi Rhodes for abusive, obscene language at a recent public appearance in San Francisco which was sponsored by an Air America affiliate station.

Air America Media was informed last night by Ms. Rhodes that she has chosen to terminate her employment with the company.

We wish her well and thank her for past services to Air America. We will soon announce exciting new talent and programming that will accelerate Air America’s growth in the future.

And by the by, Randi's new boss, Sheldon Drobny, might not mind a bit if she calls Mrs. Clinton a ho.
I have reviewed past articles written by Ariana about Hillary. I have also listened to Maher over the past year. Both have been very critical of the Clintons. I watched Bill Maher tonight and could not believe that Bill actually defended the Clintons' tactics. I also watched Mark Green on Hardball pretending he was neutral about the Clintons and at the same time defending them. Now let's connect the dots.

Hillary will not appear on any liberal radio shows other than Air America Radio (AAR the network that I started). Both Bill and Hillary get lots of money from the Billionaire Green family. In return the Clintons have helped AAR post bankruptcy.

Almost a year ago I asked Ariana if she would do a show on our Nova Radio Network. She refused and decided to do a show with Mark Green, the CEO of AAR. Ariana and Bill Maher are very close friends. It appears that the rich and famous liberal elites have put fame and fortune ahead of principle.

I recently wrote a piece praising Hillary on the Huffpo (check my archives). After the South Carolina debacle I have changed my opinion. Any objective core Democrat with a conscience has been turned off by the Clintons in SC including former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich who was in the Clinton Administration. Ariana and Maher have some explaining to do.

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posted by JReid @ 4:10 PM  
The Thom Hartmann poll
So we're driving back from a shoot (Jason and I are doing this documentary project ... long story...) and we turn on the local liberal radio channel (yes, as in most places, there's only one.) Thom Hartmann, a very smart guy I must say (I had never heard his show until the local Clear Channel PD dumped Ed Schultz and put him on at noon) decided to do a "flash poll." He cleared the lines, and asked callers for next three minutes to give their zip code, and say which candidated they would vote for if the election was held today. The results were pretty staggering:

Obama - 42
Hillary - 8
McCain - are you kidding? This is an Air America show!

Not scientific, by any means, and not a large enough sample to be even close. But it sure was interesting to listen for the Hillary folk buried in a sea of Obamaphiles. Frankly, because Hartmann is so intellectual (not kissing up here, he really is,) I suspect that his audience is a little more upscale, more college educated, etc., and that spells Obama voter. But I also have noticed a decided Obama bent on other left of center programs, and on the "meathead" program, (Schultz) too.

Just sayin...

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posted by JReid @ 3:54 PM  
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
No exit?
Based on the Senate hearings today and the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we are never, ever, ever, ever, everevereverever going to leave Iraq, because as Barack Obama brought out in his questioning, we will never meet the benchmarks that define when we've succeeded, given that those benchmarks cannot be described. It's almost like saying we have to stay there because we're there, and since our being there is helpful, we have to remain indefinitely because we fear our help will never be enough. Tedious? Yes. But also a lie.

For all the talk about tying the next president to some ridiculous "status of forces agreement" (that Congress will kindly be "informed of," but that the Iraqi parliament would actually get to vote on...) the fact remains that tThe U.S. cannot sustain a 140,000 troop presence in Iraq ad infinitum, I don't care how much John McCain and George W. Bush (and Halliburton) want to. We're leaving Iraq, maybe in a year, maybe in two, maybe three. But I find it hard to believe that the next president can extend the disaster that we've got going on over there and have any prayer of maintaining his or her presidency. The only way to do it would be to drive Iraq completely out of the news cycle, so that the war drags on and on without the public noticing it. We're close to that now, I'll admit. But I also agree with Gen. McCaffrey and other military leaders when they say that the military itself cannot sustain this, and sooner or later, I believe that the leadership of the military, extricated from their forced obeisance to Mr. Bush by virtue of an election, will stand up and say "no more."


posted by JReid @ 12:13 AM  
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
When you can count 'em on one hand...
John McCain may have a surrogate who can't tell Barack Obama from Tiger Woods, but McCain's real problem may be that the vet who uttered today's foot in mouth classic could be one of Baghdad John's few supporters among the men and women who have actually fought in Iraq:
Vice President Dick Cheney came to rouse the troops in Iraq this week. But their replies are any indication, the VP's peroration wasn't very persuasive.

ABC's Martha Raddatz talked with troops gathered to hear Cheney speak. Just one was quoted speaking highly of McCain -- though she suggested she found other McCain supporters. The airman's remark?

"Might as well keep it going."
By the way, I think the Keith count tonight was 11 troops in the group, 4 for Obama, 2 for Hillary, 1 for McCain and the rest undecided, but hoping whoever wins will get them the hell out of Iraq.

By the way, apparently comparing Barack to Tiger is very much in fashion. A Google search of "Obana and Tiger Woods" turns up some 437,000 entries. Even with duplicates of the same linked stories, we're talking about thousands of possible references, with everyone from Cliff May to John Fund to some guy named John Ziegler getting in on the act. (Fund, by the way, is no Tiger Woods of journalism: his December 2006 reference comes in a column predicting Obama won't run for president.)

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posted by JReid @ 11:43 PM  
The trouble with trade deals...
... is that they stick to you like dog hair. From the HuffPo's Sam Stein:

Bill Clinton's Ties To Colombia Trade Deal Stronger Than Even Penn's

On Sunday evening, Sen. Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, resigned from his post after it was revealed he was working (on the side) for the passage of a Colombia Free Trade Agreement that his candidate opposed. But within the Clinton campaign, Penn is not the highest-ranking adviser with financial ties to groups and individuals supporting the passage of the measure.

Former President Bill Clinton has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking on behalf of a Colombia-based group pushing the trade pact, and representatives of that organization tell The Huffington Post that the former president shared their sentiment.

In June 2005, Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches throughout Latin America. The organization is, ostensibly, a development group tasked with bringing investment to the country and educating world leaders about the Colombia's business opportunities.

The group's chief operating officer, Andres Franco, said in an interview that the group supports the congressional ratification of the free trade agreement and that, when Clinton was on his speaking tour, he expressed similar opinions.

"He was supportive of the trade agreement at the time that he came, but that was several years ago. In the present context, I don't know what his position would be. It is not only about union trade rights. It is about what benefit or damage it can do to the US economy," said Franco. "Events with the Clinton campaign [concerning Mark Penn] are not good at all for the trade agreement... Right now it became a campaign issues and that is sad, because it needs to go through." ...

But not while the wife is campaigning, yeah?

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posted by JReid @ 11:37 PM  
Oops, he did it again
Grandpa John McCain confuses al-Qaida with Shiites again at today's Senate hearing ... Why coulddn't Joe Lieberman sit a little closer???

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posted by JReid @ 11:29 PM  
Gotta love it
According to an advance copy of the script leaked to the Hollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone's new film, "W," about our very own George W. Bush, portrays the prez as a drunken, oedipal baseball nut being run around like Lassie by Dick Cheney. Sounds about right to me.

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posted by JReid @ 11:13 PM  
So you want to be president based mostly on the war...
But you can't sit through an entire hearing on the matter to hear the full questioning of General Petraeus? Surely I'm not the only one who's bothered by the fact that "Baghdad John" McCain ducked out of today's hearing on his signature issue... (well, me and Keith Olbermann...) Talk about your political drive-bys...

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posted by JReid @ 10:39 PM  
"Tell us how fabulous you are! And isn't Iraq pretty?"
That's pretty much my summary of the Republican and Lieberman testimony on the Senate Armed Services Committee as General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before it today (the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, featuring Senators Biden and Obama, is taking their crack at Petraeus at 2:30.)

On a more serious not, I wonder if these geezers ever get tired of being wet-pantied lackeys of the Bush administration? Jason and I were just talking last night, about the fact that in America's history, Senators and Congressmen were often larger than life figures -- the speaker of the House was often as well known to the public as the president. In recent times, think of giants like Tip O'Neil, and the more distant past, Senators like Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. Now, Senators are little more than high-nosed partisan hacks, especially on the GOP side (think Henry Hyde or Newt Gingrich), or miniature men who are little more than the president's butlers, eager to fritter away their Constitutional prerogatives and suborn themselves to the "unitary executive" (think Denny Hastert -- whose name we literally couldn't recall last night...) It's almost laughable to say that the Congress, in its present construction, is a co-equal branch of government. Poor Robert Byrd with that little Constitution in his pocket is probably rolling around in his grave -- and he's still alive! [Photo at left: anti-slavery crusading Senator Charles Sumner]

Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

Related (and more uplifting): the Senate's "famous nine" (don't look for John Cornyn or Lindsey Graham to ever make this one...)

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posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
Petraeus (and Crocker) in the hot seat
Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, putting them before a cavalcade of Senate stars, including committee Chairman Carl Levin (MI), Jim Webb (VA), John Warner (VA), Robert Byrd (WV), Lindsey Graham (SC), both Florida Senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, Claire McCaskill (MO), Liddy Dole (NC), and two out of three potential future presidents: John McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the committee, and Hillary Clinton. Oh, Joe Lieberman is on the committee too (shudder).

