What body parts would MSNBC producers sell for the audio?
Forget the Bush administration's bungling in Pakistan or their pending war against Iran ... Barack Obama called Bill Clinton today (by phone)! And having told the Democratic nominee to "kiss his ass," according to "sources," you've got to figure that convo had a lot of pauses ...
Okay, here's my transcript:
OBAMA: Hey, Bubba...
BIG BILL: Hey.
OBAMA: So ... what's goin' on?
BIG BILL: ... nothin' ... what's up with you?
OBAMA: Oh, nothing ... just, trying to get into the White House.
BIG BILL: Yeah ... I've heard. So what's up?
OBAMA: Uh... nothing much ... just wanted to see how it's going...
BIG BILL: It's going... gonna make Hillary the VP?
OBAMA: Well ...
BIG BILL: You don't have to answer that.
OBAMA: Thanks... so ... we cool?
BIG BILL: Yeah, we cool... but I want my pimp card back.
OBAMA: Oh, no doubt. It's all you, Bubba. And you can keep Bob Johnson, too.
Barack Obama takes a (not that big) step away from General Clark ... and John McCain goes to, of all people, a former member of the ironically-named "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" to carry his response water. Huh??? Day, on a conference call today for McCain's new "military service truth squad," wasted no time doing what he does best: denigrating the service of a fellow Vietnam vet:
Defending McCain's service, Day was quick to personalize his remarks.
"Things were very difficult for [McCain]," he said. "He was horribly wounded in his extremities, and it was questionable if he would survive his experience. He set a high standard for himself because the Vietnamese tried to release him and he showed courage by refusing that to come about. We had an opportunity to watch a president in office, a Democrat who was extremely ineffective during those years. [McCain] learned an awful lot from that... General Clark spent a month in Vietnam, got badly wounded and was evacuated, that was his experience. I say let's hold the two of them up and compare them."
That Day would politicize Vietnam in his defense of McCain is not surprising. During the 2004 campaign, he said of Kerry: "My view is he basically will go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971." And after appearing in a national advertisement for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, Day formed the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, an extension of the Swift Boat effort.
Obama's chief spokesman, Bill Burton, meanwhile, issued the following statement about Clark's comments:
"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."
Yeah, except that Clark didn't smear John McCain, and what he said is accurate -- simply being a combat veteran, or even a war hero, doesn't qualify you to be president. Nor does it predispose the public to choose you as their commander in chief. Just ask Bob Dole, or George McGovern, whose war service was of no practicable use to them in getting elected. Besides, for all of Bud Day's politicking, Wes Clark spent 34 years in the U.S. military, commanding men and women in the field, in wartime. I think I trust his assessment on this one over a slimeball like Bud Day's. Translation: don't mess with the General.
Related: Any former fellow Clarkies out there, give me an email holla!
Gen. Wes Clark's comments on CBS over the weekend about John McCain's lack of combat experience is getting a lot of media play. During an interview with Bob Schieffer, Clark said of McCain:
“Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” Clark replied.
For all the sturm and drang over those comments, all Clark was saying is that McCain, though a war hero, has no actual command or executive experience. The full context, from the show transcript:
SCHIEFFER: ... General. You heard what Senator Lieberman said. He said that Barack Obama is simply more ready to be president than Barack Obama.
General WESLEY CLARK (Retired; Obama Supporter): Well, I think--I think Joe has it exactly backwards here. I think being president is about having good judgment, it's about the ability to communicate. As one of the great presidential historians, Richard Neustadt, said, `The greatest power of the presidency is the power to persuade.' And what Barack Obama brings is incredible communication skills, proven judgment. You look at his meteoric rise in politics and you see a guy who deals with people well, who understands issues, who brings people together and who has good judgment in moving forward. And I think what we need to do, Bob, is we need to stop talking about the old politics of left and right and we need to pull together and move the country forward. And I think that's what Barack Obama will do for America.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote, and these are your words, "untested and untried." And I must say, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war, he was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy, he's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years. How can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?
Gen. CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk, it's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, `I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly?'
Gen. CLARK: He hasn't made those calls, Bob. So...
SCHIEFFER: Well, General, maybe--could I just interrupt you?
Gen. CLARK: Sure.
SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...
Gen. CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
Clark knows of what he speaks. He HAS had command experience -- he commanded NATO for god's sakes. I think he's qualified to make the comment. Even more context: Clark's interview followed on in which the odious Joe Lieberman predicted a 2009 terror attack.
A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.
President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.
It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Combat Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.
... The report said that the civilian and military planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was inadequate, and that the Army should have pushed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for better planning and preparation. Retired military leaders, members of Congress, think tanks and others have already concluded that the occupation was understaffed.
The U.S. combat death toll so far: 4,113. This story, combined with the New York Times piece on the Bush administration's failures in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, should combine for a powerful critique of the Bush foreign policy doctrine -- one which John McCain is pushing to extend. McCain has surrounded himself with the same neocon advisors who pushed for the Iraq invasion, and who underestimated its difficulty (as did the candidate himself.) Not a good look.
Back to the U.S. military, and its superb penchant for introspection, as pointed out by the Times article. That introspection also extended to the issue of torture, where we pick things up with Salon.com:
The former Air Force general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.
In late 2002, documents show, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all complained that harsh interrogation tactics under consideration for use at the prison in Guantánamo Bay might be against the law. Those military officials called for further legal scrutiny of the tactics. The chief of the Army's international law division, for example, said in a memo that some of the tactics, such as stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane treatment'" and "may violate the torture statute."
Myers, however, agreed to scuttle a plan for further legal review of the tactics, in response to pressure from a top Pentagon attorney helping to set up the interrogation program for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Ah yes, torture. Another thing John McCain used to be against... A bit more on Myers' role:
"He is rarely referenced as one of the usual suspects," noted Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who is following the continuing Senate investigation. "He did play a much more central role" than previously known, Turley said. "The minute the military lawyers expressed concern, they were shut down."
The chain of events involving Myers began in late 2002. Rumsfeld was considering the approval of three categories of interrogation techniques for use at Guantaánamo. The list included some brutal tactics, including stress positions, exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, hooding, isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to cold and waterboarding, or simulated drowning.
According to written correspondence that came to light during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17, various military leaders balked at the plans in a series of memos produced during the first week of November 2002. In addition to the criticisms raised by the Army, the Air Force leadership cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the list of proposed techniques. The Navy also called for further legal review, and the Marine Corps stated that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."
Dick Myers was already on the line, as far as I'm concerned for his part in transporting torture techniques from Gitmo to Iraq, and retired Gen. Rick Sanchez has previously pointed out the administration's incompetence in a war his book dubs "the strategic blunder of all time." These new accounts just add more texture to the case.
Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.
The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.
But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.
The story of how Al Qaeda, whose name is Arabic for “the base,” has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.
Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terrorist camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred three years ago.
Heck of a job, Bushie. The piece goes on to describe bitter turf battles between the White House and CIA over how to conduct the hunt for bin Laden, and the supposedly cowboy-led Bush administration's reticence to launch actual raids, which would logically yield the best results. It's almost as if they don't want to a) offend Pervez Musharraf, or worse, b) find Osama bin Laden...
It's customary in pundit circles to state that Michelle Obama is a potentially problematic spouse in need of a media makeover. But consider Cindy McCain's circus tent full of mishaps, from pilfered cookie recipes (why not just admit that you're rich, so you don't bake?) to ... four years of unpaid back taxes???
NEWSWEEK - When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona.
San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, were returned by the post office. According to a McCain campaign aide, who requested anonymity when discussing a private matter, an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's lives in the condo, and the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property. Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."
Robert Mugabe retains power, dodges the Hague ... plus other morning news
Swiftboat veterans seek to reclaim the dignity of the name from the sleazeballs who attacked John Kerry's service in Vietnam in 2004. Meanwhile, T. Boone Pickens is a phony and a liar, just like the attack group he funded...
A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.
The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.
In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.
And why would they do such a thing?
Though enriched by high prices, the companies are starved for new oil fields. The United States government, too, has eagerly encouraged investment anywhere in the world that could provide new oil to alleviate the exceptionally tight global supply, which is a cause of high prices.
Iraq is particularly attractive in that light, because in addition to its vast reserves, it has the potential to bring new sources of oil onto the market relatively cheaply.
As sabotage on oil export pipelines has declined with improved security, this potential is closer to being realized. American military officials say the pipelines now have excess capacity, waiting for output to increase at the fields.
Ah yes, the oil. The oil!
“We pretend it is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is,” Frederick D. Barton, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “And we undermine our own veracity by citing issues like sovereignty, when we have our hands right in the middle of it.”
And the story wouldn't be complete without a completely contradictory comment from Condi Rice:
Criticism like that has prompted objections by the Bush administration and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who say the deals are purely commercial matters. Ms. Rice, speaking on Fox News this month, said: “The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraq oil contracts. It’s a private sector matter.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a wrenching, first-person account of treating PTSD among our troops returning from the dual war zones.
The soldier from Ohio studied the wall carefully. It was amazing, he said, how much the layout of those picture frames resembled the layout of the street in Tikrit that was seared in his memory; the similarity had leapt out at him the first time he came in for a session. He traced the linear space between the frames, showing me where his Humvee had turned and traveled down the block, and where the two Iraqi men had been standing, close -- too close -- to the road.
"I knew immediately something was wrong," he said. The explosion threw him out of the vehicle, with his comrades trapped inside, screaming. Lying on the ground, he returned fire until he drove off the insurgents. His fellow soldiers survived, but nearly four years later, their screams still haunted him. "I couldn't go to them," he told me, overwhelmed with guilt and imagined failure. "I couldn't help them."
That soldier from Ohio is one of the nearly 40,000 U.S. troops diagnosed by the military with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007; the number of diagnoses increased nearly 50 percent in 2007 over the previous year, the military said this spring. I saw a number of soldiers with war trauma while working as a psychologist for the U.S. Army. In 2006, I went to Fort Dix as a civilian contractor to treat soldiers on their way to and return from those wars. I was drawn by the immediacy of the work and the opportunity to make a difference. What the raw numbers on war trauma can't show is what I saw every day in my office: the individual stories of men and women who have sustained emotional trauma as well as physical injury, people who are still fighting an arduous postwar battle to heal, to understand a mysterious psychological condition and re-enter civilian life. As I think about the soldiers who will be rotating back home from Iraq this summer as part of the "pause" in the "surge," as well as those who will stay behind, I remember some of the people I met on their long journey back from the war. ...
So now we know: Michelle Obama shops at Target, hates pantyhose ("painful") and made the "fist pump" cool.
And Cindy McCain does lots of under-the-radar charity work, favors Oscar de la Renta and has a credit card bill that's been somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 this year.
But rest assured, America: With a major female presidential candidate no longer in the running, there's plenty more we'll learn about the stylistic, literary, grooming and culinary penchants of the two women who aspire to be first lady of the United States.
Three hours after John McCain’s campaign bus left General Motors’ plant in Lordstown, Ohio, workers started streaming in and out of the factory’s gates for the mid-afternoon shift change.
Only a fraction had caught a glimpse of the Republican presidential candidate when he toured the production line and still fewer attended the meeting he held in an adjacent conference room. “Management invited him,” said 38-year-old Tim Niles. “It had nothing to do with us. We’re with Obama.”
Mr Niles, a white, working-class Democrat who wears a “Bubba’s Army” T-shirt, is exactly the kind of voter Mr McCain was courting on his trip to northern Ohio on Friday. On the day Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton staged their first joint rally, Mr McCain was trying to undermine their reconciliation by wooing Mrs Clinton’s blue-collar base.
His efforts appeared wasted on many. “We’re a working-class factory,” said 49-year-old Greg George. “McCain calls himself moderate, but his party has been a disaster for working people over the past eight years.”
And the U.S. warns that Mexico's battle against powerful drug cartels is threatening to escalate into a crippling, all-out war.
L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.
The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at the economic up-trends and down-trends for two states; Virginia and West Virginia, and plumbs the ramifications for Democrats and Republicans:
... "Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties," said Bill Bishop, author of "The Big Sort." "There are all these things telling people they should be around people like themselves. And every four years, this has political consequences."
Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.
But in general, where economic dynamism is concentrated, Democrats are gaining. Bishop found that Gore and Kerry did much better in the 21 metro areas that produced the most new patents than in less tech-oriented cities. Virginia Tech demographer Robert E. Lang found that Kerry did better in the 20 metro areas most linked to the global economy -- based on business networks, shipping and airport activity -- than in metro areas as a whole.
In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign’s perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it “help” if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?
Rich goes on to critique the "terror = M-c-win" strategery of Karl Rove, saying that should the unthinkable occur:
... voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.
Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.
Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks.
Then there is the McCain camp’s star fearmonger, Rudy Giuliani, who has lately taken to railing about Mr. Obama’s supposed failure to learn the lessons of the first twin towers bombing. The lesson America’s Mayor took away from that 1993 attack was to insist that New York City’s emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center. No less an authority than John Lehman, a 9/11 commission member who also serves on the McCain team, has mocked New York’s pre-9/11 emergency plans as “not worthy of the Boy Scouts.”
If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it.
"The company you keep" will be a theme this year, and not just for Barack Obama... Back at the WaPo, an article that breaks no news, but which states an obvious conclusion that will have major implications for the campaign: a McCain win could push the Supreme Court to the right. Say it isn't so!
Proving the age-old chestnut that racists can't spell to be entirely true, vandals spray misspelled insults targeting Barack Obama on city vehicles in Orlando, then damn Hillary Clinton with likely ungrammatical faint praise.
Phrases including “Obmama smokes crack” and others phrases with racial slurs were written in blue spray paint on the white city cars and trucks.Other vehicles appeared to have had their gas tanks tampered with.Along with the paint, hundreds of business cards were left on windshields.The cards contain criticism of Obama on one side, and support for Hillary Clinton and her family on the other side. The same cards were left on channel nine vehicles in Daytona Beach several weeks ago.
The vandalism happened the same night the Obama campaign kicked off its Florida organization with parties across the state.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that 24 vehicles were damaged in all, including 23 owned by the city. The vandals did about $10,000 worth of damage, added some new catch phrases to the American lexicon, and according to the paper, for once, John McCain was not ignored.
According to pictures from the scene, the vandals tagged notes such as "Obama smokes crack." They left business card-sized notes that disparaged Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama on one side, while supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton on the other.
The cards also included statements like "Legalize Marijuana/Stop Building Prisons," "Ladies I'm Single Some Girl Step Up" and "How About Them Gators." They were signed by "CR."
The mainstream media, which now includes the major blogs, has a way of taking a meme and running with it, particularly, it seems, when the meme originates on the right, or somehow damages Democrats (I think it's a "former Democratic staffer turned journalist" self-hatred thing.) There's a method to turning a political figure into a caricature that's easily digested on a one-hour cable news show with a brightly-lit set and busy theme music, and the MSM can use the meme to build a candidate up, or bring him down to size. [Much ado about Obama's "brand."... At left: limited edition Obama poster, "Change," by artist Shepard Fairey. Available here.]
Take for instance the notion that Barack Obama, by not accepting campaign finance reform, and by committing various other illiberal sins in the upper chamber of Congress, is "damaging his brand." I've started hearing the phrase used in heavy rotation since GOP strategist Matthew Dowd used it to tisk-tisk Obama on campaign financing last Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." He elaborated on the ABC News blog the following day:
Obama's brand is new to the political marketplace and it is especially in need of protection by him and his campaign.
What is his brand?
From my perspective it is something that involves a new kind of politics, something that doesn't involve political expediency, something that gets past the spin of Washington, something that involves truth and inspiration in order to get the job done.
That is why I believe Obama and his campaign made a blunder flip flopping on public campaign finance for the general election.
Obama had said for many months he would abide by public financing in the fall and now has decided against doing just that. As Liz Sidoti of Associated Press wrote, "Barack Obama chose winning over his word."
Not a good thing at all for his brand. Is it lethal? Probably not, but it's a mistake.
Dowd is just one of the seemingly endless throng of media types who have gone over the moon over the way Obama has chosen to finance his campaign (who knew public financing was such a cherished item among the media elite?) But as a communications pro, he is also a student of the idea of "moving the zeitgeist" -- tapping the collective subconscious of the media elite, which shapes what they report, what they harp on (particularly on TV), what they ignore, and how they treat a particular candidate.
Gore got slapped upside the head by the media zeitgeist in 2000, when the herd decided that his meme would be "phony, effete guy who isn't comfortable in his own skin" (Google the phrase "Gore and 'comfortable in his own skin'" and see just how much you get...) Once the meme took hold, Gore was derided, falsely, for claiming he invented the Internet, for his clothes, or his tan, and on and on. That same year, John McCain was given the incredibly positive meme: "maverick." It has stuck for eight years, and MSM types continue to resist giving it up, even after McCain has shed every principle he held in and before 2000 in his desperate hunt for the White House, and long after voters no longer hold the term operative for the Senator from Arizona. Bill Clinton's media meme from day one was "slick. He'll say and do whatever it takes to win." Unfortunately for Hillary, she inherited that mantle in 2008.
For Obama, the meme started as "movement, change and phenomenon," but has begun to migrate downward, ever since "Saturday Night Live" made the press corps feel bad about themselves for liking him. (It's always deadly to make the media feel bad about themselves.) Wore, his team has repeatedly snubbed, been "cool" toward, and outsmarted the Washington press corps, giving the David Gregories of the world added impetus to smack him down. Now that he has committed campaign finance apostasy, finally discover the issue that strikes at the heart of every Washington reporter, Obama risks being tagged with the negative meme of "the guy who damaged his brand."
Which is why the phrase "damaged his brand," or the idea of it, has been repeated over and over again since last week, in the Los Angeles Times, in the Washington Post, by Arianna Huffington (this morning on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," and on and on and on, not to mention by the vacuous day shift girls on the cable news anchor desks. From there, the meme makes its way to the left- and the right wing blogosphere, and presto! It's in the zeitgeist. The "damaging his brand" meme has been fueled by a much linked column by WaPo's David Broder, which essentially cedes the moral high ground on just about anything to John McCain, simply by virtue of his long service in Washington, and prior service in the military (Broder is highly influential among the punditocracy, by virtue of his long service in Washington, as this devotional post by Chris Cillizza illustrates.) So kids, the phrase of the week is "damaging his brand."
Still, the good news for Barack is that he has defied the punditocracy before. In fact, he was issued a stern warning last October by John Dickerson of Slate for criticizing Hillary Clinton's truthfulness during the debates. The risk to Obama, in Dickerson's mind? He might damage his brand.
Related: for a piece on the "Obama brand" that won't make you hurl, check out this smart piece by political strategist Patrick Ruffini, from February. |
One of the saddest outcomes of the scorched earth Hillary Clinton for President campaign has been the impact it has had on her husband, former President Bill Clinton. For years, Clinton occupied rarefied air inside Democratic circles -- a president who remained popular, even through impeachment, and who became even more so after he left office. Bill Clinton was so beloved by Black Democrats (even was benighted "the first Black president for a time,) he could waltz into any Black church, even into the funeral for the late Coretta Scott King, and chastise the crowd for being discourteous to George Bush.
Clinton's presidency was looked upon, by all but the most liberal Democrats, as a good time in America -- imperfect, and certainly not free of scandal -- but also full of opportunity and possibility, fueled by the explosion of the Internet, a strong and growing economy, and, say it with me, "22 million new jobs." It was good to be Bill.
Now, in part by his own heavy hand (in South Carolina), and as his wife's burning ambition, which failed to make her the Democratic nominee, has nonetheless led the mainstream media to crown her the new "feminist hero" -- Bill Clinton is shrinking. The all-out war to defeat Barack Obama took him from rock star ex-president to red-faced husband almost overnight, and from philanthropic juggernaut to common political attack dog. Worse, his efforts, and those of the team he bequeathed on Hillary (Mark Penn, Terry McAuliffe, Harold Ickes and others,) bloodied Obama but ultimately failed, leaving most of the stains on Bill. Because while all Hillary lost was the nomination, Bill Clinton lost something that it turns out, seems to have meant much more to him -- he lost the love.
The shrinking of the president has been a sad spectacle for those of us who supported him, even during the dark days of impeachment, and who continued to look upon "Big Bill" with favor: he was the white guy with the "Black passport" -- they guy who works in Harlem -- someone so likable, even women would give him a pass to on "the Monica thing."
For black America, the fall has been especially steep. His once bulletproof approval ratings with African-Americans have now dropped so much, they have helped pull his overall approval rating among Democrats into the negative for the first time, according a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Bill's negative rating in the current survey: 45 percent. His positive number: 42.
Clinton's response to the decline has been to get mad. According to press reports, he's mad at Barack Obama, whose campaign he is sure "slimed him," and falsely tagged him and his wife as racists. He's mad at the winning Democratic campaign which he apparently believes, was run largely as a repudiation of his eight years in office. Tom Edsall of the Huffington Post writes:
Some say Bill Clinton not only wants Obama to reach out to him, but to also promise to lift the cloud of alleged racism -- an accusation that continues to eat at the man once dubbed the nation's "first black president." Clinton, these folks suggest, wants Obama to publicly exonerate him of the charge that he played the race card in the primaries.
Beyond that, some associates say, Bill Clinton wants Obama to reach out to him as a mentor, a guide who can lead Obama through the labyrinth of a tough presidential election. "Bill wants to be honored, to return to the role of Democratic elder statesman, and get rid of this image of him as a pol willing to do anything to win," said one associate.
"He is still bruised from the trail, really hurt about the racist charges leveled against him, and convinced the Obama campaign fomented it," said another source familiar with the former president's attitude. "What he would really like is for Obama to apologize, but on one level he knows that is never going to happen," a third source said.
But for all the blame game, the people Bill Clinton may, secretly, be most angry at, should be himself, his wife, and his wife's campaign. After all, it was the former president who so damaged himself by appearing to dismiss Obama's South Carolina primary win with the nonsequitor, "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."
It was Hillary who chose to shade the fact that she knows darned well that Obama, her Senate colleague, is no Muslim, Hillary who declared that the "hard working, white voters" of West Virginia were in her pocket, and Hillary who made that horrifying reference about the assassination of RFK in explaining why she was staying in the race until June.
It was Bill Clinton's political attack dogs, on loan to Hillary, who implemented the now notorious "kitchen sink" strategy against Obama, a man more similar to the Bill Clinton of 1992 ("the man from Hope," no less,) than Bill might want to admit. And it was Howard Wolfson and company's bully-boy tactics with the press that ramped up the adversarial relationship the president and his family remembered all too well from the 90s. And it was Clinton supporters who raised the ugly specter of race as a reason to oppose Obama's candidacy, or to diminish it, from Geraldine Ferraro to the 2 in 10 Democratic voters in some primary states who stated openly that they would not vote for a black candidate, to Harriet Christian, the ignorant woman fron New York who derided Obama as an affirmative action hire, or an "inadequate black man."
It wouldn't be surprising, given all of this, that the Obama camp might be reluctant to give Bill Clinton the public embrace he seems to crave (and I have no reporting to suggest that such reluctance exists.) But the embrace will come anyway, mark my words. There is too much at stake for the Obama team to leave even a single vote on the table, and bringing Clinton supporters into the fold will prove to be a higher priority than nursing resentments against the former first lady, much less the lone two-term Democratic president in many of our lifetimes.
So Bill will get his rehab, probably in the form of a "Clinton night" during the Denver convention, and strategic appearances with Obama, at which the latter pours on the praise for the 1990s, and publicly seeks Clinton's council (maybe even accompanying him to a black church, or to the "Tom Joyner Morning Show," where both men have a friend in the host.) Still, many black voters I've talked to are hard-pressed to forgive, at least for now. And during the campaign, Bill Clinton's role will likely be limited to wooing rural and southern white voters -- the ones he and Hillary bonded with during the campaign. The real turnaround for Bill Clinton will come after the election, when he goes back to the good works that he has been doing through his Clinton Global Initiative; when his focus is off politics, and back on his impressive humanitarian projects and outreach to the world.
The good news for the Clintons is that if Obama wins the White House in November, all will be forgiven (except Bob Johnson -- he's good and done.) Things could get more complicated if Obama falls short in November, and his supporters blame the bruising primary, or some outgrowth of it that McCain or the GOP figure out how to successfully exploit. In that case, we could see a real fracture in the Democratic Party, which unfortunately, will be generational, income based, and and least partly down to race.
Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States." -- Joe Lieberman, August, 2002
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998
“The so-called Duelfer Report, which a lot of people read to say there were no weapons of mass destruction - concluded that Saddam continued to have very low level of chemical and biological programs. ... [Saddam] was trying to break out of the U.N. sanctions by going back into rapid redevelopment of chemical and biological and probably nuclear [weapons]. -- Joe Lieberman in interview with ABC Radio host Sean Hannity, November 30, 2005
"I have no regrets [that the U.S. toppled Saddam.] ... I think we can finish are job there, and as part of it - really transform the Arab-Islamic world." -- from the same Hannity interview
Lieberman and McCain have had long friendship with then Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, who drummed up bogus WMD claims and helped lead the United States into war, going all the way back to 1991.
It’s worth remembering that it was Lieberman, along with Trent Lott, who led the effort in the Senate to fund Chalabi and the Iraq National Congress through passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998, and it was Lieberman and McCain who served as the two “honorary co-chairmen” of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), the elite group that was put together by the administration and Chalabi’s pals at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), to lobby for invading Iraq in the fall of 2002.
That post prompted me to do a Google search of "Joe Lieberman, Ahmad Chalabi," which turned up this detailed post on the Cooperative Research History Commons site. We'll pick things up after swindler-turned-liar-turned Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi's failed 1995 coup attempt, against Saddam Hussein, which was first backed, and then abandoned, by the CIA (a message delivered by now-author Robert Baer.) The scheme was supposed to sweep Chalabi into power in Iraq, his family having been ejected from the country in the late 1950s. A year later, Chalabi moved from sipping tea in London to sipping coffee in D.C., where he made nice with neocon "intellectuals," a live-in lobbyists named Francis Brooke, and members of Congress -- mostly Republicans, including Trent Lott and John McCain, but also some Democrats, including former Sen. Bob Kerrey, and a certain now-former Democrat named Joseph Lieberman.
More from the Commons:
Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brooke find allies in the US Senate’s Republican leadership. They provide the Republicans with details about the events surrounding the INC-CIA’s 1995 failed plot against Saddam Hussein (see March 1995) and Iraq’s subsequent incursion into Kurdish territory (see August 1996) which the Republican senators use against the Clinton White House and the CIA. “Clinton gave us a huge opportunity,” Brooke later recalls. “We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the president.” The Republican leadership in Congress, he acknowledges, “didn’t care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the president.” Senior Republican senators, according to Brooke, are “very receptive, right away” to Chalabi and Brooke’s information, and Chalabi is soon on a first-name basis with 30 members of Congress, including senators Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. [Alternet, 21 May 2004.')" New Yorker, 7 June 2004.)
Then in May, 1998, the Project for a New American Century, which has formed to advance the neoconservative worldview in Washington, sends a letter addressed to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, calling on them to pressure the White House to change U.S. policy toward Iraq:
... The letter argues that the Clinton administration has capitulated to Saddam Hussein and calls on the two legislators to lead Congress to “establish and maintain a strong US military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect [US] vital interests in the Gulf—and, if necessary, to help removed Saddam from power.” [Century, 5/29/1998]
On September 1998, the PNAC got their way in Congress, as the Iraq Liberation Act was introduced, first in the House as HR 4655, and then, on September 29th, in the Senate. The Act clears the way for Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to receive more than $17 million to gather information about the Saddam Hussein regime (almost all of which will be a) shared with members of the U.S. media including the New York Times' Judith Miller, and b) flat out wrong, made up, or otherwise completely useless.
Those who were surprised by Lieberman's determination to stay in the Senate at all costs, and his zeal to back John McCain, even if it costs him his chairmanship and seniority in the Senate, should take a close look at this history. Joe Lieberman isn't backing John McCain simply because they are friends. He is backing John McCain because the Iraq policy that McCain promises to continue indefinitely isn't just the project of a "new century," it isn't just a project of the neocons (of which Lieberman is clearly one); it isn't even just a policy of the Bush administration. It's a McCain-Lieberman policy, which they helped to craft, to germinate, and to push into both the congressional and executive branches.
In short, John McCain and Joe Lieberman are fighting this election in order to continue their war.
Take action: Visit LiebermanMustGo.com to sign the petition calling on the Senate Democratic leadership to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship.
The newest celebrity couple make their long-awaited joint appearance in Unity, New Hampshire. MSNBC is DOING IT LIVE!
Meanwhile, Howard Fineman says that behind the scenes, with the top fundraisers in both camps, it's more like Guy Ritchie and Madonna than like Angelina Jolie and the man she stole from Jennifer Aniston...
One major Clinton donor described it this way: "This felt like when your mom forces you to go visit your Aunt Ida and she has to pinch your cheeks and you're sitting there in an uncomfortable suit and you can't wait to leave."
No sign of that now, though, as Hillary gives a quite gracious speech in Unity, and she and Barack score with the press on "body language." For god sakes, Margaret Carlson almost smiled...
Also at Politico, which has taken down its curiously symmetrical anti-Obama headlines this morning ... hmmm... Ben Smith says the Obama team is struggling with what to do with the legacy of former President Clinton...
Obama: Change agent goes conventional By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 6/26/08 8:06 PM Faced with tough choices on a range of fronts, Barack Obama (D-Ill.) passed up opportunities to take bold stands.
Step 1: media describes politician's narrative Step 2: media adopts and advances politician's narrative
And the MSM is especially susceptible when the politician is John McCain (just as it used to be with the Bush administration, pre-Katrina, David Gregory's protestations aside.) This cycle, the media's zeal to capture Obama's flag is, I think, fueled by two things: their need for the race to be a "horse race," rather than a boring, ratings-unfriendly blowout; and this almost obsessive umbrage at Obama's decision not to accept public campaign financing -- a vestige of the "liberal" media mindset, I suppose, but not an obsession shared by the vast majority of Americans. But there you go.
He no longer has his Republican human shields in Congress. With dicey re-elections looming, it's every GOPer for him/herself. And with Bush's new tack to the center (which appears for all the world to be a mad dash for some shred of a legacy beyond Iraq,) combined with his dismal polling, Bush has become the guy nobody invited to the party, but who showed up anyway. (Hell, the POTUS can't even get a porch wave...) Quite a fall from the hero worship and almost cultish support he enjoyed from the FReeperati for years after 9/11 (remember the days when you would get banned for criticizing "The President?" or when the Free Republic had a gauzy, nauseating daily thread called "pray for the president"? Gonzo.)
So now, Dubya is in trubya with his former winger friends, over turning North Korea into a one-country "Axis of not-so-evil." Observe:
Several prominent House Republicans blasted the White House Thursday for removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, as some of President Bush’s staunchest supporters in the war on terror publicly lambasted him for engaging the country once famously branded as part of the "axis of evil."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed her “profound disappointment” over the decision, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed his outrage.
“Lifting sanctions and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism flies in the face of history and rewards its brutal dictator for shallow gestures,” said Hoekstra, who has not shied away from criticizing the White House in recent years.
“Just as the Clinton administration was fooled by the Kim Jong-Il regime, time will soon tell if the Bush administration will fall for the same bait,” he added.
...“The administration’s call for North Korea to be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list is cause for profound concern,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Serious verification questions linger, and I would have hoped that the administration would have shown more caution, and less haste, on a matter of this gravity.”
Let's face it. Ileana's got a tough re-election fight for the first time in her career, and distancing herself from Bush at a time when many Cuban-American voters are jumping the GOP ship (no pun intended) is good politics. And with winger voters, it never hurts to make ominous noises in the general direction of foreign countries...
Talk about the courts inventing new rights never before seen in the Constitution ... turns out each of us has the right to a bazooka..!
The truly insane Wayne LaPierre was on "Hardball" tonight confirming press accounts about his next plan, post D.C. v. Heller: they're going to start suing other cities to take down their gun restriction laws. And the first case? The NRA will soon, perhaps even starting tomorrow, seek to "rearm Chicago," and overturn a San Francisco law banning people living in public housing projects from owning firearms. Say the NRA's ironically named chief lobbyist, Chris Cox:
"When the Supreme Court says 'all Americans,' it includes those who aren't fortunate enough to afford a 24/7 security detail like Barack Obama," Cox said, working in a dig at the Democratic nominee. Obama's campaign today backed away from a previous statement, made last year by an aide, that Obama supported D.C.'s ban.
Now, I don't know how many projects Chris has been to, but let's assume San Francisco's are much like many in other cities, including here in South Florida -- sometimes calm, if hard-scrabble, but too often run down and dangerous. So raise your hand if you think it's a good idea to bring more guns into, say, Dunbar Village , where the teens who assaulted a young mother and her son last year could theoretically have found a gun to steal, along with that family's innocence. [And before the gun nuts start braying that had the mother in Dunbar had a gun, she could have shot her assailants, I cede the point. However, keep in mind that the teens who attacked her lured her outside, leaving no way for her to get her hands on a gun. Perhaps they'd prefer that her 12-year-old son grabbed the gun, and maybe shot ... whom? Statistics suggest his only victim would have been himself or his mom.]
And surely LaPierre and company would like to see more states pass laws like Florida's "castle doctrine," which lets members of the "well armed militia" that now apparently includes us all, shoot first and ask questions later (gun nuts seem to love the idea of "good citizens shooting the bad guys dead, and not waiting around for the cops," though most of them are at best, armchair cowboys, and most "good citizens" don't have the training that police do ... hence ... the fact that they're the police...) Maybe, now that we're all living in Wayne's world, we could all get guns and go back to settling our disputes like they did in the Wild West. Maybe crazy Zell Miller has gotten his wish, and we now live in a time when you can challenge a man to a duel... Or perhaps we could all buy rocket launchers or tommy guns and parade them in the streets. That'd show the criminals! Wouldn't it? And how should law enforcement react to the notion that the NRA would like to see a gun in every American home, car, workplace and even church? Sure makes traffic stops or responses to domestic incidents more "interesting..."
Truly, there will be blood on the hands of five Supreme Court justices, the NRA and their gun nut supporters, if, as in the case of the late assault weapons ban, their advocacy puts more guns, and more death, on the streets.
And make no mistake, now that the gun lobbyists have found five jurists filled with enough NRA Kool-Aid to turn the entire nation into a militia, you'd better believe they're looking to strip away the "well regulated" part of the Late, Great, United States Constitution, next... (may it rest in peace.)
Who dies in greater numbers from firearms, police in the line of duty or preschoolers?
The answer — contained in a searing new report by the Children's Defense Fund — is surprising and disturbing. In 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, guns killed 69 preschoolers, compared with 53 law enforcement officers.
That's just one of the alarming facts in the Washington-based child advocacy group's "Protect Children, Not Guns" report. Among the others:
• Since 1979, gun violence has taken the lives of 104,419 children and teens.
• A black male has a one-in-72 chance of being killed by a firearm before age 30; a while male has a one-in-344 chance.
• While black children are more likely to be victims of firearm homicides, whites are more likely to use a gun to commit suicide. Eight times as many white kids committed suicide by gun as blacks.
The danger posed by guns to America's youth is on the rise. In 2005, 3,006 children and teens died from firearms, compared with 2,825 in 2004. That's the first increase in gun deaths among children since 1994 and since the longstanding assault weapons ban expired in 2004.
The children lost to guns in 2005 would fill 120 public school classrooms. Despite the bloodshed, the issue of gun safety has not become a focal point in the 2008 presidential race. And hardly anyone running for office in Georgia — where it becomes legal next month for permit-holders to carry firearms in restaurants and on MARTA — mentions guns except to eagerly note that they own them.
The silence speaks to the sway of a gun lobby that fights any regulation, even modest laws designed to keep weapons away from children. And that silence is deadly, contributing to the ease with which guns are finding their way into the hands of kids and teens, with fatal consequences.
"Imagine a tragedy like the Virginia Tech shooting occurring every four days, or a Northern Illinois shooting happening every 15 hours," said Children's Defense Fund president and founder Marian Wright Edelman. Last year's Virginia Tech massacre left 32 people dead, while five students died when a gunman opened fire at Northern Illinois University in February. ...
... Opponents of gun laws argue that it's America's culture of violence that necessitates the need for unfettered access to firearms. They argue that widespread gun ownership and quick access to firearms keeps communities safe and violence at bay.
If that's true, why does the United States lead the developed world in gun deaths? Why do more 10- to 19-year-olds in America die from gunshot wounds than any other cause except car accidents?
If guns equal safety, shouldn't the U.S. have fewer casualties and injuries, since our society is so well-armed? That's a calculus problem that the gun lobby refuses to tackle, because it fears the answer: More guns on the streets doesn't lead to greater safety. It leads only to more gun violence.
A 2002 study on firearm deaths by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that children ages 5 to 14 died at higher rates in states with more guns. The study found that children in the five states with the highest levels of gun ownership — Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia — were 16 times more likely to die from unintentional firearm injury, seven times more likely to die from firearm suicide and three times more likely to die from firearm homicide than children in the five states with the lowest levels of ownership, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware.
Consider, too, that while 11,344 Americans were murdered with a firearm in 2004, Australia suffered only 56 gun homicides and England and Wales had 73.
Chuck Hagel and Collin Powell at the Vietnam Veterans' memorial in D.C., photo from Reuters Pictures
The two that really worry the McCain team are Chuck Hagel and Collin Powell, who could provide Barack Obama with an October surprise of his own, by endorsing him, according to the Prince of Darkness, Robert Novak. He also adds a few nice broadsides at the prez:
Powell, Hagel and lesser-known Obamacons harbor no animosity toward McCain. Nor do they show much affection for the rigidly liberal Obama. The Obamacon syndrome is based on hostility to Bush and his administration and on revulsion over today's Republican Party. The danger for McCain is that desire for a therapeutic electoral bloodbath could get out of control.
That danger was highlighted in a June New Republic article on "The rise of the Obamacons" by supply-side economist Bruce Bartlett, who was a middle-level official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. He expressed "disgust with a Republican Party that still does not see how badly George W. Bush has misgoverned this country" -- echoing his scathing 2006 book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy." While Bartlett says "I'm not ready to join the other side," his anti-Bush furor characterizes the Obamacons.
The prototypal Obamacon may be Larry Hunter, recognized inside the Beltway as an ardent supply-sider. When it became known recently that Hunter supports Obama, fellow conservatives were stunned. Hunter was fired as U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief economist in 1993 when he would not swallow Clinton administration policy, and he later joined Jack Kemp at Empower America (ghostwriting Kemp's column). Explaining his support for the uncompromisingly liberal Obama, Hunter blogged on June 6: "The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of 'Weekend With Bernie,' handcuffed to a corpse."
An emerging Democratic coalition of women, minorities and younger voters is propelling Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to leads of five to 17 percentage points over Arizona Sen. John McCain among likely voters in the battleground states of Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to four simultaneous Quinnipiac University polls, conducted in partnership with The Wall Street Journal and washingtonpost.com and released today.
Sen. McCain's lead among white voters in Colorado and Michigan cuts the gap to single digits, but doesn't offset Sen. Obama's strength among other groups. The Democrat also leads by eight to 21 percentage points among independent voters in each state. Overall results show:
Colorado: Obama leads McCain 49 - 44 percent, including 51 - 39 percent among independent voters;
Michigan: Obama tops McCain 48 - 42 percent, with 46 - 38 percent among independents;
Minnesota: Obama buries McCain 54 - 37 percent, and 54 - 33 percent with independents;
Wisconsin: Obama leads McCain 52 - 39 percent, and 50 - 37 percent with independents.
Obama is losing white men by just 5 points in Colorado, and splitting whites 46 to McCain's 47 in my former state, while creaming McCain with Hispanics, 62-36.
He's winning all age groups in Michigan, including a 3-point edge with voters over 55 (he's down by 6 points with white men. Meanwhile,
Obama tops McCain 58 - 32 percent with women and 49 - 42 percent among men. White voters support Obama 51 - 39 percent. The Democrat leads 63 - 33 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old, 52 - 39 percent among voters 35 to 54 and 49 - 38 percent with voters over 55.
Obama gets a 59 - 22 percent favorability, to 46 - 32 percent for McCain.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, there's good news for Barack, bad news for Al Franken, and Tim Pawlenty news for John McCain:
"Sen. Obama sweeps nearly every demographic group in Minnesota, including whites and blue collar workers, to lead by 17 points, the biggest lead in the four states surveyed. At the same time, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, with overwhelming support among men and a tie among women, has a 10-point overall lead over comedian Al Franken, the Democratic challenger," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Most voters say it would not make any difference in their vote if Gov. Tim Pawlenty is McCain's running mate," Richards added. Wisconsin
Not what the McCain team wants to hear, I suspect.
Last but not least:
Wisconsin women likely voters back Obama 53 - 37 percent while men back the Democrat 51 - 40 percent. White voters back Obama 49 - 42 percent. He leads 61 - 35 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old, 52 - 39 percent among voters 35 to 54 years old and 47 - 41 percent among voters over 55.
Obama's favorability is 54 - 27 percent, with 48 - 30 percent for McCain.
And the main issue for all comers: the economy, stupid. It's no wonder that:
"November can't get here soon enough for Sen. Barack Obama. He has a lead everywhere, and if nothing changes between now and November he will make history," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
With those numbers? Hell yes. Now, for the very early, and very theoretical, Electoral College count:
Give all 46 of those EVs to Obama, and he's got 221 electoral votes, without including Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, Missouri, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina or Virginia. He would need another 49 EVs, McCain would need 96. That leaves Obama a number of combinations to win it. Give him the three previous QPac swing states that he's winning: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, and Obama is at 289, enough to win it all. Add Iowa and New Mexico -- two states he will almost certainly win -- and he's over 300. It's a tantalizing possibility, but again, it's still early, and we don't know what the Bushies' "October surprise" will be yet...
To have fun with the delegate math your damn self, go to 270towin.com. Just look busy so your boss thinks you're working...
Bang! The right is overjoyed as Tony Scalia pens an ode to the gatt
The right is over the moon over the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling striking down D.C.'s gun ban (Cheney is probably strapping up and scoping out his next victim's face as we speak...) though a few cooler heads, even at RedState, point out that the court didn't ratify a right to own any weapon you like (military weapons, tanks, etc., which the truly insane gun nuts think they have a right to.) Scalia, of course, wrote the opinion. The WaPo explains:
The Supreme Court, splitting along ideological lines, today declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns for self-defense, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional.
The 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia represented a monumental change in federal jurisprudence and went beyond what the Bush administration had counseled. It said that the government may impose some restrictions on gun ownership, but that the District's strictest-in-the-nation ban went too far under any interpretation.
Scalia wrote that the Constitution leaves the District a number of options for combating the problem of handgun violence, "including some measures regulating handguns."
"But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table," he continued. "These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."
The court also held unconstitutional the requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept disassembled or unloaded or outfitted with a trigger lock. The court called it a "prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."
Scalia was joined by the most consistently conservative justices -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Justice John Paul Stevens spoke from the bench to denounce the decision, which he said violated the court's precedent that the Second Amendment refers to a right to bear arms only for military purposes.
He spoke dismissively of the court's "newly discovered right" and said decisions about gun control should be made by legislatures.
"This court should stay out of that political thicket," he said. Stevens was joined in dissent by the court's most consistent liberals: David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
In announcing the opinion, Scalia specifically mentioned that some restrictions on owning and carrying a gun are valid, such as denying the sale to felons or the mentally ill, or restricting the possession of guns in "sensitive places," such as schools.
But he acknowledged that the majority opinion was not setting standards that might be easily apparent to governments deciding how to restrict gun rights. As a result, Scalia said the ruling will probably result in more litigation.
The political responses:
President Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, said in a statement that "the President strongly agrees with the Supreme Court's historic decision today that the Second Amendment protects the individual right of Americans to keep and bear arms. This has been the Administration's long-held view. The President is also pleased that the Court concluded that the DC firearm laws violate that right."
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee quickly put out a statement endorsing the decision, calling it a "landmark victory" for Second Amendment rights. "Today's ruling . . . makes clear that other municipalities like Chicago that have banned handguns have infringed on the constitutional rights of Americans," McCain said.
Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the Democrats' all but certain nominee, also issued a statement saying that "I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.
"The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe."
In just two years, 320 Democratic, Republican, and independent mayors have come together to support the common sense goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. From the beginning, we have said that fighting illegal guns has nothing to do with the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court upholding those rights will benefit our coalition by finally putting to rest the ideological debates that have for too long obscured an obvious fact: criminals, who have no right to purchase or possess guns, nevertheless have easy access to them. Mayors and police chiefs have a responsibility to crack down on illegal guns and punish gun criminals, and it is encouraging that the Supreme Court recognizes the constitutionality of reasonable regulations that allow for us to carry out those responsibilities.(New York City filed an amicus brief for the District of Columbia.)
In a news conference two hours after the court overturned the city's ban on handguns, Fenty (D) said that he will work with the D.C. Council and police department on what happens next.
The mayor added that he believes he speaks for District residents in saying, "We are disappointed in the ruling. We wish it had gone the other way, but we respect the court's" decision.
The District now must create new regulations detailing the process for registering handguns, which the Supreme Court said can be kept in homes for self-defense. The city has regulations already on the books, which have been largely moot because of the gun ban, but those rules likely will be updated and revised, officials said.
The record will show that our home-grown shooters have blown through the city's so-called strict handgun ban like John Riggins going up the middle. Over the past 20 years, there have been more than 6,500 homicides in the nation's capital, most committed with firearms, predominantly handguns. In 1976, the year the ban was put in place, the District had 135 gun-related murders, according to CNN. Last year, the number reached 143. Thus far this year, we've had 85 murders.
You thought D.C. stands for "District of Columbia? "Dodge City" is more like it.
If D.C. street thugs are pleased by anything, it's probably the fact that five of the justices -- a slim majority, but that's all it takes to win -- have come around to seeing things their way.
And he has a few choice words for Scalia:
Writing for the majority, Scalia said that the Constitution doesn't allow "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." Folks have a right to keep and bear arms -- and, by golly, a right to use 'em, too, if necessary.
Scalia also wrote this hymn to the handgun: "The American people consider the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon." He went on to argue: "There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: it is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long rifle; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid."
And if machine guns one day should become the weapon of choice for home protection -- what say ye then, Justice Scalia? With the exception of that reference to dialing the police, D.C. street thugs' response to Scalia's ode to the handgun was undoubtedly, "Hear, hear!"
King adds that the NRA, fueled by this "victory," will now go after the gun laws in San Francisco and Chicago. Why not head down here to Miami, guys? We've got plenty of AK-47s on the streets for you to deregulate, and a whole lotta killings, too! Yeehaw!
One more gasp of optimism, also courtesy of the WaPo:
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a group favoring tighter firearms controls, said that the ruling was "quite clearly" a defeat for the organization's legal position. But, he said, there was a silver lining. Although the majority opinion says that handguns can't be banned, it does allow governments to impose restrictions on ownership, Helmke said. He contended that the decision carved out the extremes in the debate over gun rights.
"This takes off the idea that you can have a near-total ban on guns, especially guns for self-defense," Helmke said. "We haven't really pushed that . . . The gun lobby, however, has been trying to say that any step in the common sense direction is part of the slippery slope toward confiscation. In effect, [the Supreme Court] has taken that slippery slope away, and that's where the ruling actually could be a benefit politically to folks who are fighting for common sense gun control."
Besides the fact that North Korea gets to put off detailing its nuclear weapons holdings, today's agreement, which is largely drawing muted cheers, also leaves Japan in the lurch. The Asia Times' Ralph Cossa explained the Japanese dilemma just yesterday:
Intertwined in all the above is the North Korea-Japan normalization process, which both are committed to making "sincere efforts" to address. A dispute over "full accounting" regarding Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s has resulted in a bilateral stalemate.
Pyongyang acknowledged the kidnappings in 2002 but then claimed the issue was "settled" (with the return of five abductees and the announcement that eight others had died). Tokyo disagrees: it refutes both the accounting of how the eight died and believes there are more abductees still not acknowledged or accounted for. More importantly for Washington, Tokyo believes it has a commitment from Bush that the US will not remove North Korea from the terrorist sponsors list until there has been "progress" in resolving this dispute. Suspicions in Japan about Washington's perceived over-eagerness to accommodate Pyongyang continue to make this a sensitive alliance issue.