In their opening statements, both men testified that essentially, U.S. troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely in large numbers, even after the U.N. mandate for the occupation of Iraq expires on December 31st. And Petraeus called for a 45-day waiting period before the U.S. draws down its forces in July. Crocker called for the signing of a "status of forces agreement" between the U.S. and Iraq to solidify the U.S. presence there after December, and he claims that the U.S. does not intend to have permanent bases there, the permanent bases we're building in that country notwithstanding... Crocker claims that such an agreement will neither tie the hands of Congress nor of the next president of the United States. Hm. And! He says the administration will "keep the Congress fully informed." How very kind of him to say. I can just see Dick Cheney snickering in the cloakroom as we speak...

John McCain is taking his turn now, trying to sound knowledgeable about Moqtada al-Sadr, Mosul and other things that begin with "M." He is sprinkling his "questions" with allusions to "victory!" And he wants to hear more about the "Iranian threat" and their support of "various elements that are Shiite extremists" particularly in Basra. Time to fact check that one. You can't trust much that the old feller says about Iraq, Iran, al-Qaida or much else. Ah, the aging brain...

Update, 11:07 - Oh god, Lieberman is talking now... (gagging ... gagging...) He's pleading for the "hear no progress, see no progress" Dems to "agree on the facts" presented by the two political appointees of the Bush administration testifying before him. Yes, makes sense...

Update, 12:00 - Bill Nelson just quoted Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who testified earlier this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that regarding Iraq, "this thing is over, we're coming out," and the only question is, how we stage a withdrawal that gets our forces out safely and with some measure of dignity for the United States. That, it seems to me, is the question. (I skipped the testimony of the various Republican suck-ups who parroted administration Iraq-speak during their (wasted) time. McCaffrey's exact quote was as follows:
"The Iraqi government is dysfunctional, the Iraqi security forces are inadequate, ill-equipped, and we've got very little time. By the way, I'm not recommending we come out of Iraq in a year or three. That's what's going to happen. This thing is over."
And he went on to say that:
"We're going to see some Iraqi two-star general in charge of Iraq three years from today," he predicted, some "hot-shot division commander" who seizes control. The best hope is that it is not another Saddam Hussein.
And in case you think McCaffrey was an outlier, here's another quote from that April 8 hearing:
"Let's be very clear," former Army War College commandant Robert Scales Jr. testified. "Regardless of strategy or who's in office, we're going to get out of Iraq, just driven by the conditions of the military."
Not exactly the rosy, "we'll stay forever and the Iraqis will cheer" scenarios being peddled by Crocker and Petraeus (who, in their defense, are at the moment, wholly in the hands of the president of the United States and thus chained to his boss's obsessive desire to keep U.S. forces in Iraq, permanently if possible.)

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 AM  
Debbie does disaster
It's hard to understand where Debbie Wasserman Schultz's head is these days. Lately, she seems determined to position herself at the right-most edge of the party, so much so that one begins to see shades of Joe Lieberman, only without the annoying voice and the major crush on John McCain.

First, it was impeachment. Debbie isn't for it, and that's fair enough. But she chose to vent her opposition in particularly bombastic fashion on the Ed Schultz (no relation) radio show a couple months ago, essentially labeling proponents of the concept of merely researching the possibility of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, over the innumerable outrages against the civil liberties of Americans and against the prerogatives of Congress, let alone the Constitution, as crackpots who are out of step with both reality, and with the majority of voters. Well count among the crackpots constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, her own fellow Democratic Congressman, Robert Wexler, and a plurality of Americans, according to the last polls conducted on the subject ...

Then, the congresswoman made it clear, as did her fellow South Florida Democrat, Kendrick Meek, that she had no intention of working to unseat three of the most intrenched and intransigent Republicans elected in Florida, even though she chairs the "Red to Blue" committee of the DCCC. She says she won't work against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers, because they are her friends, and because she and Ileana trade child rearing tips. All very nice, but not exactly spoken like a Democrat interested in growing the party's majority -- and thus its effectiveness at passing legislation -- in the House. As Steve Clemons points out:
... the Republicans that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is hugging tightly are three Members of Congress who have actually had the power to make the Cold War colder in a small area of the world off of the U.S. border -- Cuba. They have thrived despite the phenomenal failure of the US embargo of Cuba and have succeeded in keeping a more serious interest-driven US foreign policy toward Cuba from ever taking hold.

Two of the Congressman that Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to protect are brothers -- Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25). They are nephews by marriage (ended by divorce) of Fidel Castro himself. They are the sons of the former Speaker of the House in Cuba during the tenure of US-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista. Knowing them and their family history gives one insights into the unique and bizarre family feud that the US-Cuba policy standoff is really about.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz seemingly turns a blind eye to the suspension of justice, the nepotism, and the corruption that have surrounded the Miami side of the US-Cuba policy feud. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) has helped protect and then celebrate the achievements of Cuban-American terrorists -- particularly Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada -- in both Florida and in her Congressional role in Washington. It is truly shocking to read what Members of the US House of Representatives have been complicit in as told in the disturbing chronicle of the underbelly of US-Cuba relations, "Twilight of the Assassins," by Ann Louise Bardach that ran in November 2006 in the Atlantic Monthly.

The involvement of the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ros-Lehtinen in outrageous perversions of legal justice should give anyone pause -- but Red-to-Blue Co-Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz hugs them as tightly as she can.

Either Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz does not read, is ignorant of the background and activities of these three Republican congressman, or she is complicit. Which is it?
Can I go with "B" for $200 please?

Now, Debbie has weighed in on the very tired Rev. Wright dust-up:
Especially in some of the states that have yet to vote, the Wright affair “is a big vulnerability,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Clinton superdelegate. And “all of this delegate stuff is artificial,” she added, alongside the reality that the party’s nominee must be able to carry big states like hers, where Mrs. Clinton won a disputed victory; Ohio, where she triumphed last month; and Pennsylvania, where she leads in polls.
Now it's not secret that Barack Obama is having some trouble with Jewish voters, given that he has demonstrated a certain independence on the issue of Palestine. Here in Florida, the problem is even more acute, with an elected official in Broward who I won't name, but who attended a breakfast for Obama supporters recently (which I also attended), literally telling those assembled that some Jewish voters in her district "literally think he is the antichrist," and they don't even believe in Christ! But is it appropriate for Ms. Wasserman Schultz to add herself to the whisperers about Obama's racial/ethnic attitudes? If and when he does become the nominee, what will she say then? One hopes that in private, she is dispelling ridiculous notions about the Senator among her constituents, rather than nursing them. 

The entire flap has led some leftward leaning Democrats to ask whether it's time to introduce Ms. Wasserman-Schultz to the business end of democracy:
What gives with Wasserman-Schultz. Does she think that because she has a safe seat she can libel Democrats and kiss up to right-wing Republicans and get away with it? Are we that stupid?
The Koskids even threw a poll, and it came up 96% to 3% in favor of giving Debbie a challenger in the August primary. Maybe it's time she had one.

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posted by JReid @ 12:40 AM  
Monday, April 07, 2008
The (latest) verdict is in on the death of Princess Di:
Princess Diana was unlawfully killed due to the "gross negligence" of driver Henri Paul and the paparazzi, an inquest jury has found.

The jury reached the same verdict for her companion Dodi Al Fayed.

The jury also specified that Mr Paul's drink-driving and a lack of seatbelts contributed to their deaths.

Mr Al Fayed's father Mohamed refused to accept the verdict. Former Met Police chief Lord Stevens said he hoped it would bring "closure".

The jury returned joint verdicts of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving - or gross negligence manslaughter

The inquest into the 1997 Paris crash that killed the couple and Mr Paul lasted six months.

The total cost to British taxpayers of investigating Princess Diana's death is expected to top £10 million.
And for 10 million pounds, (about $19,853,875.32) the Brits get the same answer they had before. As for the father of Princess Di's paramour at the time of her death, the late Dodi Fayed, Mohammad al-Fayed had this to say:
"Mr Al Fayed said that he will accept the verdict of the jury. The verdict has been clear. They have said they are absolutely sure that there is no conspiracy in relation to this matter.

So that settles that.

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posted by JReid @ 2:06 PM  
Hillary to Sports Fan in Chief: Boycott!
HRC calls on Dubya to boycott the Olympic Games opening ceremonies to protest China's continued crackdown on Tibet. Not likely to happen, but I agree with Hillary on this one.

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posted by JReid @ 2:02 PM  
All tied up in PA?
If it wasn't ARG, I frankly wouldn't believe it:

Pennsylvania polls:

DemocratsMar 7-8Mar 26-27Apr 5-6
Clinton 52%51%45%
Obama 41% 39% 45%
Someone else 1%2%4%
Undecided 6%8%6%

The trends, according to ARG, are as follows:
Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton 53% to 36% among men (46% of likely Democratic primary voters). Among women, Clinton leads 52% to 39%.

Clinton leads 52% to 36% among white voters (80% of likely Democratic primary voters). Obama leads 89% to 9% among African American voters (16% of likely Democratic primary voters).

Obama leads 52% to 38% among voters age 18 to 49 (52% of likely Democratic primary voters) and Clinton leads 52% to 38% among voters age 50 and older.

27% of all likely Democratic primary voters and 41% of likely Democratic primary voters age 18 to 49 say they would never vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary and 25% of likely Democratic primary voters say they would never vote for Barack Obama in the primary.

In Indiana, ARG has Clinton up 53% to 44% with just 2 percent undecided, and the polling firm gives Obama the edge in North Carolina, 51% to 38% with 7% undecided.

Pretty stunning stuff, given that Hillary must win Pennsylvania to keep the media at bay (winning it has no impact on her electoral prospects, and she and everybody in the press corps knows it.) Not only that, but Hillary has to fight to keep the superdelegate dam from breaking over the next couple of weeks leading up to the PA primary, lest a march to the Obama camp further diminish her stature and appearance of viability, and along with it, her chances of winning upcoming races.

Related: Salon ponders Obama's state of suspended animation, unlikely to be vanquished by Hillary, and yet unable to finish her off.

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posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
A crank and a bore
Back in 2000, John McCain was the Republican I could live with. Had he, and not George W. Bush, the dim-witted Texas blue-blood who projected even then, full acceptance of the fact that he didn't have a farts worth of an idea what to do as president, gotten the Republican nomination, and then won the White House, I could have accepted it and moved on. As long as he didn't win it Pervez Musharraf style, with the help of a stacked Supreme Court (and there's no reason to believe he would have had to, since McCain would have probably won New Mexico, near his home state of Arizona, and very likely Iowa and Florida, too) my world would have gone on uneventfully, and I could have spent those first four years not scorning and despising the president of the United States. 

This, despite the fact that John McCain has a history of being wrong on racial matters (he voted against making Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday in Arizona), and a hypocrite (he is as cozy with lobbyists as any politician, and was knee deep in the Keating scandal in the 1980s.) It was McCain's biography -- his willingness to fight, and to remain in captivity in Vietnam, while George W. was scurrying away from his guard units back home that made him seem heroic, even deserving of the White House. 

That was then. Now, McCain is seeking the White House based on that same biography and sense of heroism and entitlement. He has been given a boost on the latter by the sheer viciousness of Bush's campaign against him in 2000, which makes him seem the appropriate candidate to be repaid by the party in 2008. And yet, the thought of John McCain as president now fills me with dread.

Maybe it's because I know more about him now. Or because he has shown himself to be an unadulterated war monger, still tromping through the lush jungle trenches in his mind, and determined to fight the Vietnam war wherever he can find space to send in the guns, and for the rest of his life. McCain now strikes me as a rather pathetic figure, who seems convinced that a nation's only virtue is in war, and so it is to war that he is committed, even at the expense of his fellow warriors (he has so far, even failed to support a new GI bill put forth by fellow vets like Jim Webb.) 

McCain's inability to grasp the differences between the fighting factions in Iraq, something he demonstrated again over the weekend on Fox News (the right place to do so, after all,) and his dogged determination to convince the American people that things are going swimmingly in Iraq, even though most of us have long stopped listening, is written off by his doting media coterie as momentary slips of the toungue, or even the quirkiness of old age. I see something more cynical in it: a sense that McCain will do anything, and say anything, to keep the war going. And if he manages to get into the White House, as he himself has said, "I hate to tell you, but there's gonna be more wars." Something to look forward to for the paranoids on the right, who obsess constantly about "Islamofascism" on talk radio and in the blogosphere,  but not exactly an affirmative reason to elect John McCain.

There's also his famous temper, and the judgment of his own GOP colleagues, the men who work most closely with him, that he lacks the temperament to be president (Sen. Thad Cochran's now famous line about the thought of McCain being president sending a cold chill down his spine is echoed by other Senators who have been on the receiving end of his tirades...) He is also famously arrogant, intolerant of dissent, and goes beyond making his colleagues nervous by actually spooking some military leaders (and I assume they don't scare easily.)  

In the tortured mantra, "my friends," that he reels off through gritted teeth, one detects a seething rage and a deep-seated need to still be the brave young admiral's son who stayed five more years in that Vietnamese gulag rather than go home without his brothers. It's also, and I feel badly saying it, rather pathetic. You get the sense that McCain is like one of those former high school football stars who still squeezes into his old uniform, won't change the haircut he had 20 or 30 years ago, and fights the future so ferociously, that it becomes clear to everyone that his best days are behind him, and he knows it.  I just get the sense that John McCain's best years are behind him, too, and that he left the best of himself on that slab in Vietnam.

When McCain returned from Vietnam, as a genuine hero, he did what a lot of veterans of the various wars of the 1960s -- actual and social -- did: he joined the rat race. Some civil rights veterans (think Andrew Young or Vernon Jordan) became high flying businessmen, so steeped in corporate and professional success that you almost forget they were a part of the movement at all. Others, like McCain, became prototypical politicians: cozying up to lobbyists, leveraging his position overseeing the telecom industry to woo his way onto the private jets and yachts of the rich and entitled, and even dumping the wife who waited for him to come home -- never knowing if he ever would -- for a liquor heiress. At the end of the day, you just get the feeling that the only thing that is special about John McCain IS his service in Vietnam. Other than that, he's just your average pol. 

Worse, McCain is a typical politician who, because of his warrior past, has canonized himself, elevating himself among the other, mere mortal elected officials around him. He tells them how to finance their campaigns. He tells them what corruption is. Never mind the Keating Five, or the fact that his campaign employes more than 40 lobbyists -- more than any other in the race -- including Charlie Black, an uber-lobbyist who cavorts with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon

But the worst thing about McCain, for me, is the fact that I just don't see in him the potential for greatness. That sounds harsh, because there is greatness in his past.  But today, because his politics are so mundane, McCain strikes me as a man who would be a George H.W. Bush -- great resume, so-so president. It may be unfair, but to be a great, or even a near-great president, requires a curious and unique combination of biography, optimism, charisma, and moment. McCain lacks the middle two in spades, and though he has the bio, it is a biography rooted in the distant past. McCain strikes me as a man desperate to have the presidency, but not destined to be a great president. He is so cranky and miserable, it's hard to imagine him having an optimistic bone in his body, let alone imparting that optimism to a weary public, the way FDR was able to do at the height of the Great Depression, or the way Reagan did in the waning years of Carter's "Stagflation," or the way Bill Clinton did as the country was just beginning to emerge from the malaise of the Bush I years. At a time when Americans are fitful and pessimistic, and desperately in need of a psychic (as well as an economic) boost -- even a little inspiration -- what McCain promises as a potential president is little more than a droning on of the tedious "war on terror," a never-ending occupation of Iraq, an extension of the mess in Afghanistan, perhaps waged a bit more competently, and more of the same on crucial domestic matters like the economy, free trade and jobs. 

McCain cannot inspire the nation to rally on the domestic front, not only because he has no agenda, but because he lacks the language of optimism, or the charisma to deliver it. His speeches are like long, mournful hums -- so boring that it takes real effort just to get through them. This morning, MSNBC cut into his major Iraq address four times, and finally gave up covering it altogether in favoring of watching that multiple marriage cult in Utah  (it's fitting that the first cut in was to announce fresh mortar fire into the Green Zone in Iraq, just as McCain was congratulating himself for supporting the surge, in front of -- wait for it -- an audience of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Predictability -- another nagging McCain trait.) 

And as if his total lack of charisma weren't bad enough, there's the matter of McCain's advanced age. Unlike Reagan, who was sort of an elegant, "Dynasty" or "Dallas" old that fit the over the top requirements of the 1980s, McCain is just plain old. One wonders whether the country is ready to face the 21st century with a man of the mid-20th -- a man who most people can't imagine serving more than one term. 

He wouldn't. If elected, I predict McCain's presidency would produce four years of agony, as Americans become increasingly hopeless on the war, and the economy continues to drizzle down the drain, while McCain's attention is focused on pursuing military glory. When the time comes to reassure the nation, a President McCain addresses would be exercises in mind-numbing patronization -- the man simply lacks the ability to inspire with his words. Young people would completely tune out of the political process. Why bother, when the geezers are running everything? Black voters would feel utterly alienated from a man who can barely hold the interest of white people, let alone us. And the rest of the world, while relieved to be rid of George W. Bush, would likely be constantly on edge about what McCain might do next. Moreover, the world would be puzzled by America's failure to capture a genuine moment of opportunity to renew and reinvigorate this country and its politics, by electing someone capable of rallying the American spirit, and in so doing, to lift the spirits of people around the world. 

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posted by JReid @ 11:10 AM  
The China syndrome
I'd like to meet the morons who voted to give the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to the dictatorial nation of China. Yes, I know they've got the world by the short and curlies because of their bottomless surplus and churning economic engine, which comes with yawning needs for oil, concrete, etc., etc., and that they essentially ARE Wal-Mart, but damn. Couldn't someone have anticipated this:
The Olympic flame relay descended into near-chaos for a second successive day as officials in Paris were forced to extinguish the torch three times so it could be taken aboard a bus to avoid protesters today.
Security officials extinguished the torch moving it, under police escort, aboard the bus to keep activists protesting against China's recent violent crackdown in Tibet away from it.