As a result, the agreement in early June 2008 by Pyongyang to "reinvestigate the abduction issue" is seen as a major step forward (and a diplomatic victory of sorts for Hill), even if it comes with no promise of actually providing more information, much less more abductees.
The mere fact that Pyongyang has reopened discussions constitutes some form of "progress", thus allowing Japan to begrudgingly endorse the removal of Pyongyang from the state sponsors list, provided there really is a "complete and correct declaration".
Of course, the reporter underestimated the desperation of the Bushies to get a deal, and the power of China to force one. Thus, as the New York Times explains today:
Japanese politicians like former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe complained this week that the United States should not remove North Korea from the terrorism list until there is a full accounting of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970’s. Doing so would harm relations between Tokyo and Washington, Mr. Abe warned.
On Wednesday, President Bush talked to Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda by telephone and assured him that he had not forgotten about the abductees. And in a nod to Japan in his comments Thursday, Mr. Bush said the United States would “never forget” the abductions of Japanese citizens.
On Thursday, Mr. Fukuda, a moderate, rejected criticism inside Japan that Tokyo now had little leverage over Pyongyang because of its removal from the terrorism list. He said working with the United States “will be really necessary to realize the denuclearization and, at the same time, pave the way for solving the abduction issue, which is a major task for our country.”
And Mr. Bush said in his brief presser today:
The other thing I want to assure our friends in Japan is that this process will not leave behind -- leave them behind on the abduction issue. The United States takes the abduction issue very seriously. We expect the North Koreans to solve this issue in a positive way for the Japanese. There's a lot of folks in Japan that are deeply concerned about what took place. I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office. It was a heart-wrenching moment to listen to the mother talk about what it was like to lose her daughter. And it is important for the Japanese people to know that the United States will not abandon our strong ally and friend when it comes to helping resolve that issue.
in other words, the U.S. and Japan both caved on key issues in order to get a deal, which is of questionable value from the standpoint of what's supposedly the most important issue: nuclear weapons. Confused yet?
Q Mr. President, what do you say to critics who claim that you've accepted a watered-down declaration just to get something done before you leave office? I mean, you said that it doesn't address the uranium enrichment issue, and, of course, it doesn't address what North Korea might have done to help Syria build its reactor.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, let me review where we have been. In the past, we would provide benefits to the North Koreans in the hope that they would fulfill a vague promise. In other words, that's the way it was before I came into office.
Everybody was concerned about North Korea possessing a nuclear weapon; everybody was concerned about the proliferation activities. And yet the policy in the past was, here are some benefits for you, and we hope that you respond. And, of course, we found they weren't responding. And so our policy has changed, that says, in return for positive action, in return for verifiable steps, we will reduce penalties. And there are plenty of restrictions still on North Korea.
And so my point is this, is that -- we'll see. They said they're going to destroy parts of their plant in Yongbyon. That's a very positive step -- after all, it's the plant that made plutonium. They have said in their declarations, if you read their declarations of September last year, they have said specifically what they will do. And our policy, and the statement today, makes it clear we will hold them to account for their promises. And when they fulfill their promises, more restrictions will be eased. If they don't fulfill their promises, more restrictions will be placed on them. This is action for action. This is we will trust you only to the extent that you fulfill your promises.
So I'm pleased with the progress. I'm under no illusions that this is the first step; this isn't the end of the process, this is the beginning of the process of action for action. And the point I want to make to our fellow citizens is that we have worked hard to put multilateral diplomacy in place, because the United States sitting down with Kim Jong-il didn't work in the past. Sitting alone at the table just didn't work.
Now, as I mentioned in my statement, there's a lot more verification that needs to be done. I mentioned our concerns about enrichment. We expect the North Korean regime to be forthcoming about their programs. We talked about proliferation. We expect them to be forthcoming about their proliferation activities and cease such activities. I mentioned the fact that we're beginning to take inventory, because of our access to the Yongbyon plant, about what they have produced, and we expect them to be forthcoming with what they have produced and the material itself.
Uh-huh... you expect them to be forthcoming... or what?
The WaPo's top story has the Bush administration preparing to give North Korea a "get out of the Axis of Evil free" card as the "six party talks" regarding its nuclear programs bear limited fruit. Note the lead country in making the deal: China.
KYOTO, Japan, June 26 -- Nearly seven years after President Bush described it as part of "an axis of evil" and less than two years after it stunned the world by exploding a small nuclear device, Kim Jong Il's Stalinist dictatorship in North Korea appears on the brink of emerging from decades of diplomatic isolation.
North Korea on Thursday handed over to Chinese diplomats here a long-awaited declaration detailing its rogue nuclear program, clearing the way for an increase in international aid and removal of the country from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. The Bush administration has announced that when the declaration is handed over, it will start a process of removing North Korea from the list.
The president is scheduled to speak about North Korea this morning.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said that following receipt of the document "the United States will implement its obligations to remove the designation of (North Korea) as a state sponsor of terrorism and to terminate applications of the Trading with the Enemy Act."
NoKo's declaration will not even be "complete." The Bush administration is in such a rush to wring at least one success out of the last eight, miserable years, its willing to pull the plug on NOKO's terror designation without actually finding out what nuclear weapons it has, or whether it has transferred nuclear technology to other countries, including Syria. Huh??? The announcement left poor Condi Rice explaining that what the Six Parties will get -- an accounting of how much plutonium North Korea has produced over the years -- will give us "the upper hand" in understanding Kim's nuke program. Whatever helps you sleep at night, mama. As the Asia Times' Donald Kirk points out:
The declaration contains no clues about the caves and redoubts, the laboratories and production facilities where North Korean scientists are believed to have begun to learn how to fabricate a warhead from highly enriched uranium. It does not admit acquisition of centrifuges from the disgraced Pakistan physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and it says nothing about acquiring from his network the technology if not the materiel or the training and experience needed to go the final steps to production of a uranium bomb.
Nor does the declaration reveal anything about proliferation of North Korea's nuclear materiel, technology, training and expertise to other countries, notably to Syria, where the Israelis bombed a facility to oblivion in September. Similarly, it maintains silence on North Korea's history of nuclear exchanges with other Middle Eastern countries, notably Iran, which has long boasted of using highly enriched uranium for electrical power while denying any military purposes.
Equally important, the declaration leaves out the question of what North Korea has done with all the plutonium produced for warheads at its nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 100 kilometers north of Pyongyang. There's no word on how many warheads it has there, leaving intelligence analysts to repeat longstanding estimates of anywhere from six to a dozen.
After having insisted repeatedly that North Korea had to "come clean" on its uranium program and proliferation, and also account for all the plutonium warheads, the US decided to forsake that approach in the interests of advancing the protracted process of getting North Korea finally to abandon the entire program.
Which is kind of strange, since the U.S. insisted -- to the point of invasion -- that Saddam Hussein "come clean" and bear his complete soul regarding his nuclear "programs." Bush was not satisfied with Saddam's declaration of how much nuclear material it had, and what it destroyed. But with North Korea, lack of detail is no impediment to making a deal. Meanwhile, we await a similar softening when it comes to Iran, which has repeatedly insisted (with back-up from the IAEA,) that it has no nuclear weapons program. Ironic, ain't it?
But hey, today's momentous announcement won't be all for naught. There will be "good explosion video!"
(Washington Post) -- North Korea has said it will follow up on the release of the declaration by blowing up, as early as Friday, the cooling tower of its Yongbyon nuclear facility. It has invited some Western media to televise the largely symbolic event at the plant, which U.S. inspectors say has been substantially dismantled over the past year.
Meanwhile, Steve Clemons is much less cynical than I am, and he makes a good point about the dissymmetry between the U.S. postures on North Korea and Iran:
This is huge news -- and is a giant step in putting US-North Korea relations on a new and more constructive track. This is a success for the Bush administration -- and more importantly for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian & Pacfic Affairs Christopher Hill who has been a punching bag for former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton who has been spitting on Hill's deal-making for the last year.
There are still a lot of questions ranging from the interesting issue of North Korea cooperation with Syria's alleged nuclear facility that was destroyed by Israel and other issues -- but when President Bush gave Colin Powell the positive nod in the first week of April 2003 to proceed with the Six Party Talks, Bush and Cheney ignored Iran's offer of a structure for normalized US-Iran relations the very same week in 2003.
The contrast in circumstances between where America is today with North Korea and where we are with Iran is vital to note. We 'engaged' North Korea and blew it with Iran.
Clemons also makes the point that the agreement could not have been reached without China, which was the lead negotiator in the talks that finally brought Kim around. And he says there's good news in the deal for Barack Obama:
Barack Obama's inclination towards engagement with problematic leaders around the world now is now buttressed by an experience of the George W. Bush administration.
We await John McCain's statement about how we didn't so much "talk" to North Korea as we invaded them psychologically ... for 100 years... oh my damn...
Meanwhile, an interesting op-ed in the WaPo this morning raises the question of whether the same "pressure principles" -- talking and not threatening to invade -- might apply to the arguably wicked Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Swaminathan S. Anklesaria, an editor at the Economic Times, (and who also writes a terrifically titled column in the Times of India called "Swaminomics," gotta love that... argues there is no moral ground to oust Mugabe, despite his sins.
On the Hill, a GOP Senator holds up housing reform, demanding that Democrats put more money into renewable energy! ... is it just me, or is that kind of counterintuitive... this guy must be in one hell of a tight re-election race...
The Los Angeles Times reveals more bad news for the GOP from its poll with Bloomberg. According to the poll, 75% of Americans blame President Bush for the lousy economic times:
Nine percent of respondents said the country's economic condition had improved since Bush became president, compared with 75% who said conditions had worsened. Among Republicans, 42% said the country was worse off, while 26% said it was about the same, and 22% thought economic conditions had improved.
Phillip Thies, a registered Republican and clothing-store owner in Cedar, Mich., who was one of those polled, said the president was doing an able job through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but "right after that, it was steadily, steadily downhill."
"There has been a lack of leadership and a lack of timeliness of leadership, of not being conscious of the magnitude of the problems," Thies said of Bush in a follow-up interview. "He's always a day late and a dollar short."
And McCain wants to continue Bush's policies? Not smart, John. Not smart.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press has a sort of pathetic story about President Bush and his McCain-sized crowd of 300 fans, who helped him raise a whopping $500,000 for Republican candidates -- a lot of money, to be sure, but rather puny for a sitting president, don't you think?
Across the pond, the Guardian reports on Nelson Mandela's criticism of Mugabe (Bill Clinton is in the U.K. attending Mandela's birthday party...) and Mugabe's push-back. And if you think race relations are sticky here in the U.S., check out this story about a BBC executive's big complaint: "too many black faces on TV." Seriously.
And the Independent doesn't disappoint with three intriguing stories on its website:
First, the U.S. isn't the only place where the defense industry has invaded government. In the UK, the paper tells of the arms dealer who used what amounts to a ringer, to gain access to MPs.
Okay, before I go, here's a quick round of "questions I personally don't need the answer to, but will have to endure hearing on cable news":
1. Is Bill Clinton still mad at Barack Obama? 2. Why did Don Imus say something inflammatory again? 3. Will the netroots stay mad at Barack? (The answer is either "no," or "yes, but they'll vote for him in huge numbers anyway.")
Patrick Kennedy was convicted in 2003 of raping his stepdaughter at their home in Harvey, La., outside New Orleans. The girl initially told police she was sorting Girl Scout cookies in the garage when two boys assaulted her.
Police arrested Kennedy a couple of weeks after the March 1998 rape, but more than 20 months passed before the girl identified him as her attacker.
His defense attorney at the time argued that blood testing was inconclusive and that the victim was pressured to change her story.
The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the sentence, saying that "short of first-degree murder, we can think of no other non-homicide crime more deserving" of the death penalty. State Chief Justice Pascal Calogero noted in dissent that the U.S. high court already had made clear that capital punishment could not be imposed without the death of the victim, except possibly for espionage or treason.
A second Louisiana man, Richard Davis was sentenced to death in December for repeatedly raping a 5-year-old girl in Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport. Local prosecutor Lea Hall told jurors: "Execute this man. Justice has a sword and this sword needs to swing today."
The high court's decision leaves intact Kennedy's conviction, but will lead to a new sentence.
Charlie Crist is all over the place. He's for offshore drilling, now that he's no longer against, it, he's green, green, GREEN-ish! ... and he's going to single-handedly save the Everglades. Huh?
Two sides that rarely agree on anything celebrated Tuesday a ''monumental'' but still tentative $1.7 billion buyout that would put the nation's largest sugar grower out of business in six years but fill a gaping hole in Florida's long-stalled Everglades restoration.
The deal, expected to be final by Nov. 30, is good for the environment -- the nearly 300 square miles of sugar land is ''the holy grail,'' one Everglades advocate said. And it's good for U.S. Sugar Corp., which will get $1.7 billion and six years of rent-free operations with the state as its landlord.
In return, Florida gets a chance to reinvigorate the stalled restoration of the Everglades, end years of bickering over pollution by ''Big Sugar'' and -- years from now -- get more much-needed clean water flowing into the River of Grass.
''I can envision no better gift to the Everglades, or the people of Florida, than to place in public ownership this missing link that represents the key to true restoration,'' Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday, likening the announcement to the creation of America's first national park, Yellowstone.
Now, skeptics will say that Charlie is just covering his backside, which he has been waving in the general direction of John McCain lately, in hopes of becoming his running-mate. But the Herald says the deal has been in the works for months. Environmentalists are thrilled, though Democrats are still throwing rocks. If you're very quiet, you can almost hear them plunking into Lake Okeechobee...
(Palm Beach Post) ... Crist, a Republican, said it was "just a coincidence" that news of the state's pending purchase of U.S. Sugar came a week after he shook a political powder keg by announcing his willingness to reexamine the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling.
But the timing produced a mix of reactions from Democrats and environmentalists Tuesday.
House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach called Crist's announcement "potentially historic." The Florida Democratic Party, meanwhile, issued a news release asking whether Crist wanted to buy 300 square miles in the Everglades to open it up for drilling.
"After last week, any environmental initiative pitched by Crist now must be received with guarded skepticism," party spokesman Mark Bubriski wrote.
Last week, Crist said he supported a plan from Republican presidential candidate John McCain to let states decide whether to lift the offshore drilling moratorium.
He said studying the Everglades for drilling is not an option.
But if he has switched positions on offshore drilling because he said it might help cut gas prices, could pressure at the pump reach such a point that drilling the Everglades would be viable?
"I'm not willing to go there," Crist said Tuesday. "I think we took a pretty bold step last week. Let's go one week at a time here.
Yeah, don't go there, governor...
Back to the proposal, and the Miami Herald:
Under the proposal, U.S. Sugar would sell its 187,000 acres of sugar fields to the South Florida Water Management District but continue farming for another six years, or possibly more if both sides agree, before shutting down.
The purchase also covers 200 miles of railroad, two refineries and literally all company assests, Buker said. ``It includes the half-eaten pastrami sandwich in the refrigerator.''
The district, which oversees Everglades restoration for the state, then hopes to swap tracts with other growers to create a massive swath south of Lake Okeechobee that wouldn't necessarily recreate a natural ''flow way'' to marshes but could target restoration's two biggest problems: There isn't water to revive the parched River of Grass, and what there is remains too polluted.
No one has drawn up specific plans yet, but a likely scenario involves massively expanding reservoirs and the 44,000 acres of treatment marshes that the state is building, at a cost of more than $1.2 billion.
Where's the money coming from? Most of it already resides in the Water Management District, as part of what was supposed to be a 50/50 partnership with the Bush administration. Shockingly, the feds have so far failed to pay their share. Bastards.
For U.S. Sugar Corp., the deal with the state of Florida to relinquish an 80-year-old business and give up the world's largest sugar mill was too sweet to rebuff. When the sale of U.S. Sugar's holdings to the South Florida Water Management District closes in November, the sugar and citrus company will pocket $1.75 billion to pay down debt and other obligations and to pay out about $700 million to shareholders.
But equally important, the company will also be able to operate on a rent-free basis for an estimated six years.
As part of an Everglades restoration plan, the Clewiston-headquartered company will sell 187,000 acres of land to the water management district.
Included in the sale are: a newly completed sugar mill, the largest in the world; the company's Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Plant, the largest bulk citrus processor in the United States; and railroads and other buildings.
Property taxes will go away also.
When the sale is complete, the land will be off the tax rolls. Then the Water Management District will begin making payments to the counties with the most significant tax impact, to ease the loss of tax revenue, said Randy Smith, a district spokesman. If the price was right, the time was right, too.
Sugar prices have been recovering in recent weeks. A new five-year farm bill promises to stabilize sugar prices by setting aside any surplus sugar imports for ethanol programs.
''Right now, the outlook for the industry is more upbeat than it has been for a number of years,'' said Jack Roney, director of economics and policy analysis for the American Sugar Alliance in Arlington, Va. Sugar is not the only concern for a company long known as Big Sugar.
Citrus prices have slumped in an industry fearful that Brazilian imports can crush state producers.
''The decision here was based upon the right circumstances at the right time,'' said Robert Coker, a senior vice president at U.S. Sugar. ``This was not driven by economic or environmental concerns.''
The closely held U.S. Sugar does not release financial information.
The company is controlled by foundations and the descendants of the founder, Charles Stewart Mott, who made a fortune in the auto industry and purchased the sugar grower in the 1920s.
About 35 percent of the shares are owned by current and former employees under the U.S. Sugar Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
Coker said there were some two million shares and under terms of the sale, shareholders will receive $350 per share.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, former Bush spokesguy Scott McClellan is considering jumping off the GOP ship:
Scott McClellan - the longtime supporter of President Bush who served as his White House press secretary for nearly three years - said Tuesday he hasn't ruled out registering as a Democrat or voting Democratic for president this year.
"I haven't made any long-term decisions," McClellan said after an address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where he received a warm reception from an audience numbering in the hundreds at the Fairmont Hotel.
Hey, you go where it's friendly. Meanwhile, Scotty reveals a serious lack of love for Dick Cheney:
McClellan pointedly warned both campaigns to be particularly attuned to a crucial decision, one that had a huge impact in his former boss' administration: picking a vice presidential candidate. Vice President Dick Cheney, he said, "had a terribly negative influence over this president ... and was shown too much deference" on major decisions, including Iraq. ...
... McClellan who is clear that he has no great admiration for Cheney, joked to the audience that his national book tour has given him some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider: "The Lies I Told," or "I Upped Halliburton's Income - So Up Yours." He also said that during his two terms, Cheney has increased the power of the vice presidency, which was "one of the vice president's pet projects."
McClellan painted a painful portrait of Bush, whom it's clear he still has affection for, as a man surrounded by sharks (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Condi Rice,) who would have gone into Iraq even knowing what we all know now. The president, he thinks, would not, if he could have foreseen the casualties and calamities (somehow, given his animal- and pledge-torturing history, I doubt that, but Scott's entitled to his affections...)
Lots going on this morning, starting with a blast from the values voter past:
From ABC News, a pastor who defended Barack Obama yesterday against James Dobson's "fruitcake" tirade says he will press the candidate to insert an abortion-reduction plank into the Democratic Party platform headed for Denver. Says the Rev. Jim Wallis:
"Taking abortion seriously as a moral issue would help Democrats a great deal with a constituency that is already leaning in their direction on poverty and the environment," said Wallis. "There are literally millions of votes at stake."
He's right, and it's probably a very good idea.
Also on ABC, an exclusive report about still more funny money coming out of the Bush administration, this time of the "faith-based" kind...
A former top official in the White House's faith-based office was awarded a lucrative Department of Justice grant under pressure from two senior Bush administration appointees, according to current and former DOJ staff members and a review of internal DOJ documents and emails.
The $1.2 million grant was jointly awarded to a consulting firm run by Lisa Trevino Cummins who previously headed Hispanic outreach efforts for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and a California evangelical group, Victory Outreach.
The grant was awarded over the strong objections of career DOJ staff who did not believe that Victory Outreach was qualified for the grant and that too great an amount of the funds was going to Cummins' consulting company instead of being spent on services for children.
Cummins' company, Urban Strategies LLC, was slated to get one third of the money for helping the self-described "evangelizing" Victory Outreach use the rest of the funds.
The investigation is part of a DOJ probe into "irregular contracting practices" within its ranks.
And speaking of "irregular," what does it take to get an internship or entry level job in the Bush Justice Department? Good, solid right wing credentials, apparently. From the Seattle Times:
Justice Department officials illegally used "political or ideological" factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law-school graduates with conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding résumés, an internal report found Tuesday.
The report, prepared by the Justice Department's own inspector general and its ethics office, tells how senior department screeners weeded out candidates for career positions whom they considered "leftists," using Internet search engines to look for incriminating information or evidence of possible liberal bias.
One rejected candidate from Harvard Law School worked for Planned Parenthood. Another wrote opinion pieces critical of the USA Patriot Act and the nomination of Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. A third applicant worked for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and posted an unflattering cartoon of President Bush on his MySpace page.
The report is the first to come after the department's controversial 2006 firings of nine U.S. attorneys, including Seattle's John McKay.
Investigators are also looking into whether those firings were prompted by partisan political reasons, whether former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his aides misled Congress, and whether civil-rights and voting-rights cases were politicized. Those studies could be issued soon, according to lawyers following the issues.
Tuesday's report singled out Michael Elston, the former chief of staff to former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, and Esther McDonald, a former department lawyer, as violating anti-discrimination and hiring laws.
While Inspector General Glenn Fine said he wasn't able to prove officials intentionally singled out applicants, he said his investigators had found enough of a pattern to indicate that political or ideological affiliations were being weighed in 2002 and 2006. As a result of actions by Elston and McDonald in 2006, "many qualified candidates" were weeded out, he said. Fine concluded that the pair had committed misconduct, but he didn't find any violation of criminal law. Attorneys for Elston and McDonald didn't immediately return calls requesting comment. Both resigned last year.
As Johnathan Turley pointed out last night on "Countdown," this is an unheard of practice, and is sending chills through Washington's legal community. He also says that Ms. McDonald may find it difficult to find a job that has any relationship to law, since the Gonzales-era politicking has even offended conservative attorneys.
In interviews at West Point, seven cadets, two officers and a former chaplain said that religion, especially evangelical Christianity, was a constant at the academy. They said that until recently, cadets who did not attend religious services during basic training were sometimes referred to as “heathens.” They said mandatory banquets begin with prayer, including a reading from the Bible at a recent gala.
But most of their complaints center on Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, until recently the academy’s top military leader and, since early May, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. The cadets and staff said General Caslen, as commandant of cadets at West Point, routinely brought up God in speeches at events cadets were required to attend.
Also in the Times, Congress nears a deal on a sweeping overhaul of the broken mortgage industry:
The centerpiece of the Senate package is a rescue-refinancing plan aimed at stemming the tide of more than 8,000 new foreclosures a day that lenders are filing across the country. The plan would allow distressed borrowers and their lenders to stem losses by allowing qualified owners to refinance into more affordable, 30-year fixed-rate loans with a federal guarantee.
The legislation would also provide benefits for first-time buyers, who would receive a refundable tax credit of up to $8,000, or 10 percent of the value of a home, on purchases of unoccupied housing.
As part of a regulatory overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, the bill would permanently increase to $625,000, from $417,000, the limit on loans they can purchase from lenders in expensive housing markets, making it easier for borrowers to obtain mortgages at discounted rates. Despite a presidential veto threat, the package received overwhelming bipartisan support, clearing by 83 to 9 a crucial procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, over at the Wall Street Journal, lawsuits! One involving an anti-trust case that will reap big payments to American Express, (go back to the NY Times to read more, without paying for a WSJ subscription,) and the other, a planned investigation and lawsuit by the Illinois attorney general's office, against notorious mortgage lender Countrywide.
In a draft of the complaint, Illinois alleges that the company engaged in "unfair and deceptive practices" in the sale of mortgage loans. The 78-page document says the company loosened its underwriting standards, structured loans with "risky features" and engaged in "marketing and sales techniques" that incentivized employees and mortgage brokers to push loans whether or not homeowners had the ability to repay them.
The complaint says the company's actions were driven by its desire to boost market share and to satisfy Wall Street's appetite for mortgage securities. "Investor demand and secondary market valuation...became the primary concern when determining what kinds of loans to market and sell and at what price, rather than the consumers' ability to repay the loans," said the complaint.
And the Washington Post indulges its McCain crush with a story about his "plan for greener government." (Does that include bathing Florida and California beaches with sweet, wonderful oil slick?)
Poor pundits. Most have been pooh-poohing the latest Newsweek poll showing a double digit lead for Barack Obama over John McCain, nationally. Is it still considered an outlier if another poll comes out that's just like it? LAT/Bloomberg's latest:
In a two-man race between the major party candidates, registered voters chose Obama over McCain by 49% to 37% in the national poll conducted last weekend.
On a four-man ballot including independent candidate Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr, voters chose Obama over McCain by an even larger margin, 48% to 33%.
So to paraphrase and reverse Pat Buchanan, what's wrong with McCain? In a word: enthusiasm...
McCain suffers from a pronounced "enthusiasm gap," especially among the conservatives who usually give Republican candidates a reliable base of support. Among voters who describe themselves as conservative, only 58% say they will vote for McCain; 15% say they will vote for Obama, 14% say they will vote for someone else, and 13% say they are undecided.
By contrast, 79% of voters who describe themselves as liberal say they plan to vote for Obama.
Even among voters who say they do plan to vote for McCain, more than half say they are "not enthusiastic" about their chosen candidate; only 45% say they are enthusiastic. By contrast, 81% of Obama voters say they are enthusiastic, and almost half call themselves "very enthusiastic," a level of zeal that only 13% of McCain's supporters display.
Say it isn't so, John! What about Barack, and all his problems with white and women voters?
Meanwhile, Obama is doing well among a broad range of voters," she said. "He's running ahead among women, black voters and other minorities. He's running roughly even among white voters and independents."
Among white voters, Obama and McCain are dead even at 39% each, the poll found. Earlier this year, when Obama ran behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) among white voters in some primary elections, analysts questioned whether the African American senator could win white voters in the general election.
But the great majority of Clinton voters have transferred their allegiance to Obama, the poll found. Only 11% of Clinton voters have defected to McCain.
They key in this poll and the Newsweek and other recent surveys is that despite McCain's best efforts, his signature issues, terrorism and the war in Iraq, don't rank high on the priority lists of most Americans. Maybe that's why Camp McCain is not-so-secretly hoping for a terror attack, bin Laden video or handy assassination of a foreign leader just before the election...
Meanwhile, a new Zogby poll shows Obama with a 16-point lead in South Florida. He's leading McCain 46-30% in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beaches combined, according to the relatively small sample poll, which also shows Obama with a 40-35% lead among Hispanic voters in the tri-county area. Early, but interesting...
Tonight on the floor of the Senate, Chris Dodd delivered a genuinely wonderful speech on civil liberties, capping his long battle against the FISA "reforms" tossed to the Senate by the House, at the behest of the Bush administration. Below is a transcript (which took a lot of pausing the TiVo. Hopefully, somebody else whose willing to admit to watching C-SPAN will post the video on Youtube.)
Dodd began by quoting the Church Committee, which investigated civil liberties abuses by the Nixon administration:
"Listen to their words of three decades ago ... and I quote: "The view that the traditional American principles of justice and fair play have no place in our struggle against the enemies of freedom, that view created the Nixonian secrecy of the 1970s." And the Church Committee wrote those words in part, as a rebuke to our predecessors in this chamber, who for years allowed secrecy, and executive abuses to slide. But today those words take on new meaning. Today, they rebuke us in a way. Today they shame us for our lack of faith that we cannot at the same time keep our country safe, and our Constitution whole.
As I said before, when the 21st century version of the Church Committee convenes to investigate the abuses of the past years, how will we be judged? When it reads through the records of our debates, not "if" Mr. President, but "when," what will they find? When the president asked us to repudiate the Geneva Conventions, and strip away the right of habeas corpus, how did we respond? How was our Congress? What did we say about that? When stories about secret prisons, outsourced torture, became impossible to deny, what did that Congress do, in 2008, and 2007? And in June of 2008, when were were asked to put corporations explicitly outside the law, and accept at face value the argument that some are literally too rich to be sued, how did that Congress, how did that Senate vote on that matter? All of these questions are coming for us, Mr. President, all of that and more. And in the quiet of his or her conscience, each Senator knows what the answers are. Remember, this is about than a few telephone calls, a few companies or a few lawsuits. If the supporters of retroactive immunity keep this argument a technical argument, then they will win. The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men. that question never goes away, as long there are free societies, generations and leaders who are struggling mightily to answer, and each generation must assert an answer for itself. just because our founders answered it correctl, doesn't mean we are bound by their choice. In that, as with all decisions, we are entirely free, the burden falls not on history, but on us, on each one of us. the 100 of us iwho serve n this remarkable chamber.
But we can take council. We can listen to those who came before us, who made the right choices, even when our nation's very survival was at risk. They knew that the rule of law was far more rooted in our character, than any one man's lawlessness. And from the beginning, they advised us to fight that lawlessness, whenever we found it. At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison said, and I quote him, "the means of defense against foreign danger, historically, have become the instruments of tyranny at home." He also said, and I quote, 'I beleve that there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by tose in power, than by violent and sudden usuprtions," end of quote. As long as we are temporary custodians of the Constitution, as we are, we have a duty to guard against those gradual, and silent encroachments. And that's exactly what these are; gradual and silent encroachments. ..."
Dodd went on to say that the founders can warn and council, but "they cannot act for us," and called upon his colleagues to provide the answer "to them, and to generatons to come."
The FISA/telecom immunity debate going on right now in the U.S. Senate is in many ways a classic Democrat-Republican argument. On one side, you have a vigorous defense of corporations (in this case, the phone companies who complied with the Bush administration's requests to pass along the private communications of Americans) by Republicans, and a repudiation of "trial lawyers" who would damage their businesses and ruin their profits with "excessive lawsuits." On the other, Democrats defend the trial system, arguing that people's right to sue should be preserved. Of course, there's more to it than that. As Sen. Chris Dodd is very effectively arguing right now, there is also the issue of standing up to the Bush administration (at last,) and "standing up for the rule of law," and for the premise that no man, no president, and no company is above it, versus the continuing Republican push to emasculate the courts,and so to make the executive branch practically untouchable, even if it breaks the law (so long as the executive is a Republican.) But underlying the arguments, are those age-old tensions between the two parties and two of their leading interest groups: corporations for the GOP and attorneys for the Dems.
That said, Sen. Barack Obama could, in my opinion, vigorously oppose, even fillibuster, the FISA bill so long as it contains immunity for the telecoms, with very little downside. The most obvious downside would be that right wing groups would accuse him of caving to Moveon.org, which apparently doesn't understand the concept of letting the candidate control the message (hence, that baby ad, and the present FISA demands.) Obama could make a very strong argument beyond the civil liberties issues, which sadly, many Americans are willing to look past in the quest for security. He could argue, very simply, that "in securing America, the Congress of the United States should not be in the business of protecting big business from ordinary Americans."
If accused of trying to weaken national security by taking away the incentive for "good, patriotic corporations" to help the government monitor "the terrorists," he could simply reply, "I don't think the Republican Party, which misdirected us into a war with Iraq, and which can't seem to locate Osama bin Laden even with wiretaps on every phone and email account in America and abroad, is in a position to lecture me."
If accused again, he could simply state that "besides, my goal is to do what's right for good, patriotic Americans. Republicans have been helping out the corporatioons long enough."
Or as Chris Dodd just put it, "the world is not going to collapse, the sky is not gonna fall, if a few companies have to explain to their customers why they vacuumed up their personal information."
Dodd could have been one hell of a communications guy.
UPDATE: Chris Dodd may have just made some news. It sounded like he just said he would fillibuster the FISA bill tomorrow, or prevent other legislation, on housing, from coming to the floor.
If and when the vote happens, you've got to wonder whether close proximity to the telecom industry will affect individual Senators' votes. And guess who is, by far, the leading recipient of telecom industry money? According to OpenSecrets.org, it's John McCain. (Logically, since they were the presidential front runners, McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama form the top three, with Obama lagging well behind the other two...) Dodd is showing some courage tonight, given that he also makes the top 20 (rounding it out at number 20.)
Top 20 Senators (donatons from telephone utilities) Rank Candidate Amount
1 McCain, John (R) $332,795 2 Clinton, Hillary (D) $223,092 3 Obama, Barack (D) $185,898 4 Rockefeller, Jay (D-WV) $48,000 5 Stevens, Ted (R-AK) $33,450 6 Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $31,100 7 Pryor, Mark (D-AR) $29,950 8 Collins, Susan M (R-ME) $29,850 9 Baucus, Max (D-MT) $28,000 10 Lautenberg, Frank R (D-NJ) $23,800 11 Sununu, John E (R-NH) $22,600 12 Durbin, Dick (D-IL) $20,850 13 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $18,750 14 Wicker, Roger (R-MS) $18,000 15 Smith, Gordon H (R-OR) $16,750 16 Brownback, Sam (R-KS) $14,200 17 Landrieu, Mary L (D-LA) $13,750 18 Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $13,250 18 Dorgan, Byron L (D-ND) $13,250 20 Dodd, Christopher J (D-CT) $13,000
The Associated Press reports that Dr. James Dobson is bringing down the wrath of ... Dobson ... on Barack Obama today on his radio show, accusing Obama of "distorting scripture." Wait for it. This one's all about abortion... But first, Dobson, in a pre-taped 18-minute sermon for which Focus on the Family's PAC bought time, attacks a speech Obama gave in 2006 before a liberal Christian group, Call to Renewal:
"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?" Obama said. "Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?" referring to the civil rights leader.
Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy — chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."
"Folks haven't been reading their Bibles," Obama said. Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said. "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
Then, he gets down to business:
Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama's argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion's terms but in arguments accessible to all people. He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," labeling it "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."
"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" Dobson said. "What he's trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe."
Meanwhile, over to the Denver Post, where a new Pew survey suggests that while most Americans believe in God, most do NOT believe in Dr. James Dobson ...
Most of the faithful, 70 percent, think there are paths to eternal life other than the one prescribed by their own religion. And 68 percent think there is "more than one true way" to interpret the teachings of their religion.
"That's higher than I would have intuitively thought," said Jacob Kinnard, an associate professor at the University of Denver's Iliff School of Theology. "But this has been a pluralistic country for a long time. People are much more exposed to religions other than their own."
Only Mormons (57 percent) and Jehovah's Witnesses (80 percent) have majorities who say that only their religion is the "one true faith leading to eternal life," the survey found.
About 57 percent of Evangelical Protestants and 56 percent of Muslims think many religions can lead to eternal salvation — a view also held by 89 percent of Hindus, 83 percent of mainline Protestants, 82 percent of Jews and 79 percent of Catholics. "One of the things that would be surprising to Americans is how Muslims answered," said Kinnard, referring to the fact that more than half of Muslims surveyed think many religions can lead to eternal salvation.
Sorry, Dr. Dobson.
The cable chat shows will be focusing on a New York Times story today about Muslim-Americans feeling snubbed by Obama. Congressman Keith Ellison is quoted in the story as saying that he too, got the cold shoulder from the Obama campaign. Ironically, the same cable shows that will harp on this story today have been central to whipping up Americans' anti-Muslim hysteria, "war on terror" mythology, and even questions about Obama's faith. As Chuck Todd just said on MSNBC, apparently paraphrasing Mike Barnacle, imagine how the mainstream media would erupt if Obama did visit a mosque. Just close your eyes and imagine the Fox News coverage alone...
Also in the Times, Zimbabwe continues to ride the handbasket to hell, with the opposition candidate for president taking refuge in the Dutch embassy, and the U.N. doing what it does: calling for all parties to stop the violence. Thanks, Ban Ki Moon.
WASHINGTON — An American ambassador helped cover up the illegal Chinese origins of ammunition that a Pentagon contractor bought to supply Afghan security forces, according to testimony gathered by Congressional investigators.
A military attaché has told the investigators that the United States ambassador to Albania endorsed a plan by the Albanian defense minister to hide several boxes of Chinese ammunition from a visiting reporter. The ammunition was being repackaged to disguise its origins and shipped from Albania to Afghanistan by a Miami Beach arms-dealing company.
The ambassador, John L. Withers II, met with the defense minister, Fatmir Mediu, hours before a reporter for The New York Times was to visit the American contractor’s operations in Tirana, the Albanian capital, according to the testimony. The company, under an Army contract, bought the ammunition to supply Afghan security forces although American law prohibits trading in Chinese arms.
The attaché, Maj. Larry D. Harrison II of the Army, was one of the aides attending the late-night meeting, on Nov. 19, 2007. He told House investigators that Mr. Mediu asked Ambassador Withers for help, saying he was concerned that the reporter would reveal that he had been accused of profiting from selling arms. The minister said that because he had gone out of his way to help the United States, a close ally, “the U.S. owed him something,” according to Major Harrison.
Mr. Mediu ordered the commanding general of Albania’s armed forces to remove all boxes of Chinese ammunition from a site the reporter was to visit, and “the ambassador agreed that this would alleviate the suspicion of wrongdoing,” Major Harrison said, according to his testimony.
Investigators interviewed Major Harrison by telephone on June 9, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made excerpts of the transcript public on Monday.
At the time of the meeting, the company, AEY Inc., was under investigation for illegal arms trafficking involving Chinese ammunition.
AEY is an interesting company. It's CEO is just 22 years old. The leg work on the case was done by the great Henry Waxman, who "invited" the young CEO to testify before the House Government Oversight Committee back in April. (Little Efraim Diveroli's Army contract was suspended a month before the hearings.) So how does a 22-year-old get a $300 million defense contract? His dad:
AEY Inc. was founded in 1999 by Michael Diveroli, Efram's father. Michael Diveroli now operates a police supply company down the street from AEY's office.
More on Little Efraim, and his interesting history (and rap sheet) from TPM Muckraker back in March. Apparently, Michael has a new company now, Worldwide Tactical, which sells police and military uniforms, and which is registered with the federal government as "minority owned..." Apparently, the father is continuing the practices of his "former" company, falsely labeling his companies as "small disadvantaged businesses" to gain more contracting opportunities.
Over to the Washington Post, where the paper's top story online is the four Americans killed in a Sadr City explosion in Iraq.
A bombing inside a local government office in Baghdad killed two American soldiers and two civilians on Tuesday, the second attack in a week that the U.S. military has blamed on rogue Shiite "special groups" linked to Iran.
The blast, inside a district council office in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, also killed six Iraqis and wounded ten others, according to preliminary reports.
In an initial news release, U.S. officials did not provide details about the two civilians who were killed. The Reuters and Associated Press news agencies, attributing the information to an official at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, said that one of the civilians worked for the State Department and the other for the Defense Department.
They were attending a meeting of the local District Advisory Council in a section of Sadr City that was brought under U.S. and Iraqi military control after sometimes intense fighting earlier this year. The councils are part of a U.S. campaign to build the authority of local government throughout the country, an effort that has accelerated in other parts of Iraq as violence has ebbed.
The Bush administration's reaction should set at least some of your hair on fire, because they appear to be systematically laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran, which they hope to be able to label as "retaliation":
The release also made clear who the U.S. feels is responsible -- one of the Iranian-backed Shiite "special groups" that some officials consider a significant long term threat to Iraq's stability.
Except that Iran and Iraq are now friendlier than they have ever been, and friendlier than either country is with us...
The WaPo also reports on the upcoming meeting in Unity, New Hampshire between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and on Obama's moves to court women voters (whom he's already winning in most polls, but no matter! The story must go on!)
The Wall Street Journal's Susan Davis reports on Barack's tack to the center, which is irritating some left-leaning groups, like MoveOn.org. Could such a fight help Obama in the swing states? Writes Davis:
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, conducted in early June, showed that 58% of voters perceive Sen. Obama as a liberal and 24% view him as a moderate. In contrast, 34% view Sen. McCain as a moderate and 48% see him as a conservative.
To be sure, the predominant view among party leaders is that a turn toward the center is smart politics, and that Sen. Obama's willingness to buck the left wing on issues such as the spy bill signals he is maneuvering to fight Sen. McCain directly for voters in the middle of the political spectrum.
"I applaud it," a senior Democratic lawmaker said. "By standing up to MoveOn.org and the ACLU, he's showing, I think, maybe the first example of demonstrating his ability to move to the center. He's got to make the center comfortable with him. He can't win if the center isn't comfortable."
On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.
"I cannot imagine why he would say it; it's not true," the Arizona senator said. "I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent anther attack on the United States of America. My record is very clear."
Citing his work to establish a commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States, as well as his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain added: "I cannot imagine it, and so, if he said that _ and I don't know the context _ I strenuously disagree."
Black, interviewed by reporters as he stood outside McCain's fundraiser, said: "I deeply regret the comments. They were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration."
Will Black hang on? I suspect so. They've got pretty loose standards over there at Camp McCain...
In case you missed it: the not ready for prime time player
While you were out getting drenched covering the anti-mayors convention protesters ... Joy Reid ... Florida Politics was reminding me why I didn't like Charlie Crist during the gubernatorial campaign, especially during the debates. In short: he's an empty sun-tan:
After all those years of receiving a pass from Florida's compliant newspaper company employees, Charlie wilts before a less than difficult crowd.
"The first reviews are in on Charlie Crist's performance as a high-profile stump speaker on the Republican circuit. It ain't pretty, and it's why the Veep-O-Meter swings backward this week."
The speech by John McCain's potential running mate to Orange County, Calif., Republicans last weekend really helped his party. "By showing unequivocally he would be a complete disaster for the GOP — the worst running mate since Dan Quayle," Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit wrote in a column headlined "We know who McCain shouldn't pick."
"Mr. Crist looks great: … silver hair, warm smile, great tan, perfectly tailored suit of clothes, decent teeth. It's when he uses his facial musculature to try and form cogent sound that he falls apart."
"The columnist said that in just nine minutes, Crist wrongly declared that Ronald Reagan hailed from Orange County and drew audible groans when he saluted Arnold Schwarzenegger — a moderate hardly loved in that bastion of conservatism."
"I would say he was stunned and distracted for minutes, as he absorbed the lack of popularity in this room for the governor," one Republican activist, Jon Fleischman, wrote on a California political Web site.
Crist's support for McCain's new proposal to allow drilling off Florida, may endear him to McCain, but it's not helping Crist's national image. The political Web site the Hotline even suggested it may have sunk Crist's veep prospects if Florida voters recoil: If "taking one for the team" compromises your home-state standing, doesn't that make you less helpful to the party?
Can Barack Obama win the off-and-on red state of Florida? To paraphrase the candidate, "yes he can." But he'll need record black voter turnout (even higher than the high water marks of 1996 and 2000) to get it done. This year, he may get it (hat tip to Marlon Hill). First, some history:
About 12 percent of the Florida electorate is black, but black turnout is inconsistent. In 2000, when Al Gore barely lost the state and the White House, black voters accounted for 15 percent of the overall vote. In 2004, when John Kerry lost Florida by 5 percentage points, that number was 12 percent.
Despite a massive mobilization effort by political groups working independently of the Kerry-Edwards campaign but in hopes of helping the ticket, black turnout in Florida was just 61 percent. Overall turnout was 74 percent.
I remember it well -- I was working for one of those groups... and now the bottom line:
Florida is just starting to get to know Obama, as he and Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided campaigning in the state's unsanctioned Jan. 29 primary. But in the 16 contested Democratic primaries with significant black populations, the black turnout jumped 115 percent. Overwhelmingly, those votes went to Obama.
"I have no doubt he will significantly increase black turnout across the country. It was 60 percent in 2004, and I would expect it to be 72 percent this year," said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, one of the country's foremost experts on black voting trends.
"In most cases, that's not necessarily enough for him to carry a state, but Florida is one of those places that a big black turnout certainly has the potential to put him over the top," said Bositis, putting Virginia and North Carolina in the same category.
That alone can't deliver Florida, but if Obama continues to run strong or competitively among Hispanic and independent voters, black turnout could give him a pivotal edge.
Meanwhile, Obama could also be helped, inadvertently, by eager McCain suitor Charlie Crist, who made good on a campaign promise to ease the transition of former felons to full membership in civic society, including restoring the right to vote (or at least making the process a little simpler.) That change alone could in theory put nearly 950,000 ex-felons (and people mistaken for felons by Kathy Harris' Dickensian system,) back on the rolls, or 9 percent of the state's voting age population (Florida has more disenfranchised felons than any other state, and surprise, surprise, a disproportionate number of them are African-American, Latino or lower income white. And though these are voters who haven't been able to participate, most researchers believe that the disenfranchised would overwhelmingly vote Democrat.) If the Obama campaign and other groups can get to these voters -- even half of them would erase George W. Bush's 380,000 vote margin in 2004.
Sidebar: I can attest anecdotally that at nearly every event we did at my prior radio station in the black community, we had people coming to us or calling in to ask how they could get their rights restored. From the jobs standpoint, as well as from a voter participation standpoint, this is a very big deal...
If you want to get a glimpse of the sheer psychosis of the right wing mind, click here to read the ravings of a particularly alarmist winger who predicts that if Barack Obama becomes president, literally, all hell will break loose. Note that he includes "high gas prices" as one of the calamities. Clearly, this guy is a bicycler... What's really scary, is that he is not at all unusual.
Excuse my French, but these people are NUTS!
To be fair, many on the right are simply frustrated that Obama simply will not fade away. Few actually like John McCain, but their only hope of shoe horning him into the White House is for the mainstream media to take Obama down ... hard. That's not happening as yet, so they're down to attacking his new political director (Patrick Gaspard, with whom I worked back in my ACT days, and who, contrary to RedState, really isn't all that scary, and who as field director ... and I'll go slowlhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gify for the wingers, didn't direct or implement financial policy for ACT ...), sputtering on about "victory in Iraq," whining that the media are turning Obama into an icon, and writhing in agony as once again, the popular culture trends against them. This video has got to be particularly galling:
Ironically, neither the press nor the Obama campaign find their relationship quite so cozy. In fact, quite the opposite. And yet, the myth persists with righties, who apparently haven't noticed their candidate's eight-year media free ride.
By the way, not ONE pro-McCain article today on RedState. Very sad, but proof that the GOP will make the election all about Barack, with John McCain merely along for the ride.
I got pretty sick of MSNBC and the other cable nets harping on this supposed "teen pregnancy pact" story that originated in TIME Magazine. Well ... turns out it might not actually be true (surprise, surprise...)
(CBS/AP) School counselors, teachers and families of students the principal said made a pact to get pregnant and have babies together have no information to back the claim, the mayor of Gloucester said Sunday.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk plans to meet Monday with school, health and other local officials after Gloucester High School Principal Joseph Sullivan was quoted by Time magazine saying the girls made such a pact.
The meeting will discuss the alarming rate of teen pregnancy. Seventeen girls in the high school became pregnant this year - four times the usual number. The girls are all 16 or younger, and nearly all of them sophomores.
Kirk told The Associated Press that Sullivan has told officials in this hard-luck New England fishing town that he can't remember his source of information.
"The high school principal is the one who initially said it, and no one else has said it," Kirk said. "None of the counselors at the school, none of the teachers who know these children and none of the families have spoken about it.
"So, my position is that it has not been confirmed," she said.
Another day of wasted media time, that could have been devoted to reports about Iraq, Afghanistan, FISA, the economy, gas prices, joblessness, and you know ... news. And meanwhile, shouldn't TIME's reporter have corroborated the story before it went to print?
Obamilan (adj.) - 'oh-BAH-mi-lan.' -- An Italian fashion trend inspired by Barack Obama and first created by designer Donatella Versace, who this past weekend dedicated her Spring/Summer 2009 collection to the candidate. The collection is designed for what Versace describes as "a relaxed man who doesn't need to flex muscles to show he has power."
Meaning that the independent candidates take about 3 points from Obama, 2 points from McCain and nothing from undecided.
Republicans appear to be genuinely worried about Barr, much more so than Dems are paying attention to Ralph Whats-his-name. Especially after a June 18 Insider Advantage poll showed Barr narrowing McCain's Georgia margin to the lowest possible single digit:
McCain: 44% Obama: 43% Barr: 6% Undecided: 7%
The pollsters point out that Barr's main strength is also McCain's: senior voters. Uh-oh...