Despite a huge security presence in the French capital, where at least 3,000 officers were deployed, at least two activists got within little more than an arm's length of the flame before being stopped by police.

One protester threw water at the torch, but failed to extinguish it and was carried away. Five people were arrested.

Police tackled many other demonstrators to the ground and used tear gas to disperse those blocking the relay's route.

Demonstrations in Paris began only hours after the relay's procession through London had degenerated into a series of skirmishes between protesters and police.

Activists began targeting the flame before it had even left the Eiffel Tower for the planned 17-mile journey to the Charlety stadium on the edge of the city.

The scale of protests further along the route forced officials to put out the Olympic torch and take it aboard the vehicle.

Live TV footage showed the extinguished torch being put into the bus alongside tracksuit-wearing Chinese security staff.

The torch is lit from permanent flames enclosed within special lanterns carried with it. Designed to be carried on buses and planes, they are used to keep the flame intact overnight.

It was extinguished for the first time amid protests on a road alongside the River Seine, according to the Associated Press news agency. ...

There are some 150 democracies in the world (the U.S. ranks 15th on the "democracy scale, as of December 2007 according to the group if you're interested...) Couldn't the Olympic Committee have chosen one of them? I mean it's not like China wouldn't have been invited...

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posted by JReid @ 10:13 AM  
Mark Penn: Out!
You know your campaign is in trouble when your chief message man is moonlighting as a free trade lobbyist:  
Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn resigned last night after embarrassing the former First Lady by flying to Colombia on private business to lobby for a free trade deal that the Democratic candidate opposes.

... In a terse statement issued late on Sunday, Maggie Williams, Mrs Clinton's campaign manager, who recently replaced the ousted Patty Solis Doyle, said: "After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as chief strategist of the Clinton Campaign.

She added that Mr Penn would continue to give polling advice to Mrs Clinton.

Mr Penn was an advocate of Mrs Clinton appearing tough and "ready on day one" to be president whereas other aides argued that she should show her human side much more.

One of those aides, Howard Wolfson, was named as a replacement for Mr Penn, along with Geoff Garin, another pollster, who was taken on by Mrs Clinton just over a fortnight ago.

Mr Penn met Colombian ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson and later apologised, saying he met Mr Isakson in his role as chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a lobbying firm hired [by] Colombia to help win the approval by the US Congress of a free trade agreement with America.

Not good. The Penn departure is probably good news to the growing contingent inside Camp Clinton who think he's a jerk, and that his "ready on day one" message has been a bust.

Meanwhile, as if Hillary didn't have enough problems, she's gotten herself embroiled in another "it's not true-ism":
Hillary Clinton faced fresh embarrassment yesterday after a story she told about the state of America's health care system was disclosed as inaccurate.

The former First Lady, who last month admitted she was guilty of a "misspeak" when she was forced to backtrack after embellishing an account of landing under sniper fire in Bosnia, has crossed the country telling voters a shocking tale of a woman and her baby who died after being refused medical treatment.

The Clinton campaign said Mrs Clinton was told the story by a deputy sheriff in Ohio but had been unable to check it

Mrs Clinton said that a hospital in Ohio turned the woman away twice while she was experiencing complications in pregnancy.

On a visit to Wyoming, she said: "It hurts me that in our country, as rich and good a country as we are, this young woman and her baby died because she couldn't come up with $100 to see the doctor."

But the woman has been identified as Trina Bachtel, a patient at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, who died last August two weeks after her baby was stillborn. She was treated and insured.

Rick Castrop, the chief executive officer of the O'Bleness Health System, said: "We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story."

The Clinton campaign said Mrs Clinton was told the story last month by a deputy sheriff in Ohio but had been unable to check it. ...
Free advice to the Clinton team: you really, really, really need to check it. Really.

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posted by JReid @ 9:58 AM  
Sunday, April 06, 2008
The upside-downside girl
See ya, Dubya! Condi Rice with (future political baby daddy?) John McCain

According to former Bush Iraq flak Dan Senor, Condi Rice is sniffing around the vice presidential short list:
ABCNews’ Mary Bruce Reports: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is actively courting the Vice Presidential nomination, according to Republican Strategist Dan Senor. “Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for this,” Senor said this morning on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

According to Senor, Rice has been cozying up to the Republican elite. “There's this ritual in Washington, the Americans for Tax Reform, which is headed by Grover Norquist, he holds a weekly meeting of conservative leaders, about 100, 150 people, sort of inside, chattering, class types,” Senor explained. “They all typically get briefings from political conservative leaders. Ten days ago, they had an interesting visit. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The first time a Secretary of State has visited the Wednesday Meeting.” ...
So could Condi actually get the job? Well, let's just say she has her ups and her downs...

On the upside:
  • She's a hell of a lot younger than John McCain. But then again, who isn't?

  • She is widely respected among Republicans, and would likely be seen by your average GOPer as presidential.

  • She is widely perceived to be a conservative hawk, mostly because she hasn't bothered to hold, or at least to articulate, much in the way of a point of view, nor has she asserted herself much, either as National Security Adviser, or as Secretary of State. So she would probably pass muster with the BOMB 'EM ALL, SEPARATE THE DEAD LATER! crowd (which, coincidentally, includes John McCain...)

  • She has long Washington and foreign policy experience, which though redundant for McCain, would reinforce his run as THE WAR, WAR, WAR!!!!! PRESIDENT.

  • She is a part of the Bush administration, and thus would strengthen McCain's standing among the remaining, even if dwindling, Bush Faithful.

  • She is an integral part of Bush's Middle East strategy, including the Iraq War. And John McCain loves himself some (substitute the country ... okay, let's just say Iraq) war.

  • She is both Black and a Woman, which would theoretically allow McCain to see the Dems one Obama (or Hillary,) and raise them one double-minority, giving Independent voters who are wary of the "TooBlack Obama" of Tim Russert's obsessive nightmares, a trap door into which to dive, while still making history (and thus feeling good about themselves.) And her nomination could help McCain hold onto Black Republicans who might otherwise stray to Barack, and with white Democratic women still carrying a grudge over the whole, Hillary didn't win the nomination thing...

  • Chris Matthews, says, "yes she can!" And other members of the media would be high on the concept, too, giving McCain even more media Monicas than a guy who's the ranking member of the Congressional committee that regulates the media ... oh, McCain IS the ranking member of the congressional committee that regulates the mediia! Outstanding!!!
On the other hand, Condi also has her drawbacks...
  • She is widely perceived to have been at best, a passive, ineffectual National Security Adviser, and if he picks her, he's stuck with her "I think it was called... Bin Laden ... determined to attack ... inside the United States" video, and her failure to heed repeated warnings about a potential attack prior to 9/11 ... and stuck good.

  • She is integrally a part of the Bush administration's pre-Iraq war blunder machine, and would thus strap McCain to that bomb, too, turning his "100 years of war" into the even more ominous "100 years of improperly planned for war."

  • McCain would also inherit her other negatives, including her penchant for shopping for 'spensive shoes while people are drowning in what's left of New Orleans. And who needs that 527 ad stinking up the campaign.

  • She brings with her heavy baggage filled with incompetence, including her serial misjudgments on the supposed focal point of her pre-administration expertise: Russia. McCain would inherit that baggage, too. (Is it just me who finds it scary to think that Condi taught George W. Bush everything he knows about the world?)

  • She has been a huge disappointment as secretary of state, apparently unable to convince her man Dubya to commit to real engagement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, for instance, and spectacularly ineffective in pushing forward Bush's supposed "freedom agenda" in the Mideast, which doesn't exactly boost McCain's foreign policy street cred.

  • She brings nothing to McCain to counter his weakest link: the economy (stupid. Sorry, but that never gets old for me...) despite her recent drop-ins with Grover Norquist.

  • The only things she has run or managed have been the National Security Council (see bullet point one) and the Department of State (see "John Bolton," and/or "Iraq occupation.")

  • She is Black and a woman, which could turn off the redneck contingent of the Republican Party down south, not to mention the anti-affirmative action intellectuals who will smell the whiff of Ferrorism in her selection. Worse, Condi has actually begun to make some statements on race (and affirmative action) that have disturbed the wingerati. In all, it probably wouldn't be enough to doom Sir John in the deep red South, where he could win if he were a rotten banana peel overridden by slimy larvae, but it will present him with a narrative he doesn't need (and racist 527 leaflets flying around Dixie that he doesn't want.) On the flip side, Condi would likely bring him little if any of the black vote -- she isn't popular outside of black Republicans, though as I said before, she could keep some of them from wandering over to Obama. And she likely wouldn't net him more than the Republican women he's already going to get, although she could be helpful in bagging some disgruntled Clintonettes.
  • Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Rice is so tied to George W. Bush personally, and to his father, that McCain would be hard-pressed to argue that he's not running for a third Bush term (or is that a fourth, if you count the dad...?) And since whoever the Democratic nominee is planning to beat McCain over the head with George W. Bush's bloody carcass every day until November 4th, it would behoove him not to make it easy for them by actually adding to his ticket, George W. Bush's third term.

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posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
The China Olympic meltdown
Still pretending that the Beijing Summer Olympics is just a fun sporting event, George W. Bush?
THOUSANDS of human rights protesters today disrupted the Olympic Torch Relay through London, billed as a journey of harmony and peace.

Scuffles broke out as the organised units of campaigners broke through the police and security cordons in a bid to snatch or even extinguish the flame.

Flashpoints in the difficult 31-mile journey from Wembley Stadium to Greenwich included Downing Street and the British Museum.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown greeted the torch behind Downing Street’s closed steel gates in front of a vetted crowd as protesters scuffled with police outside and Beijing supporters waved Chinese flags and banged drums.

Campaigners are protesting against China’s crackdown on pro-independence activists in Tibet and its human rights record. Falun Gong and the Burma Campaign are also demonstrating.

Instead of a smooth free-flowing journey by foot, open-topped bus, boat and bicycle, many of the 80 torchbearers were stopped on several occasions and encircled by Chinese torch officials and uniformed police officers protecting the flame from swooping protesters.

Two people were arrested in one of the most frightening incidents of the day when a protester surged on former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq as she ran with the torch in north west London.

Ms Huq told Sky News: “There was a bit of a skirmish with a protester but the flame stayed alight.

“I expected there to be protests but I was not expecting to be wrestled by people. I think that people feel very strongly about China and human rights but I guess that I am very lucky to be living in a country where people can have an opinion.

Luck, indeed...
posted by JReid @ 2:28 PM  
I guess you can take his gun now...
Charlton Heston dies at 81. Here are a few of his greatest hits:

Oh, sorry, I meant THESE greatest hits:

Rest in peace, Heston. Sure you were a gun nut, but you were also a darned good actor.

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posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
Andrew Sullivan says it all
Bush and Cheney's "torture trio": Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo.

On "The Chris Matthews Show" this morning, conservative writer Andrew Sullivan (of the Atlantic these days) dropped one hell of a prediction, saying, to paraphrase, that as a result of the latest revelations about what the legal staff of the White House was advising on the potential parameters of the treatment of detainees by the U.S. military, Donald Rumsfeld, former Cheney adviser David Addington and Deputy Assistant Attorney General / serial torture memo author John Yoo "had better not leave the country any time soon. At some point, they will be indicted for war crimes."

That's a hell of a prediction, and it's not at all unlikely. a criminal complaint was filed against Mr. Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 by a pair of human rights groups, as was reported in Deutsche Welle at the time:
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association said they and five Iraqi citizens mistreated by US soldiers were seeking a probe by German federal prosecutors of leading US policymakers.

They said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable.

... "We filed these cases here because there is simply no other place to go," CCR vice president Peter Weiss said in a statement, adding that the US Congress had "failed" to seriously investigate the abuses. "It is clear that the US government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials."
The complaint was prompted by the now infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, for which only low level U.S. servicemen were prosecuted. A Pentagon investigation earlier that year cynically absolved those higher up the chain of command, but the groups named them anyway, including Mr. Rumsfeld, "former CIA director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski and other military officers who served in Iraq." It was filed on behalf of five former Iraqi prisoners. Yoo wasn't on the list then, but he has certainly moved ahead in line.

In theory, trying former U.S. officials for war crimes is entirely possible, because once they have left office, these officials lose their immunity from such prosecution. Rumsfeld got the message and cancelled a trip to Germany in 2005 as a result.

Glenn Greenwald, among others, has written compellingly about Yoo's eligibility for war crimes prosecution:
John Yoo's Memorandum, as intended, directly led to -- caused -- a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush's White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney's counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes.

If writing memoranda authorizing torture -- actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture -- doesn't make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does?
Good question, and it's one the United States Congress will never take up, at least not while there are politicians there -- a point Greenwald picks up nicely:
The political reality is that high government officials in the U.S. are never going to be held accountable for war crimes. In practice, "international law" exists as a justifying instrument for powerful countries to impose their will on those which are less powerful, and war crimes tribunals are almost always a form of victor's justice. So neither John Yoo, David Addington nor Alberto Gonzales, and certainly not their bosses at whose behest they were working, are going to be sitting in a dock charged with war crimes any time soon -- regardless of whether they ought to be.

But those who propound these principles and claim to believe in them ought to apply them consistently. John Yoo is not some misguided conservative legal thinker with whom one should have civil, pleasant, intellectually stimulating debates at law schools and on PBS. Respectfully debating the legality and justification of torture regimes, and treating systematic torture perpetrators like John Yoo with respect, isn't all that far off from what Yoo and his comrades did. It isn't pleasant to think about high government officials in one's own country as war criminals -- that's something that only bad, evil dictatorships have -- but, pleasant or not, it rather indisputably happens to be what we have.
Worse, we have a media establishment that is singularly uninterested in such things as U.S. government complicity in torture, or even in the stunning revelations of the sitting attorney general -- the alternatively ignorant and ignominious Michael Mukasay -- that we had intelligence about phone calls from an Afghan safehouse where terrorism was afoot BEFORE 9/11 but did nothing about it, because the Bush administration hadn't found a legalistic justification to spy on Americans yet. That too, passes into the good night, in favor of endless discussions of the Democratic horse race and Barack Obama's inability to bowl. (Andrew Sullivan channels Greenwald on that subject here.)

Welcome to the new world order.

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
Friday, April 04, 2008
The Clinton tax document dump
Happy Friday everybody! The Clintons have released their tax returns ... okay, they haven't release last year's tax returns, which is what the media and rival campaigns have been clamoring for ... but late today they release a whole batch of returns that show the couple earning some $109 million since leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
On that amount, they reportedly paid $33.7 million in taxes at a rate of 31% -- a rate that is much higher than the average rate of 20.8% for that tax bracket.

They have filed an extension on their 2007 taxes.

The Clinton family donated $10.2 million to charity, or 9.5% of their adjusted gross income, including $1 million in proceeds from the former President's book "Giving".

Some of the most significant sources of Clinton income: $10.4 million off her books, $29.5 million off his books, and a whopping $51.8 million for speeches given by Bill Clinton.

Suddenly, that $5 million Hillary loaned her campaign looks like chump change...

The media will now spend the weekend looking for dirt. Like this, for instance:
Bill Clinton has an unusual position for a former president as a senior advisor to the Yucaipa Cos., the firm of billionaire Ron Burkle, a longtime friend and political donor. Today, Hillary Clinton’s campaign released the couple’s tax returns, which show they have earned at least $12.5 million from the company.

Bill Clinton has few day-to-day duties in the firm beyond increasing the prestige of the company and meeting with clients, according to press accounts. He also made an investment in an international Yucaipa fund, along with Burkle and an entity connected to the ruler of Dubai. Taking money from foreign governments is always a sensitive political issue. The issue has flared up in the campaign during recent bailouts of several Wall Street firms.

The WSJ reports that Bill Clinton is looking to end his relationship with the company, "with a payout of up to $20 million.) It's good to be the Big Dog.

Meanwhile, Joe Conasan at Salon has some free advice for Barack Obama:
While the Clintons have many faults -- including the arrogant and sometimes offensive way they have conducted this campaign -- the scandal tactic won't vanquish them. Hillary Clinton's advertising may inflate her national security experience, but when she claims to have been tested by partisan fire on her way from Arkansas to the Senate, she isn't just blowing smoke. There is no politician in America whose personal and financial affairs have been subjected to similar scrutiny except her husband, and he is retired.

So if Obama expects a devastating revelation to leap from the pages of the Clinton tax returns when they are released to the press next month, he is more than likely to be disappointed. Chances are that she hasn't yet released her 2007 return because the paperwork isn't ready -- and she probably doesn't know what it will say when it is complete. Like most wealthy senators (and alas, most senators are wealthy), she doesn't spend much time poring over her own finances. Other people are hired to do that, and besides, she's been fairly busy for the past year or so. ..

Conasan goes on to describe the media, and Ken Starr's many vain attempts to catch the Clintons doing something criminal, and he suggests that Obama drop the focus on her ethics, and concentrate on responding to inevitable quesions about his own finances.

I doubt the media will heed similar advice (to drop the ethics focus.) This is going to be "one of those weekends" for the journalism crowd. Time to break out the heavy reading glasses.

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posted by JReid @ 8:26 PM  
Booed, or not booed
The HuffPo says booed. Judge for yourself on the Youtubes one and two.

First, Fox News was kind enought to crop out the Black guy holding John McCain's umbrella:

Crooks and Liars goes with "lightly heckled," but their video, from CNN, leaves the brotha in:

Booed, or not boeed?

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posted by JReid @ 8:05 PM  
The candidates honor King
There is still a question about whether John McCain was booed in Memphis, but for the three remaining major candidates for president, today was a day to remember Dr. Martin Luther King. Canada's National Post reported it this way:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- They came to pay tribute, but also to make amends.

Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton, two U.S. presidential candidates struggling for support among African-American voters, on Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination with messages of praise, humility and contrition.

Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, laid a wreath at the Lorraine Motel, the site of King's death on April 4, 1968, and now home to the National Civil Rights Museum.