One more piece of polling interest, from the WaPo pol:Voters were asked, regardless of who they support, which candidate:
Is the stronger leader? Obama: 46% McCain: 46% (McCain had a 4 point advantage in May)
Would do more to bring needed change to Washington? Obama: 60% McCain: 22%
Better represents your own personal value? Obama: 51% McCain: 38%
Better understands the problems of people like you? Obama: 53% McCain: 35%
Would do more to stand up to lobbyists and special interest groups? Obama: 51% McCain: 36%
So much for Pat Buchanan's "what's wrong with this guy?" routine...
Voters were also asked who they trust more on a variety of issues. Here's how the two candidates scored:
Obama was trusted more on:
the economy (52/36)
women's issues (58/26)
gas prices (50/30)
global warming/environmental issues (55/28)
appointments to the Supreme Court (45/53)
McCain was trusted more on:
international affairs (49/43)
the war in Iraq (47/46) -- a statistical tie
the "U.S. campaign against terrorism" (53/39 -- McCain's only big lead)
Trying out a new feature for the blog, which will make morning blogging more efficient on my end, and hopefully provide a jumpstart to your morning read. Enjoy!
The New York Times hits Barack Obama with a story about Obama advisers Tom Daschle and Jason Grumet's ethanol ties (forecast: Obama favors subsidies, wins Iowa in November. All politics is "economically local"...) On this one, I think McCain may be right about one thing: the U.S. should stop tariffing sugar ethanol out of the market. It's cheaper, produces more energy, and in Brazil at least, it's working ... Still, Obama is probably right on the politics, as this statement from the campaign makes clear:
“It does not serve our national and economic security to replace imported oil with Brazilian ethanol,” he argued.
It's the domestic production and jobs, stupid, though once he's in office, hopefully Obama will broaden his view. Sugarcane ethanol imports could not only help Brazil, it could be a lifeline for another country where sugar grows: Haiti.
The Washington Postfollows up last night's damning "60 Minutes" piece on America's Middle East TV network, al-Hurra, one of many disastrous Bush administration attempts to "win the hearts and minds" of Muslims around the world.
The Boston Globe reports on John McCain's $300 million prize for whoever can build a better car battery. One question: where in the world are we getting the $300 million in a recession? And it wouldn't be a McCain plan without money for Big Bizness:
In addition, a so-called Clean Car Challenge would provide U.S. automakers with a $5,000 tax credit for every zero-carbon emissions car they develop and sell.
And there you go. Meanwhile, the Globe proffers a long puff piece by Sasha Issenberg on John McCain's war experience and how it shaped his present views. The piece skims past his contentious relations with POW/MIA groups who believed that U.S. troops remained alive in Vietnam, even skipping a notorious episode in which McCain reduced a mother of an MIA soldier to tears during televised hearings in which he lived up to his Academy nickname, "McNasty." The Globe also fails to mention the ambivalence, and even downright hostility, that some Vietnam vets continue to feel about McCain (yes, there is an anti-McCain 527.) I doubt such information would have been left out of an article on John Kerry, and I doubt that the press will pursue the issue, given the media's reluctance to replay the Swift Boat episode from 2004 and general reverence for McCain's war service (as should be afforded any veteran.)
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has a piece about the Obama campaign's careful targeting of black voters -- emphasizing the tightrope Obama has to walk between courting a needed base, and not turning off certain white voters.
And across the pond, the Guardian reports that as the recent Mideast oil summit fails to halt rising oil prices, a leading climate scientist will go before Congress today and call for top oil executives to be put on trial. And last but not least, if you think politics is toxic in the States, try Zimbabwe.
John McCain isn't having a good week. Polls show him behind in key swing states, including Florida, his big issue this past week is whether or not Barack Obama is accepting public financing so taxpayers can fund his campaign .... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... The Chris Matthews Show unearthed a creepy performance from 2005 on "Saturday Night Live" in which he channels Norman Bates, which is sure to up his already high creepiness quotient, and now, his reputation for "straight talk" and "maverick" behavior is running smack into a giant, French-built refeuling tanker. Newsweek explains:
One of John McCain's most celebrated achievements in recent years was his crusade to block a Pentagon contract with Boeing for a new fleet of midair refueling tankers. Incensed over what he denounced as a taxpayer "rip-off," McCain launched a Senate probe that uncovered cozy relations between top Air Force officials and Boeing execs. A top Air Force officer and Boeing's CFO ended up in prison. Most significantly, the Air Force was forced to cancel the contract—saving taxpayers more than $6 billion, McCain asserted.
But last week, McCain's subsequent effort to redo the tanker deal was dealt a setback. Government auditors ruled that the Air Force made "significant errors" when it rebid the contract and awarded the $35 billion project to Boeing's chief rival, partners European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (or EADS) and Northrop Grumman. It's likely the Air Force will have to redo the bid yet again, which analysts say will delay the replacement of the fleet's 1950s-era refueling tankers. The auditors' ruling has also cast light on an overlooked aspect of McCain's crusade: five of his campaign's top advisers and fund-raisers—including Tom Loeffler, who resigned last month as his finance co-chairman, and Susan Nelson, his finance director—were registered lobbyists for EADS. ...
That's what you might call "bad symmetry..." The Newsweek article goes on:
Critics, including some at the Pentagon, cite in particular two tough letters McCain wrote to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England in 2006 and another to Robert Gates, just prior to his confirmation as Defense secretary. In the first letter, dated Sept. 8, 2006, McCain wrote of hearing from "third parties" that the Air Force was about to redo the tanker competition by factoring in European government subsidies to EADS—a condition that could have seriously hurt the EADS bid. McCain urged that the Pentagon drop the subsidy factor and posed a series of technical questions about the Air Force's process. "He was trying to jam us and bully us to make sure there was competition by giving EADS an advantage," said one senior Pentagon official, who asked for anonymity when discussing a politically sensitive matter. The assumption within the Pentagon, the official added, was that McCain's letters were drafted by EADS lobbyists. "There was no one else that would have had that level of detail," the official said. (A Loeffler associate noted that he and Nelson were retained by EADS after the letters were drafted.)
Damnit, there are letters??? Not good. The Boeing-EADS isue was already hurting McCain in the heartland, where his love of free trade and vigorous support for NAFTA "as-is," support which Miss Lindsey Graham generously remminded blue collar voters of today (decrying unions in the process, thank you,) isn't doing him any favors in America's dying industrial base (hello, this guy hopes to WIN Michigan and Pennsylvania???) Now, there's a new narrative to add to McCain's woes: the Maverick is lashed to big, special interest insiders who are using their influence with him to screw over American workers and ship their jobs ... to France.
Joe Biden's only good line on "Meet the Press" this morning (have I panned him enough yet?) was when he said that John McCain appears to be running to be commander in chief of Iraq, rather than president of the United States (his point: it's time for an American president to put American interests first.) In his column today, Frank Rich does even greater damage to McCain's "stay if we lose, stay if we win" strategy for creating an eternal U.S. military presence in the Iraq of his dreams:
... Should voters tune in, they’ll also discover that the McCain policy is nonsensical on its face. If “we are winning” and the surge is a “success,” then what is the rationale for keeping American forces bogged down there while the Taliban regroups ominously in Afghanistan? Why, if this is victory, does Mr. McCain keep threatening that “chaos and genocide” will follow our departure? And why should we take the word of a prophet who failed to anticipate the chaos and ethnic cleansing that would greet our occupation?
And exactly how, as Mr. McCain keeps claiming, is an indefinite American occupation akin to our long-term military role in South Korea? The diminution of violence notwithstanding, Iraq is an active war zone. And unlike South Korea, it isn’t asking America to remain to protect it from a threatening neighbor. Iraq’s most malevolent neighbor, Iran, is arguably Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s closest ally. In the most recent survey, in February, only 27 percent of Iraqis said the American presence is improving their country’s security. Far from begging us to stay, some Iraqi politicians, including Mr. Maliki, have been pandering to their own election-year voters by threatening to throw the Yankees out.
Mr. McCain’s sorest Achilles’ heel, of course, is his role in facilitating the fiasco in the first place. Someone in his campaign has figured this out. Go to JohnMcCain.com and, hilariously enough, you’ll find a “McCain on Iraq Timeline” that conveniently begins in August 2003, months after “Mission Accomplished.” Vanished into the memory hole are such earlier examples of the McCain Iraq wisdom as “the end is very much in sight” (April 9, 2003) and “there’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shiites” (later that same month).
To finesse this embarrassing record, Mr. McCain asks us to believe that the only judgment that matters is who was “right” about the surge, not who was right about our reckless plunge into war. That’s like saying he deserves credit for tossing life preservers to the survivors after encouraging the captain of the Titanic to plow full speed ahead into the iceberg.
Read the entire column here. It ends with a pretty good prescriptiono for curing poor John McCain's Vietnam-inspired obsession with staying in Iraq "until we win" (or to prevent us from losing after we win... or ... oh, never mind, here's the clip:)
Our best hope for a bipartisan resolution of this disaster may be for a President Obama to appoint Mr. McCain as a special envoy to Baghdad, where he can stay for as long as he needs to administer our withdrawal or 100 years, whichever comes first.
John McCain and his friends in the mainstream media are having a field day criticizing Barack Obama for opting out of the public financing system, something I continue to believe the public cares nothing about. But the media obsession with it this week all-but guarantees that McCain will be successful in keeping this alive as an issue, at least until Michelle Obama wears another really spectacular dress, or Cindy McCain poaches another cookie recipe. What the televised media has so far failed to do, is delve much into John McCain's history on this same issue. So far, only "Countdown" on MSNBC has cared much about it, but if we're going to whack Obama, and be forced to watch McCain moan about Barack "breaking his word," shouldn't we at least know what McCain has been up to?
Well while Johnny Mac calls Obama's decision a "big deal," (we'll get to his actual quote later in the post,) his team (and Brian Williams, sitting on on today's "Meet the Press") fail constantly, to remind the public about McCain's own public financing "big deal." From TPM Muckraker back in Feburary:
As The Washington Post reported on Saturday, John McCain's campaign struck a canny deal with a bank in December. If his campaign tanked, public funds would be there to bail him out. But if he emerged as the nominee, there'd be no need for public financing, since the contributions would come flowing.
It's an arrangement that no one has ever tried before. And it appears that McCain, who has built his reputation on campaign finance reform, was gaming the system. Or as a campaign finance expert who preferred to remain anonymous told me, referring to the prominent role that lobbyists have as advisers to his campaign, "This places McCain’s grandstanding on public financing in a new light. True reformers believe public financing is a way to replace the lobbyists’ influence, not a slush fund that the lobbyists use to pay off campaign debts."
Here's the back story. As of December, McCain was still enrolled in the public financing system, but had yet to actually receive any public matching funds. The Federal Election Commission had certified that the campaign would be receiving $5.8 million in public funds. But they wouldn't get that money for a couple more months. In need of even more cash beyond the $3 million loan he'd already secured from a Maryland bank (he'd taken out a life insurance policy as collateral), the McCain campaign was stuck in a bind. They needed more money, but the bank needed collateral.The promise of those public matching funds (to the tune of more than $5 million) was the only collateral the campaign could offer. But there was a problem with that. Using that promised money as collateral would have bound McCain to the public financing system, according to FEC rules. And the McCain camp wanted to avoid that, because the system limits campaigns to spending $54 million in the primary (through August). That would mean McCain would get seriously outspent by the Democratic nominee through the summer. (McCain has separately pledged to enroll in the system for the general election; that would give him $85 million in taxpayer funds for use after the party convention through Election Day but bar other contributions.)
So here's what the McCain campaign did. They struck a deal with the bank that simultaneously allowed his campaign to secure public funds if necessary, but did not compel his campaign to stay in the public system if fundraising went well (i.e. if he won the nomination). As McCain's lawyer told the Post, "We very carefully did not do that." He was not promising to remain in the system -- he was promising to drop out of the system, and then opt back in if things went poorly. In that event, the $5.8 million would still be waiting for him. And he'd just hang around to collect it, even if he'd gotten drubbed in New Hampshire and the following states.
You can see the agreement here. The relevant paragraph is on page two.
McCain's bank deal stunk so much, the Democratic National Committee actually sued them. The suit was thrown out last month, but in doing so, the judge never addressed the substance of the claim. Instead, the dismissal was all about timing:
Judge John Bates wrote in a five-page decision that the case is the FEC's to decide, and even though the commission has been unable to obtain a quorum for several months, the matter still remains in their jurisdiction. Federal law requires a party to file a complaint with the FEC and then wait 120 days before filing suit, Bates, an appointee of President Bush, pointed out in his ruling. The DNC complaint, which asks for investigation of a bank loan agreement the McCain campaign entered into with Fidelity and Trust Bank of Bethesda, was filed in April. Before the FEC's quorum troubles, the panel asked the McCain campaign to explain the agreement.
Meaning that the FEC, if it can get a quorum, could yet decide that John McCain violated campaign finance laws that have his name on them -- somethng that would truly be unprecedented in American history, even in Bush-era politics.
The larger point here is that right up until the moment Barack Obama opted out of public financing, the McCain campaign has been trying in every way possible, legal and possibly "extra-legal," to get out of public financing as well. The difference is, Obama did so straight up, while Camp McCain has been trying to have it both ways -- in the system for the purposes of securing a loan -- out of the system once they thought the money was about to roll in.
Now, let's have Johnny Mac's quote from this past week, which you can now consider in context:
“This election is about a lot of things but it’s also about trust. It’s also about whether you can take people’s word,”
At least he didn't add, "and then take it to the bank."
UPDATE: Signs last week seemed to indicate that Team Obama would begin taking the gloves off if McCain continues to try and peddle public financing as a campaign issue (though inexplicably, they didn't prep Joe Biden to do so on "MTP" this morning.) The Politico reported early last week: that the Obama communications director, Bill Burton, was circulating the Washington Post story in an email with the subject line, "McCain Got Loan by Pledging to Seek Federal Funds."
The below Washington Post story outlines how John McCain substituted a special deal for straight talk, telling the voters one thing and his bank another. The bank wanted to be sure it would get paid: the taxpayers were used as the guarantee while he was publicly denying that he had taken their money.
He didn't say anything about the current back-and-forth, but that seems to be where this is going. [Emphasis added]
Well it's not going that way yet, but we'll see if it does going forward.
I was all prepared to give Brian Williams a chance as the temporary moderator of MTP, which has been part of the Sunday staple in our house for a decade, any my life for long before that. The guests promised to be interesting: Miss Lindsey Graham vs. one of my favorite presidential contenders, Joe Biden. Well ... in two words... it sucked.
Perhaps Biden wasn't properly prepared, but he seemed completely unable to coherently defend Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing, even conceding that Obama's decision probably contributes to breaking the system. Putting aside, if I can, the fact that Williams spent at least 20 minutes on this subject, much more time than it deserves, why didn't Biden simply turn to McCain's smirkly little defedress, and tell her the following:
"First of all, Lindsey, I can guarantee you that the moms and dads watching us today who are worrying about how they'll aford the mortgage or where they're gonna get $100 to fill up their gas tanks next week aren't too worried about the fact that Barack Obama isn't gonna use their tax money to run his campaign."
"Second, John McCain is hardly in a position to lecture Barack Obama about keeping his word when he has flip-flopped on everything he used to say he believed in, whether it's tax breaks for the rich, torture, or offshore oil drilling."
"And third, Brian, wasn't it David Shuster at your network who reported that John McCain has jumped in and out of the campaign finance system himself, first using a promise to stay in the system to get a loan, then trying to wriggle out of public financing when he thought he'd raise more money? Brian and Lindsey, you both know that the Democratic National Committee even filed a lawsuit against my friend John McCain's campaign, precisely because he has broken his word repeatedly on this issue."
See how easy that was? Three simple freaking talking points, none of which was uttered by Joe Biden, who has been so spectacular in responding to everything from Rudy "noun, verb and 9/11" Giuliani, to the McCain stance on Iraq.
It was an unfortunate miss by Biden, but an even greater one by the once crack researchers of "Meet the Press," who apparently spent the week digging only for quotes that would make Obama look like a flip-flopper, rather than information about the public financing stances of both sides.
Luckily, as I have been hoping, Tom Brokaw will take over hosting duties on MTP, at least through election day. Brokaw is clearly the only person at NBC with the stature to assume Russert's seat. Temporarily suspending his retirement, he starts his new gig next week.
Why did the Democrats capitulate on FISA? Was it cowardice? Election year politics? Or as Keith Olberman puts it, not FISA but CYSA?
Back in 2001, with 9/11 fresh in the minds of Americans, many Congressional Democrats decided it was better to switch than to fight the administration of George W. Bush. Karl Rove did his job, frightening both the country and the Congress into handing over to Mr. Bush extraordinary powers the likes of which this country hasn't seen since it divorced George III.
Now, seven years later, Democrats control the Congress, even if barely in the Senate. Bush is a lame duck and by almost everyone's calculation, a failure as president. One of his many illegal acts and outrages upon the Constitution -- the warrantless wiretapping of Americans -- comes before the Congress, mainly because they choose to bring it t the floor, and rather than allow the Constitution to prevail, House Democrats cave to a president they no longer have to fear, by retroactively legalizing the wiretapping, and granting immunity to the telecom companies who participated, illegally, in it.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would continue a controversial surveillance program at the U.S. National Security Agency with limited court oversight, while likely ending lawsuits against telecommunications carriers that participated in the program.
The House on Friday voted 293 to 129 to approve a bill that was a compromise between congressional Democrats and U.S. President George Bush.
The bill would extend the NSA surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the U.S., while giving the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) an opportunity to review Bush administration requests for wide-ranging surveillance powers. The bill, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, allows the NSA to receive blanket surveillance orders covering multiple suspects of terrorism and other crimes.
The compromise also sends the dozens of outstanding lawsuits against telecom carriers for their alleged participation in the NSA program to a district court, which will review whether they should be dismissed. The lawsuits would be thrown out if telecom companies can show that the U.S. government issued them orders for the surveillance that were presented as lawful.
U.S. President George Bush has pushed for the legislation, saying it's needed to protect U.S. residents from terrorism. For nearly a year, the Bush administration has called on Congress to pass long-term changes to the nation's surveillance laws. Congress passed temporary surveillance legislation, called the Protect America Act, in August 2007, but its provisions expired in February.
February ... and what was the urgency of passing hurry-up protection for the administration today? Nancy Pelosi pushed for this bill -- the same Nancy Pelosi who was "read into" the spying program, along with other intelligence chairs and ranking members, including Senator Diane Feinstein. (Pelosi's number two, Steny Hoyer, crafted the compromise bill, and is now being derided as "the new Joe Lieberman.") Could it be that Pelosi and other Dems are exercising the art of self protection?
Senator Russ Feingold called today's vote what it is:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”
Let's hope he's ready with a Senate fillibuster.
The big loser today was the Fourth Amendment, which is essentially gone now. The winners: the telcos:
"Congress seems to be on the verge of negotiating away our basic constitutional protections," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., legislative office, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The compromise will give Bush "pretty much unfettered authority to engage in surveillance of Americans," Fredrickson added. "The bill still allows mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans by permitting the government to gather all calls and e-mails coming into and out of the country."
The compromise provides little additional oversight of the surveillance program, Fredrickson said. If there's any delay in the FISA court's approval of a government surveillance request, the NSA can move ahead of surveillance without court oversight, she said.
There are 47 outstanding lawsuits related to the surveillance program and 35 lawsuits with telecoms including AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel as defendants, Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said at the same press conference.
"Congress appears poised to needlessly toss the rule of law out the window and deprive millions of ordinary Americans their day in court," said Bankston, one of the lead attorneys in a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program.
You can find out how your member of Congress voted by clicking here.
On "Elevating the Dialogue" this morning, Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) told us that he was leaning toward voting yes because Barack Obama was for the bill, and House Democrats "needed to give him some political cover." I'm not sure that's true. Politico reported today that Harry Reid is looking to strip the telecom immunity out of the bill to give cover to Senators who, like Obama, could support the FISA updates, but "loathe the telecom immunity." That's a bit vague, and its not at all clear that Republicans wouldn't stand squarely in the way of separating the bill in two.
While we were on the air, Hastings voted for the bill, which is unfortunate in my opinion. To their credit, Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler voted no. Maybe Wexler can convince Obama to reject it when it reaches the Senate.
Democrats including Hoyer sought to put the best spin on the vote today, with Hoyer calling it the best bill they could get. What an endorsement. No wonder Americans' confidence in Congress is at an all-time low... Best quote of the day, courtesy of Politico:
“Let me remind you, that July 4, 1776 was pre 9/11,” said Rep Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) who indicated he would not support the bill because it infringed on Americans civil liberties.
“Heaven help us if those values were shucked aside in fear.”
Things that should never be said on your behalf, if you're John McCain
"The true test of a candidate for President is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people."
-- Jill Hazelbaker, the McCain campaign’s communications director, reacting to Barack Obama's decision not to take public financing.
She might want to avoid the following topics in the next 24 hours or so: Bush tax cuts, torture, offshore drilling, ethanol, the religious right, immigration and well... whatever else McCain used to believe, or not believe in that he has completely reversed himself on now.
Will voters care that Barack Obama isn't taking public financing?
My guess would be that for most people, the answer is "no." Most Americans don't pay nearly as much attention to the minutae of politics as cable news talk show hosts, New York Times reporters and assorted political junkies do, and so probably don't quite know the difference. Even those who do, probably could really give a damn whether Obama takes public financing. I know I don't. And yet, this is one of the three or four stories playing on a loop on MSNBC today (the others being the woman in the Muslim headscarf who wasn't allowed to appear behind Barack in Michigan, Cindy McCain dissing Michelle Obama over pride in country, and Michelle co-hosting "The View." So much for the Russert news legacy...) So since every blogger apparently must, let's grab a slice of the New York Times front pager (which at least does not contain the word "makeover..."):
WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.
With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.
Mr. Obama made his announcement in a video message sent to supporters and posted on the Internet. While it was not a surprise — his aides have been hinting that he would take this step for two months — it represented a turnabout from his strong earlier suggestion that he would join the system. Mr. McCain has been a champion of public financing of campaign throughout his career.
“The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” he said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”
Mr. Obama had pledged to meet with Mr. McCain following the primaries to attempt to work out an agreement on financing. That meeting never took place, aides to Mr. Obama said, because a meeting between lawyers for the two sides was not fruitful. “It became clear to me that there wasn’t any basis for future discussion,” said Robert Bauer, the general counsel for Mr. Obama’s campaign. ...
The important point here is that Obama's earlier pledge was not to accept public financing, but rather to meet with the McCain campaign to try and work out a deal. The deal didn't work out. And frankly, he doesn't need the money.
Besides, it should be noted that Obama is able to make this move precisely because his campaign has raised its multi-millions mostly from small donors -- ordinary Americans whose numbers are so large, they make his campaign the de facto equivalent of a publicly financed campaign. You can quibble over who the "public" in question is, but you can't argue with the fact that with millions of small donors, Obama hasn't lived up to the spirit of the law.
The pundits will have a field day with his "reversal," but, as with the unadvisability of ever asking Rudy Giuliani to shill for you on the subject of national security (you remember Rudy -- the guy who put the terrorism response command center INSIDE the World Trade Center after the 1993 WTC bombing, and whose claims to fame on the security front including presiding over the murder of wallet-wielding immigrants by police and having NYPD cops shuttle his mistress around town while she walked her dog...) just as you don't ever use Mr. "noun, verb and 9/11" to rebut ANYTHING, John "Flipper" McCain ought to hold his horses before considering charging Obama with felonious changing of the mind...
For reactions to the Obama decision, head over to the HuffPo.
This week on the radio: Rep. Hastings will appear on "Elevating the Dialogue" with Elgin, Barbara and me tomorrow (Friday) morning, to talk about the Florida delegate situation, his switch from Clinton to Obama, and why he's not attending the Denver convention. Tune in at 10 a.m. on 1470 a.m., or online on WNN's website (or sfltimes.com) |
With big ups to the Miami-Dade Dems. What the Obama campaign might suggest you should know about Barack Obama:
... Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.
Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.
A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.
Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.
Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.
Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.
There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.
Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.
Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.
Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.
Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.
Barack Obama buys AMERICAN STUFF. He owns a FORD, a BASEBALL TEAM, and a COMPUTER HE BUILT HIMSELF FROM AMERICAN PARTS. He travels mostly by FORKLIFT.
Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.
The great crhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifude runoff
Some states vow to stop Big Oil from plundering their shorelines, with the governors of California, North Carolina and New Jersey standing fast, while others pledge to throw open their shores to drilling: flip-flopper Charlie Crist of Florida, and the governors of South Carolina and Virginia. The ban is not likely to be lifted by the current Congress ... emphasis on likely ... but if it were to happen, could the tourism wars be next? (I can just see the ads now: "Come to North Carolina, avoid the Florida oil slick...")
Meanwhile, could offshore rigs be a tempting terrorist target? Let's ask Nigeria, where an oil platform was recently attacked by rebels.
Here in the Sunshine State, Charlie Crist's switcharoo on offshore drilling (just what parts of your soul wouldn't you sell to become the vice presidential nominee, Miss Charlie?) isn't exactly drawing rave reviews from the state's CFO, Democrat Alex Sink. Said Sink:
"He's one person, he's one public official, and I'm another statewide elected official who heard a lot about this when I was out campaigning," Sink said. "This is not the right thing to do in Florida. I don't want those people in Washington to think all of a sudden the people in Florida support oil drilling off our coast."
Sink said she was "stunned" when she heard the news. "The more I thought about it, the angrier I got," said Sink, the only Democrat to sit on Florida's three-person Cabinet.
But that doesn't mean that if they could, lawmakers in Florida and other states won't go for the drills. As one Florida tourism official put it, with gas prices rising, the anti-drilling armor is cracking...
Four oil giants are set to sign no-bid contracts with the Iraqi government, returning them to Iraq's oil ... I mean to the country ... after a 36 year absence.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
Sensitive to the appearance that they were profiting from the war and already under pressure because of record high oil prices, senior officials of two of the companies, speaking only on the condition that they not be identified, said they were helping Iraq rebuild its decrepit oil industry.
For an industry being frozen out of new ventures in the world’s dominant oil-producing countries, from Russia to Venezuela, Iraq offers a rare and prized opportunity.
John McCain, the Enron loophole, and your gas tank
Last night, "Countdown" did an exceptional investigative piece that should be required viewing for any American who wants to know why gas prices are so high. In essence, it isn't simple supply and demand: it's speculation, or in Bushian terms, the enronization of everything. Watch:
Who's to blame for the biggest financial catastrophe of our time? There are plenty of culprits, but one candidate for lead perp is former Sen. Phil Gramm. Eight years ago, as part of a decades-long anti-regulatory crusade, Gramm pulled a sly legislative maneuver that greased the way to the multibillion-dollar subprime meltdown. Yet has Gramm been banished from the corridors of power? Reviled as the villain who bankrupted Middle America? Hardly. Now a well-paid executive at a Swiss bank, Gramm cochairs Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and advises the Republican candidate on economic matters. He's been mentioned as a possible Treasury secretary should McCain win. That's right: A guy who helped screw up the global financial system could end up in charge of US economic policy. Talk about a market failure.
… The act, he declared, would ensure that neither the sec nor the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (cftc) got into the business of regulating newfangled financial products called swaps—and would thus "protect financial institutions from overregulation" and "position our financial services industries to be world leaders into the new century."
It didn't quite work out that way. For starters, the legislation contained a provision—lobbied for by Enron, a generous contributor to Gramm—that exempted energy trading from regulatory oversight, allowing Enron to run rampant, wreck the California electricity market, and cost consumers billions before it collapsed. (For Gramm, Enron was a family affair. Eight years earlier, his wife, Wendy Gramm, as cftc chairwoman, had pushed through a rule excluding Enron's energy futures contracts from government oversight. Wendy later joined the Houston-based company's board, and in the following years her Enron salary and stock income brought between $915,000 and $1.8 million into the Gramm household.)
Of course there are other factors contributing to high energy costs, most notably global demand (see India and China) and the weak U.S. dollar. But regulating speculation is within the direct control of Congress, and the recent slew of media coverage has finally pushed members of Congress, including Sen. Carl Levin (MI) to act, including putting a provision closing the Enron loophole into the recently passed farm bill (which is why John McCain voted against it.) That might not be enough, however. This month, former CFTC Trading and Markets Division head Michael Greenberger testified on the Hill about speculation's role in boosting energy prices, and stated that closing the Enron loophole could reduce gas prices dramatically -- perhaps by 25% overnight:
Michael Greenberger, the former head of the CFTC's Division of Trading and Markets, testified yesterday before the Senate Commerce Committee on the topic of Energy Market Manipulation. He stated that the investment banks, namely Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), control the price of oil and natural gas through the ICE futures market. He cited that Morgan Stanley currently owns 27% of the natural gas futures.
He stated that former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas sneaked the Enron loophole through a large piece of insignificant legislation years ago: the result was that regulations upon the futures industry were abandoned. This loophole eventually allowed the current CDO-subprime crisis, and the current energy market crisis because regulations, which once protected the market from manipulation, are no longer enforcable.
Greenberger suggested that the current attempt of closing the Enron loophole by Senator Levin through the Farm Bill, would not work - as it would leave the government with the constant burden of proof to prove manipulation was occurring. Also it would only be enforcable on domestic market manipulators and not international ones. ...
Wall Street is lobbying hard to prevent Congress from taking further action (surprise, surprise.)
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The swollen Mississippi River has flowed over the top of 19 levees in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, and another 29 levees are at risk, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Wednesday.
The river overtopped at least nine levees overnight as water levels rose in the Midwest's worst flooding in 15 years. The river was cresting in Burlington, Iowa, but has yet to reach its peak in many areas where the levees have already failed.
The compromised levees stretch from Dubuque, Iowa, to St. Louis and protect hundreds of thousands of acres of homes and farmland.
Record flooding in the Midwest has killed dozens of people since March, and has left scores of homes literally under water. And there's another outcome you might not have considered:
FORT MADISON, Iowa (Reuters) - The Mississippi River surged up through storm drains and flooded part of an eastern Iowa river town on Tuesday as the worst Midwest floods in 15 years ruined cropland and drove up world food prices.
"There is nowhere for the water to go, so it's flooding these areas," said Lee County official Steve Cirinna, pointing to pools forming amid historic red-brick houses in Fort Madison.
Volunteers and National Guard troops helped reinforce or raise levees on both sides of the river seeking to protect low-lying businesses, water supplies, and prime farmland planted with increasingly valuable crops.
Across the river from nearby Burlington, Iowa, a levee broke in Gulfport, Illinois, sending muddy waters cascading onto nearby farmland and a few homes. Although sandbagging was going on, no one was injured. Authorities closed the river bridge and road.
Corn and soybean prices closed near record highs after millions of acres of U.S. cropland were lost or damaged in the heart of the world's largest grain exporter. Cattle and hog futures prices also hit new highs, with soaring feed costs expected to prompt farmers to cull livestock numbers.
As ThinkProgress points out, the call is a flip-flop for Dubya, too -- he opposed offshore drilling when he ran for president on a "humble" America platform back in 2000. Now, Bush II is calling for drilling in so-called "deep water" wells, and he calls such drilling environmentally friendly, to boot! Bush and his friends on the right see an opening with ordinary Americans, whereby skyrocketing gas prices -- which were produced by the oil companies themselves, and by Bush's other close friends: Wall Street speculators -- could break down Americans' resistance to handing over our coastlines and Alaskan wilderness to Big Oil; something they have sought for decades. The hostage-taking aspect of this scenario (we're going to raise your gas prices to the point of recession unless you hand over the leases) is lost on many cable TV pundits, but not on those of us who have been in the business of reporting crime...
Meanwhile, the new right wing talking point: gas prices are high because the Democrats won't let the oil companies drill here at home, has taken hold across the wingerweb, (though even Michelle Malkin has noted Johnny Mac's flip-floppery) and within the McFlip campaign itself, so much so that he has converted former opponents among Florida's elected Republicans, at least one of whom apparently hopes to be paid for his apostasy in vice presidential chits...
So if the righties are right, how do they explain the fact that not since the Teapot Dome scandals of the early 20th century has the federal government opened so much American land to an oil industry that accepts billions of dollars in federal subsidies, but refuses to drill on that land? Check this out: According to a study by the Environmental Working Group a couple of years ago...
The federal government has offered 229 million acres of public and private land in 12 western states for oil and gas drilling, an area greater than the combined size of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, according to an EWG analysis of land use records maintained by the federal government from 1982 to the present. This acreage represents the sum of total land actively leased in 1982 and land newly offered from 1982 through 2004.
Despite access to more than 200 million acres of public land over the past 15 years (1989-2003), the oil and gas industry has produced enough energy from this land to satisfy only 53 days of U.S. oil consumption and 221 days of natural gas consumption, according to EWG's analysis of well-by-well oil and gas production records obtained August 16 2004 via a Freedom of Information Act Request. This rate of production amounts to an average of 3.6 days per year of oil and 14.8 days per year of natural gas (MMS 2004, EIA Petroleum Review 2004, EIA Natural Gas Review 2004).
As these small production figures suggest, drilling on federal lands in the West has done nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. In fact, since 1982, our dependence on foreign oil has doubled and our dependence on foreign natural gas has tripled (EIA Petroleum Review 2004, EIA Natural Gas Review 2004). A recent government estimate found that the five most oil- and gas-rich basins in the western U.S. contain about a 280-day supply of oil and an 8-year supply of natural gas at current rates of consumption -- an analysis that likely overstates the amount of energy that is economically available (Energy Inventory 2003).
Despite the relatively small amounts of energy in the West, the Bush administration has removed barriers to drilling on a net 45 million acres in 12 western states and has lifted environmental protections and emphasized drilling on lands already open to oil and gas development.
Again, we're talking about 229 MILLION acres leased to the oil companies since the Reagan administration. And how much of that land has the present Bush administration made available? 65 million acres, including more than 5 million acres located in national parks:
Bush Administration Removes Protections From 45 Million Acres in 12 Western States
Note: Numbers in green represent acres protected. Numbers in (red) inside parentheses represent land where protections against oil and gas drilling were removed.
This table lists major federal designations through which land potentially open to oil and gas was protected from drilling and land previously closed to oil and gas was opened to potential drilling during the past two administrations. A small portion of the land listed as protected in 1993-2000 was previously protected under other administrations.
And yet, the oil companies are producing almost nothing on that land. And when they do drill, they create more methane-rich, undrinkable, contaminated water than either oil or natural gas.
So what are the oil companies doing, if not drilling for oil? Well one thing they're not doing is building refineries. While the Saudis and the Dutch are putting up new refineries in Texas, our domestic companies all but refuse to do so, even as they go to their friends in Washington and blame insufficient refinery capacity for their giant profits ... I mean ... our high gas prices. The oil industry's lackeys on the Hill even push for legislation that allows Big Oil to build refineries only if they have a guarantee of never being sued for any environmental damage they might cause. Even with the help of their Republican friends, U.S. oil companies have broken ground on exactly one oil refinery in 30 years. Not that they need them. American oil companies today exist to reap record profits from speculation-driven, overpriced oil from foreign countries, and they have zero incentive to pump more oil at home.
Why? Just to be fair and balanced, let's go to the right for the answer, specifically, the CATO Institute:
The case for oil subsidies is laughably thin. Proponents argue that the more you subsidize oil production, the more oil you'll get, and that, after all, is a good thing for consumers when gasoline prices are around $2.25 a gallon. Unfortunately, there's simply not enough unexploited oil in the United States that might be exploited as a consequence of those subsidies to greatly affect world crude oil prices. Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf, for instance, demonstrates that even if domestic production subsidies were worth 10 percent of the current price of oil (and they are worth no more than about 3 percent today), the increased production that might result would only reduce oil prices by 0.4 percent. Even if reducing foreign oil dependence is the main objective, Metcalf shows that domestic production would only increase by a trivial 0.2 percent were domestic subsidies to increase threefold-above current levels.
Some on the Right, of course, would argue that any taxation of corporate activity is counterproductive in that it unfairly taxes earnings twice (once when booked by corporate accountants and then again when those earnings are disbursed to stockholders). From this perspective, tax breaks simply allow companies to keep what is best left to them in the first place and should not be thought of as a subsidy. A variation of this argument holds that the less government takes in the better, so all tax breaks (and tax cuts, for that matter) are worth embracing.
While there is something to be said for both arguments, they ignore the fact that targeted tax breaks and preferences distort the economy by making some investments artificially more attractive than others. The end result is that some sectors are starved of funds while other sectors are awash with more money than they can efficiently use...
But apparently, not more than they can possibly covet.
The latest Quinnipiac swing state polls have bad news for Pat Buchanan and other political analysts who have created a mini cottage industry out of Barack Obama's supposed inability to win over women and blue collar voters in the traditional battleground states, the way Hillary Clinton did.
Not only does Barack Obama lead John McCain in three crucial battleground states -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and for the first time this political season, Florida -- his lead in PA is the largest of them all. I guess those "real Americans" in Appalachia are closet Adlai Stevenson fans? The numbers:
Florida: Obama edges McCain 47 - 43 percent;
Ohio: Obama tops McCain 48 - 42 percent;
Pennsylvania: Obama leads McCain 52 - 40 percen
The poll also reveals ongoing demographic challenges for John McCain:
In the three states, Obama leads McCain 10 to 23 percentage points among women, while men are too close to call. The Democrat trails among white voters in Florida and Ohio, but gets more than 90 percent of black voters in each state. He also has double-digit leads among young voters in each state.
And as to the idea of Hillary Clinton on the ticket, even in Clinton Country (Florida and Pennsylvania,) the idea leaves crucial independent voters cold:
Florida: Democrats want Clinton on the ticket 57 - 33 percent while Republicans are opposed 59 - 17 percent and independents oppose it 46 - 37 percent;
Ohio: Democrats want Clinton for Vice President 58 - 31 percent, but Republicans say no 60 - 19 percent and independents turn thumbs down 47 - 31 percent;
Pennsylvania: Democrats say yes to Clinton 60 - 31 percent, while Republicans say no 63 - 20 percent and independents nix the idea 49 - 36 percent.
"If Sen. Obama seriously is thinking about picking Sen. Clinton as his running mate, these numbers might cause him to reconsider. The people who really matter come November - independent voters - turn thumbs down on the idea. And, many say they are less likely to vote for him if he puts her on the ticket," Brown added.
The crucial finding here is that women are quickly consolidating behind the Obama candidacy, or against McCain, however you choose to spin it. As McCain's views become more widely known, he will become even more difficult to market to women, and to younger voters, for whom issues like the environment, ending the Iraq war, holding the Supreme Court and ridding the country of Bush era policies are paramount, and for whom McCain's very real sacrifices in war, frankly, age him all the more because they stem from a war younger voters only know as the father of unnecessary wars like Iraq. Add McCain's newfound zeal for offshore drilling, and you can imagine his stance helping him close the gap somewhat in Pennsylvania, but widening it in the Sunshine State.
By the way, the other problem with McDrilling is that the notion of despoiling Florida's coastline will, as Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times put it on MSNBC this morning, instantly activate a legion of environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters, who might otherwise have been less exercised by the McCain candidacy. These groups have lists, and they consist of mainly older, supervoters. If McCain's new stance touches off a very real push for drilling in Florida, his stance could fuel increased coordination by environmental groups and perhaps elements of the tourism industry, not only against his candidacy, but against other vulnerable Republicans in November.
I've been saying it for months, and frankly, I can't say it enough: Barack Obama should choose Chuck Hagel to be his running-mate.
Hagel has the tough guy, military credentials to cancel John McCain's advantage on foreign policy and national security (without talking as much or being as gaffe-ready as the otherwise wonderful Joe Biden,) he holds numerous combat decorations from his service in Vietnam, sits on key committees including foreign affairs and is a former Veterans Affairs deputy administrator (who resigned during the Reagan administration over threatened cuts to vets' benefits and disputes over veterans' exposure to Agent Orange); he backs up Obama's get out of Iraq with honor, no more torture, back to the Constitution stances, he's a "regular guy" who can walk Obama into those diners Chris Matthews is so obsessed with, and most importantly, he's a Republican who changed his mind on the war, handing Obama the double whammy of true bipartisanship (reaching across the aisle to find your running mate? Priceless...) and symmetry on the issue of Iraq. He's better than a general, because he has Beltway experience, but he's not your typical Washingtonian. He's got no known scandals, no drama, and damned if he isn't qualified to be president -- the most important criterion for picking a running mate.
What's not to like? (Well ... we'll get to that in a minute...)
The lifelong conservative -- who nearly ran for the GOP nomination himself before deciding, instead, to retire from the Senate -- is getting some buzz among Democratic activists and Beltwaypundits as a possible running mate for Barack Obama. (Once again, a reminder that this is shaping up to be an unusual election.) Hagel gets touted as a moderate Republican who's wise on foreign affairs and ready to reach across the aisle to help the country get back on track, as well as help win independent voters for the ticket.
Selecting a prominent Republican war critic -- and one given to pronouncements like, "I sometimes question whether I'm in the same party I started off in" -- might be the way for Obama to make good on his post-partisan rhetoric. But is the Democratic Party -- let alone the country -- ready for a so-called national unity ticket? ...
... Hagel would also bring some strong credentials, says former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat and fellow Nebraskan, who ran for president himself in 1992. "He's fun to hang out with, he's got terrific knowledge of foreign policy and national security, and he enjoys the work," Kerrey said.
On foreign policy, Hagel could help Obama disarm McCain's charge that Obama is inexperienced, and Hagel's Army service in Vietnam might counterbalance McCain's playing up his own Navy career. Domestically, Hagel has a record of aiming for the same kinds of fiscal restraint and limited-government conservatism that McCain touts -- he opposes earmarks, thought No Child Left Behind was a mistake, and opposed a recent farm bill, despite his home state's agricultural interests, because it cost too much. He joined with Democrats and other Republicans, including both Obama and McCain, to sponsor immigration reform legislation, and he mostly stays away from fights over wedge issues when they make their way to the Senate floor.
Okay, now for the stuff that for some Democrats, is "not to like ..."
For Obama to get Hagel past the Denver convention crowd, which will include Hillary Clinton supporters who still want her on the ticket (not gonna happen, ladies...) the base would have to get over the fact that Hagel is what he's advertised to be: a conservative Republican -- the old fashioned kind, who believes in small government and avoiding foreign entanglements. More from the Salon piece:
"Chuck is, I would say, a movement conservative," [Former Senator Bob] Kerrey, who considers Hagel a friend, said. The American Conservative Union says Hagel has voted the way it wants on nearly 85 percent of what it considers key votes over his career. Getting him nominated at a convention that may already be somewhat fractious after the long primary battle would be tough. "It's hard to imagine that (delegates) are going to vote on someone at the Democratic Convention who's anti-choice, anti-civil rights for gays and anti-gun control," Kerrey said. "It's not impossible, but it's bumping right up on the edge."
Ever since Bill Clinton picked another moderate Southern baby boomer to run with him 16 years ago, the old conventional wisdom about vice presidents -- that you need a candidate to give you regional and political balance -- has been crumbling. That doesn't mean all the rules have gone out the window, though. "If they go the real unconventional route of choosing someone of the other party or someone who's independent, they better make damn sure that their base will see the need of selecting that person," Brazile said. "They better make sure that person is someone who can rise above the divisions."
In other words, unless a Republican running mate would virtually guarantee Obama a win in November, it's probably not worth the risk of angering Democrats to pick one. Chances are, this is one part of the old politics that Obama won't be willing to mess with.
Perhaps not, and then there are ultra-lefties, including radio talk host Thom Hartmann, who believe Hagel has some sort of conspiratorial relationship with voting machine manufacturer ES&S Systems... Hartmann wrote in 2003:
The respected Washington, DC publication The Hill has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska.
Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.
Six years later Hagel ran again, this time against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. As his hagel.senate.gov website says, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."
What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel. Built by that company. Programmed by that company.
"This is a big story, bigger than Watergate ever was," said Hagel's Democratic opponent in the 2002 Senate race, Charlie Matulka. "They say Hagel shocked the world, but he didn't shock me."
Is Matulka the sore loser the Hagel campaign paints him as, or is he democracy's proverbial canary in the mineshaft?
If Barack were to pick him, it would be a supreme test of his political skill and ability to persuade his party to follow his lead, even in an unusual direction. I still hold out hope that it will happen, and that Democrats will understand that sometimes, you can't think outside of the box -- as my mentor James T says, you have to be wise enough to figure out that there is no box.
Updated: the new veepstakes Top Five:
Chuck Hagel (for all the reasons stated above.)
Wesley Clark (of all the generals, he's the only one who has gone through a presidential primary, and so he'd be more prepared to take the stage than other military picks.
Joe Biden (provides the foreign policy credentials and knows his way around Washington. But watch for verbal gaffe eruptions...)
Ted Strickland (Ohio, Ohio, Ohio! But the downside is the $10 million you'd have to spend raising his name recognition in non-Ohio states...)
Kathleen Sebelius (I doubt a woman will be picked this go-round, because of the Hillary followers' unique sensitivities, but if Obama does go femme, she's the top pick.)
Who's been downgraded?
Jim Webb -- Too many "sexism" problems in his past to fly with Democratic women
John Edwards - Doesn't pass the fictional, yet media-friendly, "commander in chief test" even though his wife would be a hit with women voters
Bill Richardson -- The racists out there are going bat-crap crazy over a black man at the top of the ticket. Add an Hispanic and you might see mass head explosions, though he sure seems to be trying to land the job.
Mark Warner -- He seems genuinely not to want the job. Plus, we need him in the Senate.
Evan Bayh -- Together, they'd be Obamabayh. Not cute. Plus, he's got this major charisma problem...
Ed Rendell -- If Barack can't win Pennsylvania without him, he's in the kind of trouble we're not seeing in the polls.
Roy Romer. Colorado will be crucial -- and winnable this time -- he has no national profile, but he could be built into a winner, if he's interested in returning to politics.
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, once "joined at the hip" with Sen. Bill Nelson when it comes to opposing offshore oil drilling, told reporters at the Capitol today he's inclined to support John McCain's bid to lift the decades-old coastline drilling ban.
He said that if McCain's plan embraces the 2006 compromise that he and Nelson struck -- giving Florida a 125-mile buffer -- "the rest of it is something I can probably live with...I think it's about providing enough resources where the states want to do it and permit it."
Of course, Melly Mel isn't alone in showing off his version of the Florida flip: Miss Charlie, you're up!
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist dropped his long-standing support for the federal government's moratorium on offshore drilling Tuesday and endorsed Sen. John McCain's proposal to let states decide for themselves.
The governor said he reversed his position because of rising fuel prices and states rights.
"I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering," Crist said. "And my heart bleeds for them."
Yes, I can see it bleeding through your perfectly pressed shirt ... I wonder why Crist the Rock has suddenly become Crist the oil man...
Crist is considered a possible running mate for McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee.
Ah, it all starts making sense. Well, I still have my memories...
Just last year Crist had urged federal lawmakers to reject legislation, which they did, that would have allowed drilling as close as 45 miles off Florida's beaches. He also supported the moratorium during his 2006 campaign for governor.
Most Florida politicians historically have opposed drilling because they fear it would harm the state's beaches that are so vital to its tourism economy.
They also have been worried drilling would interfere with weapons testing and training in and over the Gulf of Mexico by Florida military bases.
And all of this has the Florida Democratic Party breaking out your father's old scold book:
Democrats also argued additional offshore drilling would not affect prices set on the world market.
"It would only increase oil companies' record-breaking profits," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski.
He compared Crist's reversal to his recent proposal for a temporary reduction of Florida gasoline taxes after McCain made a similar proposal at the national level. Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, criticized it as a campaign gimmick.
"If John McCain jumps off a cliff, will Charlie Crist jump, too?" Bubriski said.
Silly Mark, of COURSE he would ... now ... McCain's just a Senator. But if Mac were to get into the White House, Miss Charlie not only would refrain from jumping after McCain, he'd immediately start planning the state funeral down to the last flamingo-shaped napkin and get his decorator to the West Wing faster than you can say "George Takei!"