"Martin Luther King today is honoured by the world, in such a way that it is easy to forget he once knew the scorn of the world," said Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam when the civil rights leader was killed.

Mr. McCain earned the disdain of many African-American voters 25 years ago when, as a freshman member of Congress, he voted against making King's birthday a national holiday.

Addressing a crowd gathered outside the Lorraine Motel, Mr. McCain admitted his decision was a slight against King's memory and admitted he did not know enough about the civil rights leader's life and legacy.

"We can be slow to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself, long ago," said Mr. McCain, whose remarks were met with boos and jeers from the crowd.

"I was wrong and eventually realized that . . . We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing."

His remarks came as thousands huddled under umbrellas in heavy rain for daylong ceremonies honouring King, who led efforts by African-Americans to end racial segregation in the 1960s, and championed peaceful protest.

Civil rights leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, a former aide to King, who was with him on the evening he was killed, led a march through Memphis that ended with a candlelight vigil at the Lorraine Motel.

Mr. Jackson said Mr. McCain's praise of King was "better late than never."

Shortly after the Republican candidate's visit to the site of King's death, Ms. Clinton made her own appearance, touring the room where King stayed and walking onto the motel balcony where he was killed by a sniper's bullet.

Ms. Clinton's support among black Democrats has plummeted during her battle for the party's presidential nomination against Barack Obama. She angered many civil rights leaders in January by appearing to diminish King's role in the passage of the landmark civil rights legislation.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done," Ms. Clinton said, while campaigning ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

While Ms. Clinton insisted she meant no slight against King, many African-American leaders believed it was part of a broader effort within her campaign to diminish Obama's chances as a black man to become president.

Clinton made no reference to the controversy during a separate, lower-profile visit to the Mason Temple church, where King delivered his ‘I've been to the mountaintop' speech on the eve of his assassination.

Speaking to a group of black preachers in the church's basement, Ms. Clinton recalled briefly meeting King when she was a teenager in Chicago, a moment, she said had a "profound and lasting impact" on her life.

When King was killed, Ms. Clinton recalled hurling her book bag across her college dorm room in anger.

"It felt like everything had been shattered, like we would never be able to put the pieces together again," she said.

Can we get a videotape of that book throwing incident? (Ahem)

The panel on MSNBC's David Gregory Show (I'm sure it has another name, but it escapes me) disputed the McCain booing, with both Michael Smerconish (of Phily talk radio) and Eugene Robinson of the WaPo saying it sounded more like eruptions of forgiveness. Or boos ... whichever floats our boat...

Barack Obama made his tributary remarks in Fort Wayne, Indiana (here's the Youtube,) ceding Memphis to his competitors, but making news of his own, as WaPo's The Trail reports:
By Alec MacGillis
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Had Barack Obama attended a service today in Memphis commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, it would likely have inspired further comparisons between the two men, the slain civil rights leader and the rookie senator who has become the first truly viable African American contender for the presidency.

But Obama decided he needed to keep an earlier commitment to appear at a Democratic Party event in North Dakota this evening, even if it meant leaving the spotlight in Memphis to Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Instead, he chose to spend the first part of the anniversary day here in Indiana, which has allowed him to evoke a second figure from the 1960s: Bobby Kennedy.

Kennedy was campaigning in Indianapolis when he learned of King's assassination, and he proceeded to relay the news to a crowd of voters in a black neighborhood, urging them, in one of the more notable pieces of spontaneous American political oratory, not to betray King's ideals by allowing their grief and anger to flow into violence.

By Alec MacGillis
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Had Barack Obama attended a service today in Memphis commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, it would likely have inspired further comparisons between the two men, the slain civil rights leader and the rookie senator who has become the first truly viable African American contender for the presidency.

But Obama decided he needed to keep an earlier commitment to appear at a Democratic Party event in North Dakota this evening, even if it meant leaving the spotlight in Memphis to Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Instead, he chose to spend the first part of the anniversary day here in Indiana, which has allowed him to evoke a second figure from the 1960s: Bobby Kennedy.

Kennedy was campaigning in Indianapolis when he learned of King's assassination, and he proceeded to relay the news to a crowd of voters in a black neighborhood, urging them, in one of the more notable pieces of spontaneous American political oratory, not to betray King's ideals by allowing their grief and anger to flow into violence.

By Alec MacGillis
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Had Barack Obama attended a service today in Memphis commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, it would likely have inspired further comparisons between the two men, the slain civil rights leader and the rookie senator who has become the first truly viable African American contender for the presidency.

But Obama decided he needed to keep an earlier commitment to appear at a Democratic Party event in North Dakota this evening, even if it meant leaving the spotlight in Memphis to Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Instead, he chose to spend the first part of the anniversary day here in Indiana, which has allowed him to evoke a second figure from the 1960s: Bobby Kennedy.

Kennedy was campaigning in Indianapolis when he learned of King's assassination, and he proceeded to relay the news to a crowd of voters in a black neighborhood, urging them, in one of the more notable pieces of spontaneous American political oratory, not to betray King's ideals by allowing their grief and anger to flow into violence.

Obama clearly was seeking to cast himself as the heir to both men as he delivered a roughly 10-minute prelude to a town hall meeting at a high school gym here packed with a racially mixed crowd of about 2,800. While focusing on King, he also recalled Kennedy's ability to serve as a conduit to his black audience that day. "As the shock turned toward anger, Kennedy reminded them of Dr. King's compassion, and his love. And on a night when cities across the nation were alight with violence, all was quiet in Indianapolis," Obama said.

In his remarks on King, Obama reminded his audience that King had been concerned not just with racial justice but with economic justice, and that he had been in Memphis to show solidarity for striking sanitation workers. "It was a struggle ... for the opportunity that should be available to people of all races and all walks of life," Obama said. "Because Dr. King understood that the struggle for economic justice and the struggle for racial justice were really one -- that each was part of a larger struggle 'for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.' So long as Americans were trapped in poverty, so long as they were being denied the wages, benefits, and fair treatment they deserved -- so long as opportunity was being opened to some but not all -- the dream that he spoke of would remain out of reach." ...

Economic message ... check.

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posted by JReid @ 7:44 PM  
A grim, but poignant anniversary
My favorite picture of Martin Luther King Jr., sharing a
moment of normalcy with wife Coretta.

40 years ago today, Rev. Martin Luther King was shot to death as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Commemorations are taking place around the country, and in the media. King deservedly is a member of the pantheon of great American leaders, along with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and others, he helped to build America into a modern, more moral nation that edges closer to its founding creed. So today...

The Washington Post assesses King's complex legacy.

The NY Times tells the story of the Penn Center in South Carolina, once a school for freed slaves, and later a refuge for Dr. King.

The History Channel online delves into the conspiracy theories surrounding King's assassination (Soledad O'Brien hosted a similar special on CNN last night, and the network is hosting a series called "Black in America".) THC's special airs Sunday night.

On Sunday night, Tom Brokaw hosts a special on King's life, death and legacy, also on The History Channel.

ABC runs the Associated Press piece asking, what if King had lived?

Over to MSNBC, where the First Readers report that John McCain and Hillary Clinton will be in Memphis today, but Barack Obama will not. I wonder if McCain will 'splain to the Memphis community just why he opposed the King holiday?

Meanwhile, NBC opens its archives on its coverage of MLK over the years.

On BlackAmericaWeb, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson says Barack Obama may be America's best hope of realizing King's vision.

Finally, if you haven't read it before, here's a link to one of the most important documents written by a modern American: King's letter from a Birmingham jail.

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posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
The new law of public discourse
George Allen learned it ... Don Imus learned it ... David Shuster got a taste of it ... that weird guy who played Kramer learned it ... Isaiah Washington learned it, too, big time, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright has lost a 30-year career of good works learning it ... and now, Air America talker Randi Rhodes has, too. The New Law of Public Discourse is that soundbites can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion, and you only get to screw up once. Sez the Huffpo:
Air America host Randi Rhodes called both Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton "whores" in a recent appearance, seen below. Rhodes, who hosts a weekday radio show on Air America, said to the cheering crowd, "What a whore Geraldine Ferraro is! She's such a fucking whore!" She then proceeded to say, "Hillary is a big fucking whore, too" to a mixed audience reaction. "You know why she's a big fucking whore? Because her deal is always, 'Read the fine print, asshole!'"

... Rhodes has been now been suspended from the network.
... Indefinitely ... And yes, there is Youtube. This is big news, frankly, for Sam Seder, a very capable on-air guy who is thankfully no longer saddled with that crackpot comedienne he used to be stuck with on "The Majority Report." Now he'll get his big chance to shine, unless AA does their usual goofball thing by putting Elaine Boozler on the mic. (shudder...)

Back to The law. It was first instituted On January 6, 1988, when then-CBS sports analyst Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder dropped the race bomb during a commentary about black athletes:
He told a Washington D.C. television reporter that a black athlete, “…is bred to be the better athlete because, this goes all the way to the Civil War when ... the slave owner would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid."
The full quote is even more colorful:
"The black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way -- because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner -- the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid."
JTG's utterance would have been unremarkable even a couple decades earlier, when racism was as American as apple pie. But from Greek's firing on, there was a serious limit to the kinds of things you could say in public, and not lose your gig.