How out of touch is John McCain? Apparently, out of touch enough to throw Florida under the bus in order to pander to voters in red states he's likely to win anyway. Because John, the voters you're pandering to ... the wingers who want to drill up, dig up, and strip mine every inch of arable land that doesn't have a depreciating home or a strip mall on it? Those wackos who don't get that America's oil fields are mostly tapped out, that the U.S. has one-tenth the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, one-fourth that of Venezuela and third that of Russia, and who want to turn the entire coastal plain into a scene out of "There Will be Blood" for a few more drops in the tank? They live in places like Alabama, Indiana, West Virginia ... you know, red states. The wingers who DO live in blue states are so overwhelmed numerically by Democrats, they don't matter. And the ones in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio? Have you taken a look at the voter registration numbers from the primary? They're going to get overwhelmed in November, too, by suburban moderates and urban hardcore Dems who care about the environment and don't cotton to ideas like ... say ... major tax breaks for the oil companies ... you know, stuff you like.
Meanwhile, McCain must think that a four point lead in Florida in a Quinnipiac poll from May translates into a lock on the state in November. That's the only conceivable reason he would do something as politically suicidal for his prospects in Florida as this:
Sen. John McCain called yesterday for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, offering an aggressive response to high gasoline prices and immediately drawing the ire of environmental groups that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has courted for months.
The move is aimed at easing voter anger over rising energy prices by freeing states to open vast stretches of the country's coastline to oil exploration. In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly 80 percent said soaring prices at the pump are causing them financial hardship, the highest in surveys this decade.
"We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," McCain told reporters yesterday. In a speech today, he plans to add that "we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions."
McCain's announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign and a break with environmental activists, even as he attempts to win the support of independents and moderate Democrats. Since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee in March, McCain has presented himself as a friend of the environment by touting his plans to combat global warming and his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Everglades.
A reversal...? From John McCain??? Say it isn't so!
Representatives of several environmental groups criticized him for backing an idea they said would endanger the nation's most environmentally sensitive waters.
"It's disappointing that Senator McCain is clinging to the failed energy policies of the past," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters.
Sierra Club political director Cathy Duvall said McCain "is using the environment as a way to portray himself as being different from George Bush. But the reality is that he isn't." The group began running radio commercials yesterday that criticize McCain's environmental record in the battleground state of Ohio.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama joined the criticism, calling the idea of lifting the ban the wrong answer to out-of-control energy prices. "John McCain's plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies," Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said.
Interestingly enough, McCain continues to oppose drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a view that allows his to continue pissing off right wingers in his party while his goal of trashing California and Florida helps him to kiss off moderates and independents, too. I think they call it "symmetry..."
McCain's speech today comes just after the candidate's Florida ally, Melly Mel Martinez smacked down Vice Lord Dick Cheney on the Senate floor over the issue of ... wait for it ... drilling off the coast of Florida:
Florida's Mel Martinez took to the Senate floor today to refute Republican assertions that China is drilling off the coast of Cuba.
"Reports to the contrary are simply false," Martinez said. "They are akin to urban legends. China drilling off the coast of Cuba only 60 miles from the Keys, that is not taking place..."
Republicans have pushed the "someone is drilling 60 miles off the Florida coast" for 2 years to back up efforts to open the coastline up to drilling. But experts familiar with the situation say there's no proof.
That's not stopping the story from making the rounds: speaking at the US Chamber of Commerce vice president Dick Cheney today quoted columnist George Will as saying "oil is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida..."
The spat illustrates the potential minefield McCain is laying for himself on the issue of offshore drilling. No matter what his campaign says, McCain has no shot of winning California (where much of the Naval Petroleum Reserve is located, and mostly now in private hands following a Clinton-era privatization push, but largely undeveloped because at least in parts of California, there are houses and apartment buildings on the land...) But Florida IS in play, and picking a fight with Charlie Crist and Mel Martinez isn't exactly smart politics in a state with 22 percent independent voter registration.
Al Gore will make his Obama endorsement tonight at 8:30 p.m. from a rally in Detroit. The endorsement will be streamed live on BarackObama.com. Gore has already penned a fundraising email for the campaign.
UPDATE: And here it is. It should be added that Gore risked nothing with this post-nomination endorsement, but it's a nice thing for Barack to have, particularly given Gore's popularity with the Democratic base (including here in "Florida, Florida, Florida" -- with props to the late Tim Russert ...) and his credibility on issues like climate change. Besides, by doing the endorsement in Michigan, Gore helped Barack's team collect maybe 20,000 more Michigan names and email addresses for the November ground game. And that's change we can believe in.
Newt Gingrich, the gang at Fox News and the neoconservative wack-jobs who brought us the Iraq war are still going bat-crap crazy over the Supreme Courts "welcome back, habeas corpus" ruling. They're spewing irrationalities every where you turn, and even suggesting that Bush simply ignore the ruling. Yeah. That's not unconstitutional... Even poor old John McCain is doing his part, railing against the Court as only a man who must cast a bewitching spell over the hard right of his own party in order to secure their cooperation in November can. Of course, there's always more to the story, which CBS News' Andrew Cohen spells out nicely:
Following the last Supreme Court ruling on this topic, which also struck down stubborn Administration detainee policies, the Senator (a Vietnam torture victim himself) invested no small amount of his own treasured (and well-earned) historical capital to try to broker a deal on the detainees.
And, in late 2006, he did.
It’s called the Military Commissions Act. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, and it was one of two federal statutes undercut by the Justices last Thursday. It’s no wonder the nominee is taking the defeat personally.
After first insisting that federal law clearly and unambiguously outlaw “torture,” McCain suddenly caved to White House pressure on the MCA, allowing the Administration to insert into the law a clause that effectively allows (and, indeed, legally buttresses the efforts of) the executive branch to implement torture as a means of interrogation.
Without McCain’s pander, there would have been no bad law for the Court to strike down last week. Without McCain’s grandiloquent appeal to Democrats and moderates during that lame-duck session, there quite possibly might have been a better law that just might have passed its constitutional test this term.
McCain’s sell-out on the torture language is not the reason the Justices declared the MCA unconstitutional. It is not the reason why the detainees now have more access to federal courts than they did before. But it is emblematic of the larger and much more destructive, seven-year-long sell-out of the legislative branch in the legal fight against terrorism.
And that emblem, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has John McCain’s face on it just in time for the run-up to the general election.
Nice work, John.
I suppose it wouldn't move this crowd to find out that some of the people being detained indefinitely by the U.S. aren't actually terrorists...
GARDEZ, Afghanistan — The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
They shouted "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.
Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as "the worst of the worst."
But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo's Camp Four who hissed "infidel" and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn't: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.
"He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government," a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.
An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.
McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.
This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.
The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.
Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.
While he was held at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, "When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, 'What is my crime?' the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs."
The McClatchy reporting also documented how U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.
Hm. ... and as for these frightening "terrorists" who are now going to take out an American city (from behind those cage bars in Cuba):
The McClatchy investigation found that top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren't "the worst of the worst." From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there.
Of the 66 detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, the evidence indicates that 34 of them, about 52 percent, had connections with militant groups or activities. At least 23 of those 34, however, were Taliban foot soldiers, conscripts, low-level volunteers or adventure-seekers who knew nothing about global terrorism.
Only seven of the 66 were in positions to have had any ties to al Qaida's leadership, and it isn't clear that any of them knew any terrorists of consequence.
If the former detainees whom McClatchy interviewed are any indication — and several former high-ranking U.S. administration and defense officials said in interviews that they are — most of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren't terrorist masterminds but men who were of no intelligence value in the war on terrorism.
Feeling safe yet? The truly sad thing about this whole sorry business is that few wingers are likely to care whether the people we're holding at Gitmo, including the children, are terrorists or not. For many on the right, it's enough that they are Muslims, and their president (so long as he is a Republican) should, in the estimation of many of the craziest right wingers (and their talk radio listening robots) be able to grab any Muslim, anywhere, anytime, and hold them forever, "as long as the war on terror goes on." And by the way, it will always "go on."
And the winner is... Steven Schale, formerly the director of the Florida Democratic Party's House Victory committee and the man widely credited with helping Democrats have their best State House election year in a minute. From the Orlando Sentinel blog:
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign this morning announced Steve Schale as its Florida state director. Ashley Walker, who had been the campaign’s political director, will be deputy state director.
The Obama campaign has about 20 paid workers in the state and brought 400 “fellows” in this weekend. The fellows are volunteers who will focus on a voter registration drive in the state for the next six weeks.
As the state party’s House political director, Schale helped lead the 2006 campaign that picked up seven seats in the chamber —- what Democrats call their “most successful year in state party history”
Walker has been with Obama’s campaign since last year. She was a regional desk to states in the Northeast and South and played a senior role in Obama’s win in the Texas caucus. Walker former employers include former Gov. Bob Graham, Congressman Peter Deutsch and State Sen. Jeremy Ring.
Statewide, looks like Democrats may pick up as many as seven state House seats (Dan Gelber and Steve Schale must be smiling wide), and they'll break even on senate seats - Justice beating Berfield in SD 16 and Republican Oelrich beating Democrat Jennings in Rod Smith's SD 14.
Bill Heller comfortably beat Angelo Cappelli in HD 52; Janet Long narrowly beat Dottie Reeder in HD 51. In the Bradenton area HD 69, Democrat Keith Fitzgerald is barely leading Republican Laura Benson; In Orange County's HD 36, Democrat Scott Randolph unseated Republican Sherri McInvale; in Broward's District 97, Democrat Martin Kiar beat Republican Susan Goldstein; in Miami's 107, looks like Democrat Luis Garcia will take Gus Barreiro's seat, and in the Keys Democrat Ron Saunders won HD 120.
And as for that minute:
That's the first time Democrats have picked up state House seats in 16 years and their biggest gain in nearly 30 years.
And as for the scuttle about Team Obama writing off the Sunshine State, Schale says it ain't so:
"When you see us reach our full staff level, you're going to see an operation the size of which this state has never seen before on our side,'' said Schale, lavishing praise on Walker and dismissing talk (see here) about Obama not playing to win in Florida. "I would not take this job if I did not think Sen. Obama was committed to winning this state or didn't think he could win this state."
Once again, the statewide campaign will be run from Tampa, which should tell South Florida loudly and clearly that for Democrats on a national level, the political center of gravity in Florida has officially shifted north. Actually, it did so several cycles ago (remember where the McBride campaign was based? Remember Jim Davis' "I can win the I4" strategy, otherwise known as the "Ahab stalks white whale" gambit?) In short, it has shifted to where the election-by-election turnout percentages are better, including among black voters. (Plus, Tampa's a bigger media market -- more buy for your buck.) If South Florida wants to be in the game going forward, we'd better get our behinds to the polls this election cycle.
In the last ten election cycles, Democratic presidential candidates have won Florida just twice -- okay, three times if you count Al Gore. In fact, Gore's close call in Florida seems to be the only reason the state is considered "swing," rather than a ruby red part of the solid Republican South.
Whenever I say that Florida is a red state (as I did on Nick Bogert's Sunday political show on NBC this spring,) I get a chorus of "nays." But I'm convinced. And this year, I'm equally convinced that Florida will be tough -- though not impossible -- for Barack Obama to win. More to the point, if he doesn't win it, I think Florida's political operative class can count on less money, the state's media outlets will see fewer buys, and its voters less candidate attention going forward. Once a state ceases to be competitive, it turns into West Virginia, seen?
Why so downer, when your name is Joy? Let's review.
John Kerry lost Florida by more than 380,000 votes in 2004 -- a year in which Bush's approval ratings had already begun to fall to earth, his war in Iraq having proven to be a sham. Bill Clinton won the state by 302,000 in 1996, having lost it by about 100,000 votes four years earlier. But what helped Clinton win was the favor he curried with Miami-Dade's Cuban-American community, and two other factors: he was facing Bob Dole, who lacked the Bush-Nixon connection to Cuban exiles (not to mention being seriously charisma challenged -- and crowded out by Ross Perot...) and he was a southerner, like the last Democrat to win the state: Jimmy Carter in 1976. To find another Democratic presidential candidate who won Florida, you have to go back to yet another southerner: LBJ in 1964.
It's no wonder then, that Gore, a Tennesee native, fared well here, and that Kerry, the ultimate northeasterner, did not.
This cycle, there is no southerner on the ticket to help the Democrats win north of Orlando, or in the party's perennial great white whale, the I4 corridor (that could change -- the veeps have yet to be chosen) but Florida is currently polling more than 6 points in John McCain's favor.
For Democrats, past performance may be an indicator that the state is becoming less central to the Democratic strategy for winning the White House. And as the party begins to look West, to the reliably Democratic, non-Cuban Hispanic vote (which unlike CubAms, trends 70-30 D,) and since Florida's black vote has underperformed in every election since 2000, Florida will have to put up or shut up this time around to remain relevant for the next time.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Barack Obama's campaign envisions a path to the presidency that could include Virginia, Georgia and several Rocky Mountain states, but not necessarily the pair of battlegrounds that decided the last two elections — Florida and Ohio.
In a private pitch late last week to donors and former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe outlined several alternatives to reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House that runs counter to the conventional wisdom of recent elections.
At a fundraiser held at a Washington brewery Friday, Plouffe told a largely young crowd that the electoral map would be fundamentally different from the one in 2004. Wins in Ohio and Florida would guarantee Obama the presidency if he holds onto the states won by Democrat John Kerry, Plouffe said, but those two battlegrounds aren't required for victory.
The presumed Democratic nominee's electoral math counts on holding onto the states Kerry won, among them Michigan (17 electoral votes), where Obama campaigns on Monday and Tuesday. Plouffe said most of the Kerry states should be reliable for Obama, but three currently look relatively competitive with Republican rival John McCain — Pennsylvania, Michigan and particularly New Hampshire.
Asked about his remarks, Plouffe said Ohio and Florida start out very competitive — but he stressed that they are not tougher than other swing states and said Obama will play "extremely hard" for both. But he said the strategy is not reliant on one or two states.
"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."
Plouffe has been pitching such a new approach to the electoral map in calls and meetings, according to several people who discussed the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were meant to be private. Plouffe confirmed the descriptions in the interview.
Plouffe and his aides are weighing where to contest, and where chances are too slim to marshal a large effort. A win in Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15 votes) could give Obama a shot if he, like Kerry, loses Ohio or Florida.
The strategy could be risky, unless you consider that Colorado and New Mexico went Bush by a margin of 7 percent or less, and that Virginia is actually trending in Barack's direction. If I'm the candidate, damned if I play the Kerry electoral map and gamble it all on Ohio or Florida (and if I do, Ohio actually looks more possible today.)
I'm not saying that Obama shouldn't contest the Sunshine State. He can, and probably should, win it, based on defections by younger Cuban-Americans who favor his more liberal views on family visits to Cuba, and increased black turnout, particularly in northern Florida (especially Jacksonville,) where black precincts have actually begun to outperform majority black precincts in Broward or Dade. I sat in on a conference call for media last week with the party, in which party leaders made it clear that this year, the emphasis will not be on South Florida alone. The I4, Tampa (the state's largest media market), Tallahassee and Orlando will get just as much, if not more, attention.
So for those of us in the formerly crucial southern part of this southern state, it's put up or shut up time. If we want Florida to count, and we do... if we want to swing this state back into the truly "swing" column, and make Florida relevant to future Democratic candidates, let alone helping to elect Barack Obama, we'd better turn out at the polls like we've never turned out before.
If we don't do it this year, next time it may not matter.
Yeah, this is a plug ...! If you're into sports and you're in South Florida, or even if you're not, do check out my BOYS ... the Sports Brothers, Ed (the World Famous) and the big man, Jeff Fox, on 790 The Ticket, Sunday nights from 10 to 11 p.m. Here's the link.
And for those of you in Denver, CO and across the globe, you've GOT TO check out my baby bruh, Oren Lomena, on Denver's The Fan. He's one of The Night Guys, soon to be the morning guys ... but shhh... don't tell nobody... !
Happy Father's Day to all these talented brothers! |
John McCain pictured with the Quaker Oats guy. An endorsement
that's worth a thousand points of political market share (or not)
Oatmeal is a breakfast food that when you were a kid, you actually craved on occasion, and could even get excited about. Especially the flavored kind in the packets. On a cold morning, it could be just as great to wake up and make yourself a bowl of maple swirl or apples and cinnamon oatmeal as it would be to pour yourself some Captain Crunch. Over time, however, oatmeal stopped being exciting. Now that you're an adult, you eat oatmeal because it's part of a "heart healthy diet." You eat it because your doctor says you need to get your cholesterol down. At no time, however, do you leap out of bed, excited to run down the stairs, put on the kettle, and make yourself a heaping bowl of ... oatmeal. You may eat it ... you may even choose it over a big, pancake and egg breakfast (that damned cholesterol...) but you sure as hell aren't excited about it.
That's the challenge for the McCain campaign. In 2000, he was bacon and eggs -- or rather, that turkey bacon and egg panini sandwich at Starbucks -- smells good, tastes good, and you don't really expect it to come from Starbucks. But now, having traded in his Y2K, maverick positions for George W. Bush's policy cast-offs, he's just your run of the mill bowl of plain oatmeal. (Worse, he's oatmeal seven years into an American diet of not just oatmeal, but oatmeal that we've since discovered has been contaminated with dog poop...)
Call it "losing his branding," or whatever you want. That's what the McCain challenge boils down to -- convincing voters to eat oatmeal for another four years when the Democrats are serving wild blueberry pancakes, a side of scrambled egg whites, and a hot cup of vanilla hazelnut coffee from this brand new neighborhood joint that just opened ... and Shaq's at the opening... you get my drift... Independent voters have to decide whether to grab BK with Shaq and their new Democratic friends, or saunter down to the linoleum floored kitchen and whip up a bowl of Quaker freaking Oats...
On a serious note: In politics, the name of the game is turnout, and turnout on Election Day is in large part a function of passion. Who is going to make you want to stand in line and vote? Who makes you want to give money? Volunteer? Back in 2000, both sides came to the election with equal passion: for Republicans, passion to drive out the last vestiges of the Clinton presidency; and for Republicans, passion to prevent a re-crowning of the economy-killing Bushes. In 2004, the Republicans had the surplus of passion, as evangelicals sought to make Bush make good on his promises to turn the judiciary into God's Own Earthly Hand. (They were duped ... you do know that now, right..?)
This year, the passion is all D. Even if lots of GOP and even some Independent voters feel more comfortable with McCain than with the alternative, will Mac be able to generate the passion, either for himself, or against Obama, to fill those long, long lines with his voters in November? Signs point to "no," though it's very early, and the GOP slime machine hasn't kicked into full gear yet...
At the end of the day, the problem McCain will have in matching what will almost certainly be record Democratic turnout, and record Independent identification with Democrats, will be giving his side something to get passionate enough to turn out for. Oatmeal is good for many things, but generating excitement sure as hell ain't one of them.
Related: Historians compare McCain to a different breakfast food: toast.
Today's honor goes to Black Entertainment USA from Friday, regarding the acquittal of R&B singer/composer R. Kelly on child porn charges (a story that got overlooked because of the shocking death of NBC's Tim Russert. The headline?
CHICAGO — Addressing a packed congregation at one of the city’s largest black churches, Senator Barack Obama on Sunday invoked his own absent father to deliver a sharp message to African-American men, saying, “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception.”
“Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said, to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
The speech was striking for its setting, and in how Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, directly addressed one of the most sensitive topics in the African-American community: whether absent fathers bore responsibility for some of the intractable problems afflicting black Americans. Mr. Obama noted that “more than half of all black children live in single-parent households,” a number that he said had doubled since his own childhood.
Accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, who sat in the front pew, Mr. Obama laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make, telling the mostly black audience not to “just sit in the house watching SportsCenter,” and to stop praising themselves for mediocre accomplishments.
“Don’t get carried away with that eighth-grade graduation,” he said, bringing many members of the congregation to their feet, applauding. “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”
His themes have been also been sounded by the comedian Bill Cosby, who has stirred debate among black Americans by bluntly speaking about an epidemic of fatherless African-American families while suggesting that some blacks use racism as a crutch to explain lack of economic progress.
Mr. Obama did not take his Father’s Day message to Trinity United Church of Christ, the church from which he resigned in May after a series of disputes over controversial remarks by the church’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Instead, he chose the 20,000-member Apostolic Church of God, a vast brick structure on the South Side near Lake Michigan. The church’s pastor, Byron Brazier, is an Obama supporter.
It's not surprising to hear Obama compared to Cosby. What will be interesting will be whether the reaction to his speech will be similar to the reaction of some Black folk to The Cos. Michael Eric Dyson, a vigorous Obama supporter -- and Cosby detractor -- comes to mind. It does seem to me that Barack, given his experience with his own absent father, is uniquely able to tackle this topic, and to speak frankly to Black America. As a fellow child of an absent African father, I can do nothing but solute him. A bit more from the Times article:
On Friday, Mr. Obama announced that he would be a co-sponsor of a bill with Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, that his campaign said would address the “national epidemic of absentee fathers.” If passed, the legislation would increase the enforcement of child support payments and strengthen domestic violence prevention services.
Mr. Obama cited the need for stronger law enforcement services and resources for education, more job opportunities and other resources for communities.
“But we also need families to raise our children,” he said. “We need fathers to realize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception. That doesn’t just make you a father. What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”
Mr. Obama spoke of the burden that single parenthood was on his mother, who raised him with the help of his maternal grandparents.
“I know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house,” he continued. “The hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you. So I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children.”
But he also acknowledged his own flaws as a father, citing the breakneck schedule of the presidential campaign and the rare days he spends with his children.
“I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father,” he said, “Knowing that I have made mistakes and I’ll continue to make more, wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now.”
The church, smartly, did not publicize the visit, or put in on the website.
I took the weekend off blogging to hang with the fam. Hope your Dad's Day was a good one, and of course, our prayers in the Reid household go out to my former work family, the NBC News family, and most importantly, to the family and friends of Tim Russert. Russert was indeed a giant in the news business, and even when he drove me up the wall on any given Sunday, he was clearly the best political journalist on television. God bless his wife, and his son, Luke, who can at least say that his dad got to see him into adulthood, got to see him graduate from Boston college, and lived out his passion right until the end.
Russert was recording voiceovers for Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program when he collapsed, the network said. He and his family had recently returned from Italy, where they celebrated the graduation of Russert’s son, Luke, from Boston College.
No further details were immediately available.
Jeez. He was only 58... For you locals, that's the same thing that happened to Bubba at AM940, and he was even younger...
BTW who knew Russert was a lawyer? This one's shocking as hell...
We are heartbroken at the sudden passing of Tim Russert. We have lost a beloved member of our NBC Universal family and the news world has lost one of its finest. The enormity of this loss cannot be overstated. More than a journalist, Tim was a remarkable family man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Maureen, their son, Luke, and Tim's entire extended family.
The news spread quickly once it broke. The competing networks are all paying homage.
Not that it means a damned thing to his family, but am I the only one thinking, biggest election ever ... no Russert on the TV. Boy, does God have a wicked sense of humor...?
UPDATE 2: The shock is reverberating around the news business tonight. MSNBC has had on Howard Fineman, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Peggy Noonan, a puffy-eyed Chuck Todd, a crying Jack Welch, David Gregory, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Al Hunt, John Meacham, Andrea Mitchell, who choked up briefly when saying that Russert was one of only two people to call her "Mitch" (the other being her father,) and Chris Matthews, who called in from his vacation in Paris. Every cable news channel is doubling down on coverage, and the shell shock is evident on all the faces. Keith Olbermann seemed like he was ready to break down. Even Barbara Walters called in. Mitchell is at the helm on MSNBC now. The parade of journos will likely continue throughout the night.
The WaPo's Dan Froomkin quotes from Justice Kennedy's opinion to declare the SUPCO ruling "a blow against tyranny":
In yesterday's landmark Supreme Court decision that President Bush cannot deny prisoners at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detentions in federal court, there's a key passage about protecting people from despotism.
The passage comes as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is relating the history and origins of the great writ of habeas corpus. Kennedy quotes from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 84, which in turn quotes English jurist William Blackstone: "[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone . . . are well worthy of recital: 'To bereave a man of life. . . or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.'"