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott got slapped down by the law in 1992, and it has rolled on merrily from there.

Call it political correctness, limitations on free speech, call it corporate cowardice. It really doesn't matter. As Bush spokesliar Ari Fleischer once said, you really do have to watch what you say...

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posted by JReid @ 10:49 AM  
Today is a day for numbers, big and small, that tell a rather profound story:

1,000 - The number of Iraqi Shiite troops who reportedly refused to fight or deserted the field during Maliki's recent, and apparently unsuccessful crackdown on Shiite militias in Basra.

80,000 - the number of jobs the U.S. economy shed las month, the second straight month of job losses.

81 - the percentage of Americans in a new poll that say the country is on the wrong track. That's the worst showing for right track/wrong track EVER in this poll, stretching back to 1986. (Another 14 percent say the country is headed in the right direction, leading to serious questions about what the hell is wrong with the other 5 percent...) In the NYT/CBS poll, most respondents blamed regulators, rather than banks or homeowners, for the current housing crisis, reflecting a tendency for people to "blame up" -- meaning that those with a closest proximity; your neighbor (or yourself) and your neighborhood bank, get less blame. And most Americans oppose bailing out banks, preferring that the government offer individual help to homeowners. Overall, the poll finds Americans pessimistic about jobs, unhappy with both the president and Congress, and slightly preferring either Democratic presidential candidate to John McCain. On the "Ronald Reagan test" question,  78 percent say the country is worse off than it was five years ago (another high for the poll) with just 4 percent saying we're better off. The complete poll is available here

$40 million - The amount of money Barack Obama raised for his presidential campaign last month. Hillary Clinton's campaign raised half that amount, and her campaign is being completely outspent where it counts: in upcoming primary states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina (In PA, for instance, Hillary has a $500,000 television buy in the field, versus $3 million in television and radio ads for Obama.) To her credit, Clinton has raised $175 million so far in the campaign. Trouble is, Obama has raised $240 million, and her donor base, which has by and large given in larger individual amounts, is getting tapped out, while her fundraisers are expressing exhaustion, rather than enthusiasm.

1,276,000 - The number of individual donors who have contributed to the Obama campaign. According to the Times: "More than 442,000 people contributed to the campaign in March, with more than 218,000 of them giving for the first time. The average contribution in March was $96; the total number of contributors to date comes to 1,276,000."

And finally, 

2 - the point spread between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a new Insider Advantage poll of Pennsylvania voters. I don't know how reliable this poll is, and I'd probably go with the latest Qpac poll myself,) but it's not good news for Camp Clinton, who surely see that the race in this must-win-big state for her, is tightening.

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posted by JReid @ 8:47 AM  
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Yoo 2
The first torture memo was bad enough. The new one is a doozy. John Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer who essentially gave the president and anyone he designates, a pass on the Geneva conventions, allowing the Bush administration to order the torture of detainees with what they thought was legal impunity, apparently wrote a second memo, this on in 2003. The New York Times picks it up from there:
A newly disclosed Justice Department legal memorandum, written in March 2003 and authorizing the military’s use of extremely harsh interrogation techniques, offers what could be a revealing clue in an unsolved mystery: What responsibility did top Pentagon and Bush administration officials have for abuses committed by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Afghanistan; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and elsewhere?

Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.

Ya think?
The opinion was written by John C. Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel, the executive branch’s highest authority on the interpretation of the law. It told the Pentagon’s senior leadership that inflicting pain would not be considered torture unless it caused “death, organ failure or permanent damage,” and it is the most fully developed legal justification that has yet come to light for inflicting physical and mental pressure on suspects.

While resembling an August 2002 memorandum drafted largely by Mr. Yoo, the March 2003 opinion went further, arguing more explicitly that the president’s war powers could trump the law against torture, which it said could not constitutionally be enforced if it interfered with the commander in chief’s orders.

Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, “The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”

Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are “binding on the Defense Department,” Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo’s opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.

And it essentially assigned dictatorial powers to the president, stating that he may, in wartime, set aside the laws passed by Congress, as well as treaties to which the United States is a signatory. A bit more:
The document was made public on Tuesday after it was declassified in response to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.

Both the August 2002 and March 2003 memorandums were formally withdrawn by the Justice Department in 2004, after Mr. Yoo’s successors at the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that they went too far.

Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer representing Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen arrested in the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, said he believed that the March 2003 opinion explained why his client was removed from the criminal justice system and placed in a military jail in Charleston, S.C., in June 2003.

“I think they moved him to the military system to be able to use the harsh techniques blessed in the Yoo memo,” said Mr. Hafetz, of the Brennan Center for Justice.

Mr. Marri said he was subjected to cold, shackled in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep and otherwise mistreated.

An even earlier Yoo's "legal" opinion, written on September 25, 2001, when he held the title of Deputy Counsel, had already set the administration on a course of dictatorial power. Note its preamble:
The President has broad constitutional power to take military action in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Congress has acknowledged this inherent executive power in both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001.

The President has constitutional power not only to retaliate against any person, organization, or State suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States, but also against foreign States suspected of harboring or supporting such organizations.

The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.

But does he get an actual crown? That was followed by the infamous August 2002 memo dubbed "the torture memo," but which was considerably less vague than the newly discovered writ about what Yoo perceives to be the almost unlimited power of a wartime president.

And lets not forget the October 23, 2001 Yoo memo that essentially junks the Fourth Amendment, stating, incredibly, that it has "no application to domestic military operations," such operations themselves being unlawful under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Taken together, the Yoo memoranda constitute a straight-up push, likely driven by the Chenyites inside the administration, for total presidential power, irrespective of law, irrespective of Congress, so long as the administration could act under the color of war.

Kind of makes you wonder why they're so eager to keep us at war, essentially forever.

And it should make you want to ask some very serious questions of Bush's new steward, John McCain.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 PM  
The Clinton Agonistes
The trajectory of the Democratic campaign for president is clear, and really hasn't changed since mid-February: Barack Obama is on a clear path to the nomination, while Hillary Clinton is not, only she won't admit it and the press is afraid to tell her (and even more afraid of Howard Wolfson, who must have pictures of a lot of journalists naked...)

And yet, the sputtering of the Clinton campaign continues, Bush in Iraq-like, complete with a rather desperate-seeming new "3 a.m." ad using the same footage, only this time attacking John McCain (on the economy, stupid) and a series of outbursts of almost dizzying rage by top Clinton friends, and by the Big Dog himself. I've been in post lock-down thanks to server issues for the last few days, so forgive me if this is a repetition.

First, James Carville pimp slapped Governor Non Grata Bill Richardson in the pages of the Washington Post, backing up his "Judas" remark and hammering the no-long FOB for not returning Big Bill's phonecalls before he stabbed Hillary in the heart by endorsing The Whelp, and for what he called "disloyalty that merited an insult."

... Earlier this month I decried the political environment in which, by whining about every little barb, candidates seem to be trying to win the election through a war of staff-resignation attrition. Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back. I've worked on enough campaigns to know that the most aggrieved candidate rarely emerges victorious. And for all of the hypersensitivity we're seeing this cycle, this campaign has not been particularly negative or nasty compared with previous elections.

Fully aware of this supercharged environment in which the slightest slight is elevated to the most egregious insult, I waded in -- okay, dove in -- by demonstrating what constitutes a real insult.

I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. Nowhere in the world is loyalty so little revered and tittle-tattle so greatly venerated as in Washington. I was a little-known political consultant until Bill Clinton made me. When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him. At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that's my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough.

Most of the stuff I've ever said is pretty insignificant and by in large has been said off the cuff and without much thought to the potential consequences. That was not the case in this instance. Bill Richardson's response was that the Clinton people felt they were entitled to the presidency. In my mind, that is a debatable hypothesis. But, even more than that, I know that a former president of the United States who appointed someone to two Senate-confirmed positions is entitled to have his phone calls returned.

Richardson defended himself as best he could, but then, damn, it's James Carville... even Mary has no comebacks for the guy...

... Next came the news that the Big Dog himself got to expurgating his spleen on the other Big Bill, going into full tirade mode (just before his now famous "chill out" speech,) in front of a group of people you probably don't want to go into out of control tirades in front of: superdelegates.
According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns."

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

"It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us.

"We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself."

When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.
Okay, other reports, not from Ms. Binah, say it wasn't quite a full-on meltdown, but the narrative is off and running and the story is not helpful, Mr. President.

Then came the leak to ABC News today that Hillary snapped off at Richardson during their not-so-pleasant phone call that "he can't win, Bill," referring to the guy who's beating her in delegates and the popular vote and out-fundraising her again last month. Did I mention that the polls are tightening in Pennsylvania?

... or that Hillary Youth are switching to Obama for Dave Matthews tickets?

And to cap it off, along came a series of Big Deal endorsements, and hints of endorsements for Barack. They are, and they are big:

Lee Hamilton - the former co-chair of the 9/11 commission and a former congressman with foreign policy credentials out the ying-yang. Hell, if HE thinks Obama has passed the commander in chief test, who's Bill's old lady to tell him he's wrong?

Jimmy Carter - I'm not sure a nod from the former president, considered the most liberal man in America by the righties, and hated by Likudniks everywhere, would help Obama. But odds are, he'll eventually get it anyway, if Carter's BFH's (big, fat hints) are to be believed:
Carter, who is a Super Delegate from Georgia State, gave this hint at a media interaction after the Carter Center Awards for Guinea Worm Eradication in Abuja yesterday.

Carter, who was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, did not profess a direct support for Obama but rather choose to make a veiled statement.

“We are very interested in the primaries. Don’t forget that Obama won in my state of Georgia. My town which is home to 625 people is for Obama, my children and their spouses are pro- Obama.

My grandchildren are also pro- Obama. As a Super Delegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave you to make that guess," he said.
I'll bet the Clintons are starting to hate that bloody Guinea worm...

And Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal - no, he's not a superstar like the previous two, but he is a red-state governor, a white guy, and a guy who appears to be going with his state, which went 60% for Barack. If he's setting, or indicating, a superdelegate trend, that's much better news for one candidate than for the other...

(Yes, I know Jane Fonda endorsed Barack, too, but really, would YOU consider that good news if you were Barack?)

... As for the endorsements Hillary already has, they are starting to seem like the proverbial hole in the head. First, there are the ones who blatantly say that their candidate of choice must have the popular vote or she's toast.

Then there are the ones who reserve the right to switch to Obama .... John Corzine and Maria Cantwell... if Hillary doesn't close this thing out with a lead in the popular vote...

There are a few bright spots on the horizon for the Hillary Faithful. A new Quinnipiac poll shows her beating John McCain handily in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. The only trouble with that is, she'd have to be the nominee in order to do that. And the only trouble with THAT is, she's in no position to be the nominee, based on the math. That poll has Barack losing to McCain in Florida and barely edging him out in the other two states, which would seem to make a strong argument for Hillary's superior electability. The only problem with THAT, is that these polls are being taken in April, well before voters in those states will be faced with two, not three choices: between one Democrat and John McCain. A few months down the road, it's impossible to say how either of the Dems still fighting it out would fare vs. McCain. Time and circumstances, Senator ... time and circumstances...

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posted by JReid @ 3:15 PM  
Back in the black
The server, she is fixed! With apologies to Blogger, since apparently the problem with posts not showing up over the last several days was a server migration issue, not a Blogger issue. So to Blogger and your entire tech support staff (oh, that's right, you don't have a tech support staff...) okay, to the entire cast of the useless, baneful, valueless and ironically named "help forum," please consider all of the curse words, invective, and references to your mother used by me in your general direction over the past 96 hours to be hereby retracted ... mostly.


posted by JReid @ 1:33 PM  
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Baghdad John on the loose
When will the mainstream media begin to actually cover John McCain? The Washington press corps tendency to coddle Republicans, evidenced by nearly six years of doting coverage of George W. Bush after 9/11 and right through a disastrous war or two, is on full display with McCain, who has long had the hearts of supposedly hard nosed reporters in D.C. No reporter is allowed to utter a word or write a sentence about St. John of Iraq without including the word "maverick." It's become such a cliche that I challenge anyone in the press to explain precisely what they mean. After all, John McCain is not maverick enough to have held his positions on tax cuts for the rich during wartime, illegal immigration/amnesty, or any substantive issue that would set him appart from George W. Bush's declining wing of the Republican Party. He has pandered to the former "agents of intollerance" (his words) of the Christian right, and has already begun to adopt the laissez-faire economic policy of the Club for Growth, which couldn't stand him three months ago. To whit: McCain is advocating tax cuts as the solution to every economic ill, no help for struggling Americans but continued corporate welfare for the very fat cats he claims to hold at ascetic arms length (despite the herds of lobbyists in his inner circle.)

Perhaps they're just getting bored covering Hillary and Obama, but the media face-people are incredibly lazy when it comes to McCain, to the point where it has become conventional wisdom for all but Tony Blankley of all people that the Democrats will have a hard time painting McCain as pushing for a third Bush term. Huh? Have these people never witnessed a presidential campaign? Even Howard Dean has figured out that that is precisely the Democratic message in November, and McCain's hearty agreement on all things Bush, principally Iraq, makes it almost too easy.

So who is the media kidding? Do they ever intend to actually peel the onion on McCain, or can we look forward to a six-month cuddle all the way to November? I hope for the former, but sadly, expect the latter.

I'm not alone.

MSNBC's Dan Abrams is down to doing a nightly segment called "Teflon John" detailing the media's rose petal treatment of the aging Arizona Senator.

Eugene Robinson has a go at McCain in his WaPo column today for McCain's staggering lack of knowledge when it comes to who, precisely, is fighting whom in Iraq (and who is supporting the various factions.) It's rather stunning that this guy gets a bye for 1) not knowing whether Moqtada al-Sadr is the puppet or the puppeteer, 2) not understanding that Iran's influence is growing in Iraq, not declining, and that it is various Iran-based Shiite militias, like al-Sadrs, that Iran is arming, not Sunni al-Qaida 3) blythely pushing for a 100 year U.S. military commitment in Iraq, which Robinson correctly points out is precisely what it sounds like, and 4) showing almost senile ignorance about the difference between a limited U.S. presence in South Korea, where no one is shooting at us, and a prolonged, endless hostile engagement in Iraq.

CNN made some minor attempts to call McCain out on his al-Sadr contradictions today, which is a start. But John King, sitting in for Wolf Blitzer this afternoon heartily laughed off attempts by a Democratic strategist to reiterate McCain's call for 100 years in Iraq. It's as if the media is saying, come on, guys, we all KNOW McCain knows what he's talking about. He's just saying that stuff because he's ... well ... old? Tired? Battle weary? Is there any excuse for a man vying to lead the free world who doesn't know the difference between a Shia and a Sunni?

... oh ... I almost forgot...

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posted by JReid @ 9:16 PM  
Rasmussen has Pennsylvania closing to Clinton 47%, Obama 42%, and that's down from a 15-point lead held by HRC in early March. Not a good sign.

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posted by JReid @ 9:11 PM  
I'd hate to be Alabama
And apparently, so do rural Pennsylvanians. How backward does a state have to be to have its very name be considered an insult?

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posted by JReid @ 9:06 PM  
Inconvenient things said by superdelegates
Today's ocntestant: Kansas City Congressman, and right reverend, Emanual Cleaver. Keep in mind, that he is a Hillary Clinton superdelegate:
"If I had to make a prediction right now, I'd say Barack Obama is going to be the next president...," he said. "I will be stunned if he is not the next president of the United States. Now, when he is sworn in, 99.9 percent of Americans won't know who he is or what he stands for. But it doesn't matter at this point."

That's because, Cleaver says, many white Americans are supporting Obama because "they are looking at Barack Obama and saying this is our chance to demonstrate that we have been able to get this boogeyman called race behind us and so they are going to vote for him."

He says this is causing many African-Americans to "tremble" because they believe white Americans won't want to address issue of race then, saying it's been addressed by Obama's election. ...
That's from the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz blog. Read the rest of the article, which includes more details on Cleaver' handicapping of the race, and his iteration of what many Blacks in Congress have cited as their personal loyalty to the Clintons (and lack of personal relationship with Barack Obama) here. (They've also got a link to the interview audio.)

Memo to the Clintons: maybe its time to start issuing daily talking points to the supporters, yeah?

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posted by JReid @ 8:42 PM  
Ickes makes it plain
There's nothing surprising about the fact that Team Clinton is whispering "Jeremiah Wright" into the ears of superdelegates. At this stage, it's all in. MSNBC reports:

Talking Points Memo reports top Clinton aide Harold Ickes admitted pushing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue with superdelegates:

"Look what the Republicans did to a genuine war hero," Ickes said, in a reference to John Kerry.

"Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks," Ickes continued. "I've had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them."

In a reference to Wright's controversial views, Ickes continued: "Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that's not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]...I think they're going to give him a very tough time."

Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: "I've said what I've said...I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations."
What is a surprise is that Ickes sat down for such a candid chat with the blog-reportersphere.

Ickes also told TPM that the nomination fight may not be settled by the time the Democratic convention kicks off in August:
Ickes also said that it was possible that Hillary supporters on the convention credentials committee would bring a minority report to force a floor vote if the committee's solution on Florida and Michigan wasn't to the campaign's liking, but he predicted it likely wouldn't come to that and said Hillary doesn't want that to happen.

"My sense is it'll be resolved before then, but if it goes into the credentials committee we can always bring out a minority report and take it to the floor of the convention. Hillary does not want that. We don't think it's good for the party. We don't think it's good for the nominee."

Ickes pointed out that when he worked for Ted Kennedy's losing presidential primary run against Jimmy Carter in 1980, Kennedy aides brought a minority report calling for delegates to be able to vote their consciences, even though they "knew it was a foreordained conclusion" that it would lose.

"Look, there's always a possibility" that Hillary forces would produce a minority report, Ickes continued, but he added that it was not likely: "You don't do this lightly and only if you feel very very strongly...I think it will be resolved before then."

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posted by JReid @ 8:20 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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