The majority took aim at the Bushies' argument that the Constitution stops at the water's edge:
The Government's sovereignty-based test raises troubling separation-of-powers concerns, which are illustrated by Guantanamo's political history. Although the United States has maintained complete and uninterrupted control of Guantanamo for over 100 years, the Government's view is that the Constitution has no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed formal sovereignty in its 1903 lease with Cuba. The Nation's basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177. These concerns have particular bearing upon the Suspension Clause question here, for the habeas writ is itself an indispensable mechanism for monitoring the separation of powers
One more clip from the ruling, in which Kennedy and the other four members of the majority lay out the glaring deficiencies in the flimsy rules Congress set up to supposedly give the detainees some semblance of judicial review:
It is uncontroversial, however, that the habeas privilege entitles the prisoner to a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that he is being held pursuant to "the erroneous application or interpretation" of relevant law, INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U. S. 289, 302, and the habeas court must have the power to order the conditional release of an individual unlawfully detained. But more may be required depending on the circumstances. Petitioners identify what they see as myriad deficiencies in the CSRTs, the most relevant being the constraints upon the detainee's ability to rebut the factual basis for the Government's assertion that he is an enemy combatant. At the CSRT stage the detainee has limited means to find or present evidence to challenge the Government's case, does not have the assistance of counsel, and may not be aware of the most critical allegations that the Government relied upon to order his detention. His opportunity to confront witnesses is likely to be more theoretical than real, given that there are no limits on the admission of hearsay. The Court therefore agrees with petitioners that there is considerable risk of error in the tribunal's findings of fact. And given that the consequence of error may be detention for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, the risk is too significant to ignore. Accordingly, for the habeas writ, or its substitute, to function as an effective and meaningful remedy in this context, the court conducting the collateral proceeding must have some ability to correct any errors, to assess the sufficiency of the Government's evidence, and to admit and consider relevant exculpatory evidence that was not introduced during the earlier proceeding.
Amen squared. So what's so controversial about the ruling? For the right, it's the fact that finally, someone, in this case, five justices, have stood up and said that the president of the United States should not have godlike power. His actions must be subject to review. He cannot, like George III, simply spirit people off into the night and hold them indefinitely, giving the detained no recourse, no chance to ask "why are you holding me?" and to say "I'm not guilty." And, equally important, the court has said that the Congress cannot grant the president godlike power, even if in its political cowardice, it is determined to do so.
"The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." -- Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in Boumediene v. Bush
The authoritarian right has joined Crazy Tony Scalia in going absolutely ape-crap crazy over the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday granting the right of habeas corpus, which had been stripped from the constitution by our current presidential administration and his lackeys in the 109th Congress, to detainees held on the de facto U.S. soil called Guantanamo Bay. Scotusblog publishes one rollicking dissent today from a guy from a right-wing ... er ... "free market"... outfit called the Washington Legal Foundation.
Scalia got the ball rolling in his shrieky dissent yesterday, adopting almost word for word, the Fox News/right wing talk show formulation that "Americans will die" if our eternal detainees are allowed to challenge their endless detention in court.
Justice Kennedy's opinion is remarkable in its sweeping disregard for the decisions of both political branches. In a pair of 2006 laws – the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act – Congress and the President had worked out painstaking and good-faith rules for handling enemy combatants during wartime. These rules came in response to previous Supreme Court decisions demanding such procedural care, and they are the most extensive ever granted to prisoners of war.
Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in dissent, "Turns out" the same Justices "were just kidding." Mr. Kennedy now deems those efforts inadequate, based on only the most cursory analysis. As Chief Justice John Roberts makes clear in his dissent, the majority seems to dislike these procedures merely because a judge did not sanctify them. In their place, Justice Kennedy decrees that district court judges should derive their own ad hoc standards for judging habeas petitions. Make it up as you go!
Justice Kennedy declines even to consider what those standards should be, or how they would protect national security over classified information or the sources and methods that led to the detentions. Eventually, as the lower courts work their will amid endless litigation, perhaps President Kennedy will vouchsafe more details in some future case. In the meantime, the likelihood grows that our soldiers will prematurely release combatants who will kill more Americans.
I'm quivering just thinking about it.
To arrive at their predictions of doom, the Journal board cites the cases of German soldiers tried (and executed) by military commissions shortly after World War II, and, wait for it, the detention of 400,000 Japanese Americans who were interred in their own country, by their own country, during that conflict. Correct me if I'm wrong, but citing one of this country's most shameful moments as justification for deleting habeas from the Constitution -- a right that goes back to the freaking Magna Carta, and giving one man -- the president -- the power to detain at will, anyone, anywhere, for as long as he sees fit (and to torture them, at that,) doesn't strike me as very persuasive.
The Boumediene case itself is troubling, involving Lakhdar Boumediene, a man detained by U.S. troops in Bosnia way back in 2002. He has been held in Gitmo ever since -- not charged with a crime, just held in extralegal limbo at the president's discretion. His case was filed along with those of 11 other men, also in limbo in America's gulag by the sea. In December, the BBC reported of Boumediene:
Lakhdar Boumediene, now 41, travelled to Bosnia with five other Algerian men during the civil war in the 1990s, and may have fought with Bosnian forces against the Serbs.
The six stayed in Bosnia, married Bosnian women, were granted citizenship and took jobs working with orphans for various Muslim charities.
In October 2001, the US embassy in Sarajevo asked the Bosnian government to arrest them because of a suspicion they had been involved in a plot to bomb the embassy.
The six men were duly arrested. But after a three-month investigation, in which the Bosnian police searched their apartments, their computers and their documents, there was - according to a report by the New-York-based Center for Constitutional Rights - still no evidence to justify the arrests.
Bosnia's Supreme Court ordered their release, and the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber ruled they had the right to remain in the country and were not to be deported.
However, on the night of 17 January 2002, after they were freed from Bosnian custody, they were seized and rendered to Guantanamo.
Since arriving in Guantanamo, the men have faced repeated allegations of links to al-Qaeda - but the embassy plot has never been mentioned.
It was alleged in a tribunal hearing that an unidentified source had said Mr Boumediene "was known to be one of the closest associates of an al-Qaeda member in Europe".
The men have persistently denied the allegations.
Their lawyers say the source of the bomb-plot allegations was the embittered former brother-in-law of one of the men, who ran a smear campaign against him.
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Novak, has said: "It's implausible to say that they are enemy combatants.
"They were fighters during the Bosnian war, but that ended in 1995.
"They may be radical Islamists, but they have definitely not committed any crime."
Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia protest in Sarajevo Families of the Algerians seized in Bosnia have protested in Sarajevo According to the Washington Post, they were formally exonerated by Bosnian prosecutors in 2004.
The Journal's hysteria board fails to mention any of this, including the exoneration, and the absolute lack of evidence that Mr. Boumediene is an al-Qaida terrorist. And yet:
In March 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to a request for their release from the Bosnian prime minister by saying it was not possible because "they still possess important intelligence data".
All six men have said they have been treated brutally in Guantanamo, subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving prolonged isolation, forced nudity and sleep deprivation.
To what purpose? Are we now to believe that anyone who is Muslim, who has participated in any armed conflict, even the Bosnian conflict in which we fought essentially ON HIS SIDE, is an al-Qaida terrorist or associate? And on that basis, we can detain that person indefinitely, without charges, and torture him?
This, apparently, is the America that the right -- more pointedly, the authoritarian right -- desires. It's an America that is remarkably similar to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, or the old Soviet Union.
The Journal goes on to warn that the SUPCO ruling could lead to the release of people like Mr. Boumediene, who will then turn around and kill Americans. Well let's see ... rendered thousands of miles from home and locked in a cage ... tortured ... interrogated repeatedly about things he says he knows nothing about ... tortured ... held incommunicado without so much as a hearing to explain WHY he's being held ... tortured ... yep. He probably IS likely to want to kill Americans now.
The court rejected Bush administration arguments that Guantánamo's location put it outside U.S. constitutional protections.
"The United States, by virtue of its complete jurisdiction and control over the base, maintains de facto sovereignty over this territory," Kennedy noted.
Kennedy and the four other justices further concluded that the detainees deserved full habeas corpus access to federal courts, despite congressional efforts to curtail it.
In a sense, the court told the administration that its time had run out. For more than four years, government lawyers have struggled to satisfy the court that some sort of process was in place in Guantánamo to separate those detainees who may pose a threat to the United States from those who were innocently caught up in the dragnet cast after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Thursday marked the third time the justices have rejected those efforts as being insufficient. And this time, there won't be a chance for another shot. It was clear from the tenor of the decision that the justices' patience had been exhausted. "Some of these petitioners have been in custody for six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention," Kennedy wrote.
The bulk of the detainees remaining at Guantánamo — about 260 — will have their cases heard individually by U.S. District Court judges in Washington in what's known as a habeas corpus proceeding. In these cases, the government will have the burden of showing why a prisoner should continue to be held without charges. "We think it's unlikely in most of the cases the government will be able to do that," Ratner said.
Compounding the problem will be that any evidence obtained through torture or coercion at Guantánamo is likely to be inadmissible in federal court. The inmate will also have the opportunity to offer exculpatory evidence.
The judge can then order his continued detention without a charge being filed against him; that the government charge the detainee or release him; or that he be released and transferred to another country.
The judge will also have the authority to block a transfer of a prisoner by the Pentagon on the grounds that he may be re-incarcerated or tortured if shipped to his home country, and perhaps order him transferred to a different country.
One of the next big questions — or embarrassments — could focus on what happens to detainees who win their freedom at habeas corpus hearings but have no place to go.
"The brutally frank answer is that we're stuck," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently. "And we're stuck in several ways: Either their home government won't accept them or we are concerned that the home government will let them loose once we return them home."
And yet, the United States, at least the America that existed before 9/11 gave the neocons a green light to build a fascist paradise for themselves and their corporate friends where we used to have a constitutional government, doesn't render, indefinitely hold, and torture people. What the Journal, right wing talk hosts and bloggers, and the rest of the right wing nut-jobs, who are driven by fear, and plied by greed, want, is so profoundly un-American, that these people should not, to coin a phrase, be heard in polite company. The ruling doesn't mean that anyone will be released immediately, but if any are, whatever happens next is squarely the fault of the Bush administration, and the Congress that let them run wild for so long.
Kudos to Anthony Kennedy and the other four members of the sane wing of the Court -- which should from now on be known as the American wing.
Three things that are certain in the current election cycle:
The GOP will fight dirty (and their candidate will condone it, quietly)
Dirty means accusing Barack Obama of being a Muslim terrorist, mostly because they can't directly call him the n-word. And dirty means viciously going after his wife, using the Internet, radio and any other available means.
Wherever possible, the Bush administration will use government power to try and take Obama down.
A sleazy GOP operation called the National Campaign Fund has launched a website called ExposeObama.com, along with a commercial that they don't have to get paid airtime for, because they know that winger blogs and talk radio shows will help them make it viral. The ad, surprise, surprise, accuses Barack of being a closet Muslim:
The PAC, founded by a guy named James V. Lacy, isn't very well funded, so far (its donors can be found here) but they don't need money. They need talk radio and Internet hacks to do the dirty work for them, and there are plenty of those.
Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger leveled the first blow, introducing Republican John McCain’s wife at a fundraiser this week as someone who is “proud of her country, not just once but always.” Obama wasn’t mentioned by name, but the audience got it.
The dig signaled the start of what Democrats expect will be a concerted effort to cast Michelle Obama — and, by extension, Barack Obama — as an unpatriotic radical. It also pointed out the urgency to define Michelle Obama to general election voters before the opposition goes too far in doing it for her, strategists said.
“We live now in an era where everything and everyone is fair game,” said Douglas E. Schoen, who was a pollster and adviser to former President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000. “It is certainly the case that Teresa Heinz Kerry was probably not an asset in John Kerry’s campaign, at least publicly, and the jury is still out on how the public will view Michelle Obama.”
Imprisoned Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko has accused federal prosecutors of improperly pressuring him to implicate Barack Obama in a corruption case.
In a letter to the U.S. District judge who presided over his trial, Rezko, who was convicted this month of 16 corruption-related counts, including fraud and money laundering, called prosecutors “overzealous.” And he singled out what he said were their efforts to get him to turn on Obama, an Illinois senator and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Bagojevich.
“They are pressuring me to tell them the ‘wrong’ things that I supposedly know about Gov. Bagojevich and Sen. Obama,” Rezko wrote in an undated letter released by the court this week. “I have never been party to any wrongdoing that involved the governor or the senator. I will never fabricate lies about anyone else for selfish purposes. I will take what comes my way, but I will never hurt innocent people.”
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, wouldn't comment on Rezko's allegation.
Shades of Susan McDougal, no? And the U.S. attorneys scandal. I guess not much has changed over at Justice...
Make no mistake, the GOP is going to go to war to keep control of the White House, and to keep the money flowing from the Iraq war, and the various money-pumping schemes involving turning everything from war to mortgages into a sellable commodity. They aren't going to let a little thing like voters get in the way.
Former Nixon aide Patrick Buchanan is a very smart, very engaging guy. I really enjoy him on MSNBC, especially when he starts waving the hand, turning red and going apoplectic over Barack Obama's supposed weaknesses with "hard working white folks." When he gets really exercised, "like that" becomes "Lack-at." And I really did love his book, "Where the Right Went Wrong."
That said, where did Pat go wrong on his analysis of Obama's weak demographics? It seems ... shock of all shocks ... a candidate's performance relative to candidate in his or her own party does not necessarily indicate how that candidate would perform in a general election. So the MSNBC/WSJ poll yesterday had to be murder on Pat, who has been writing and saying a lot of stuff "lack-iss":
Bush's disapproval is near 70 percent, and 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong course. Unemployment is rising. Surging gas and food prices compete for the top story not only on business pages but front pages, with home foreclosures and the housing slump. Family incomes of Middle Americans have ceased to rise, as millions of their best jobs have been outsourced overseas.
Yet, national polls show McCain-Obama a close race, and the electoral map points to critical problems for Barack.
He seeks, for example, to target Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. But in all three the Hispanic vote may be decisive. And Barack was beaten by Hillary two to one among Hispanics, and between these two largest of America's minorities, rivalry and tension are real and rising.
Barack must hold Michigan and Pennsylvania and pick up Ohio or Virginia. Yet, his weakness among Southern and working-class whites and women is remarkable. By two to one they rejected him.
After his string of primary and caucus victories in February, Barack proceeded to lose Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, then West Virginia by 41, Kentucky by 35, Puerto Rico two to one and South Dakota by 10. That last one Barack was supposed to win.
The longer the campaign went on, the more reluctant Democrats seemed to be to embrace his nomination.
What is Barack's problem?
Well ... according to the poll, he doesn't have one. The poll results were pretty darned definitive:
Obama has opened up a six-point advantage over McCain (47%-41%) in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, which is up three points from Obama’s lead in April. Perhaps the most fascinating numbers are in the crosstabs, and some of the numbers will surprise folks who memorized every exit poll from the Democratic primaries. Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19). Meanwhile, McCain is up among evangelicals (69-21), white men (55-35), men (49-41), whites (47-41), and white suburban women (44-38). However, Obama has a seven-point edge (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? NBC/WSJ co-pollster Neil Newhouse (R) explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it’s white women that usually decide the race.
The MSM, who all-but declared Obama's chances with white women dead after Hillary dropped out, have been focusing on the white, suburban women number. But aren't these the same "soccer/security moms" who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004?
Another interesting break-out is the evangelical vote. George W. Bush won that vote 68%-30% against Al Gore, and 78% to 21% versus John Kerry in 2004, according to the Pew Research Center. If Obama has already brushed the GOP back to its 2000 numbers (the year Bush lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes and won the Electoral College by ONE vote, after the Supreme Court awarded Florida to him) then John McCain has a problem. Over time, I suspect Obama's "Joshua Generation" project and superior comfort level with the language of religion will only boost his number, while the zeal to turnout for McCain -- which made the difference for Bush in 2004, just isn't there.
In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.
This is the third straight court loss for the Bushies, and their Soviet detention tactics.
It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban. ...
...The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.
The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.
Just try and guess what sides the justices were on. Go on, I double dare ya...
In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented.
Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy to form the majority.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” I
Keep in mind, John McCain has promised to replicate Scalia, Alito and Roberts, perhaps four times over, if he becomes president... If that happens, we will have left George Bush's post-constitutional age, and entered the Soviet Union full stop, circa 1973.
Reporters say the media has dropped the ball on the war. Says CNN's best correspondent, Michael Ware (ok, tied for best with Christiane Amanpour):
"This is the Vietnam War of our generation. This conflict is going to have repercussions that far exceed that of an Indo-Chinese, essentially, civil war," he says. "Yet for a litany of reasons, which may or may not be legitimate, from cost to security to audience fatigue, the media has dropped the ball on this conflict. It is a tragic indictment on the Fourth Estate."
Ditto the media's coverage of the Bush administration, which was slavish after 9/11, and only critical after the public figured out the administration was lying anyway.
Dig into the New York Observer's lengthy article on the misreporting of the Iraq war here.
In its continuing attempt to appear to be an actual news channel, Fox "News" Channel has "removed" anchorperson E.D. Hill from its evening lineup, after her investigative reporting uncovered the terrorist leanings, and "fist jabs" of presidential candidate Barack Obama. (She later apologized.)
America's Pulse anchored by E.D. Hill goes away, but Hill stays with the network in a capacity to be determined. Hill has been with FNC since 1998. She co-anchored Fox & Friends for several years before moving to the 11amET hour, then launching America's Pulse.
Her slot now goes to the superbly intellectual (ahem) and not at all right wing reactionary Laura Ingram.
Back in 2004 when I was supporting him for president, we Clarkies used to call Wesley Clark simply, "The General." Well, these days, the General is doing what he does best: making it plain on John McCain:
"I know he's trying to get traction by seeking to play to what he thinks is his strong suit of national security," Clark said of McCain while speaking from his office in Little Rock, Arkansas. "The truth is that, in national security terms, he's largely untested and untried. He's never been responsible for policy formulation. He's never had leadership in a crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff. It's not clear that this is going to be the strong suit that he thinks it is."
Resume aside, though, Clark also took issue with the Arizona Republican's instincts on national security. "McCain's weakness is that he's always been for the use of force, force and more force. In my experience, the only time to use force is as a last resort. ... When he talks about throwing Russia out of the G8 and makes ditties about bombing Iran, he betrays a disrespect for the office of the presidency."
"McCain's statement today that withdrawing troops doesn't matter is a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn't get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course - Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war."
Let me start by saying that from my experience, the vast, vast majority of Hillary Clinton supporters are reasonable, intelligent people who understand politics, and have a sense of fair play. They get that elections are won, and elections are lost, and at the end of the day, what matters most is the future of our country, not the future of our favorite political figure. In the past two election cycles, none of my favorite candidates has won. In 2000, I liked Bill Bradley. In 2004, I was Wes Clark all the way, even volunteered for him. I was extremely unhappy with the guy who won the '04 primary, and still went to work for an organization dedicated to getting him elected president. When Kerry lost, it really sucked.
But you move on, and deal with the situation you've got. Most Hillary supporters are doing just that. The candidate is too, and in gracious fashion. If nothing else, the Clintons understand politics.
So what's with some of their supporters? Some of them are downright loony.
For proof, look no further than Doug Band, chief gatekeeper to former President Bill Clinton.
Band keeps close track of the past allies and beneficiaries of the Clintons who supported Obama's campaign, three Clinton associates and campaign officials said. Indeed, he is widely known as a member of the Clinton inner circle whose memory is particularly acute on the matter of who has been there for the couple — and who has not.
"The Clintons get hundreds of requests for favors every week," said Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. "Clearly, the people you're going to do stuff for in the future are the people who have been there for you."
McAuliffe, who knows of Band's diligent scorekeeping, emphasized that "revenge is not what the Clintons are about." The accounting is more about being practical, he said, adding, "You have to keep track of this."
Ack! Should people be hiding their bunnies? Then, there are the bitter enders of the feminist sort, who demand apologies, from the media, and from the Obama campaign, for the anti-womanism that supposedly brought Hillary down (not the votes, no, not the votes, the misogyny!). From this really angry reporter lady named Erbe:
The Democratic National Committee either doesn't get it or refuses to admit it. Nothing short of a lengthy, detailed mea culpa by the DNC and by Obama himself, directed to Clinton supporters for the sexist name-calling and personal, nasty characterizations Clinton was alone forced to endure, will do. Even that may not persuade these voters to consider supporting the party this fall. The DNC, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, and Obama should have been at her side, calling her treatment by the media (and even by some Obama supporters) unacceptable.
According to most polls, something in the range of 20 to 25 percent of her 18 million supporters say they'll vote for Senator McCain in November. That's 4.5 million votes—too many to take for granted. Yet taking them for granted is just what the party and Obama are doing. When CNN's Candy Crowley asked Obama how he would appeal to disaffected Clinton voters, he missed the mark entirely, giving a standard set of policy proposals.
I appeared on one of the cable news networks over the weekend, paired with a political reporter from a major newspaper. We were asked whether her supporters would kiss and make up with the Obama camp and end up throwing their support to the Illinois senator in the general election. He said, dismissively, "yes." I responded that with all due respect I thought he was quite wrong. But his laissez-faire attitude typifies that of the bulk of the MSM, the Democratic Party, and the Obama campaign.
We won't know how her supporters will vote until after the general election and its exit polls. Those who sit it out won't even be counted in exit polls. My feeling is just as the MSM underestimated the reaction to anti-Clinton remarks would generate, and the DNC overestimated voters' party loyalty, that no one has a clear read on what comes of all this. The party may have created a miniboom in Republican registration—disaffected Democrats who will never vote for a Democratic candidate again.
Never? Never ever ever? Damn.
Then we get into the really wacky weeds. You simply have to read this absolutely insane piece in something called the (San Francisco) City Edition, which was sent to me by Clinton bitter ender Carolyn Kay. It's long, but it's worth a read. To summarize, Barack Obama is a criminal terrorist ally planted by Karl Rove who also reverse engineered the Democratic primaries and caucuses so that Obama would get more pledged delegates out of a system designed by Harold Ickes but really run by Fox News, which the Clinton camp said was their preferred network and which attacks Obama relentlessly but which actually was helping him win bcause Tony Rezko's banker is Obama's banker and his friends are guarded by Blackwater... Seriously. Here's just the log line:
"Strategy involves G.O.P. crossover voting to take out Clinton, marketing newcomer Obama, stripping battleground delegates, inciting violence at the convention, and (if necessary) declaring martial law to prevent November's general election. Meanwhile, revelations about the Illinois senator's ties to Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko and two Iraqi agents are downplayed by the press. For their part, Democratic Party leaders persist in efforts to circumvent the nominating process, even as Karl Rove emerges as a player at Rezko's trial."
Wow. It gets crazier from there...
Evidence of a covert campaign to undermine the presidential primaries is rife, so it's curious that many within both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored the actual elephant in the room this year. That would be Karl Rove. Long accused of rigging the two previous presidential elections, this master of deceit would have us believe he's gone off to sit in a corner and write op-eds this time around.
Not so. According to an article in Time magazine last November, Republicans have been organized in several states to throw their weight behind Senator Barack Obama, hoping to deprive Senator Hillary Clinton of the Democratic nomination. While Rove's name isn't mentioned in the story, several former fundraisers and strategists for President Bush are identified. Together, these gentlemen helped flush Obama's coffers with cash early on in the race, something the deep pockets had not done for any candidate in their own party. With receipts topping $100 million in 2007, the freshman senator from Illinois achieved a remarkable feat, given that most Americans only first heard of him in 2005.
To expedite the Rove strategy, a website and discussion forum called Republicans for Obama formed in 2006. The executive director of New Hampshire's Republican Party, Stephen DeMaura, later established an even larger cyber enclave on Facebook in 2007 called “Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)”. At the same time, the Obama camp launched its own initiative targeted at Republican voters. Called "Be a Democrat For a Day", the campaign included a video that was circulated in Florida, Nevada, Vermont and elsewhere explaining the process of re-registering with the local voter registrar's office. In addition, many states nowadays hold open primaries, allowing citizens to vote for any candidate, regardless of their party affiliation. In Nebraska, for instance, the mayor of Omaha publicly rallied Republicans and Independents to caucus for Obama on February 9th. In Pennsylvania, Timereported on March 19th that Obama was running radio ads in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia asking Republicans to register as Democrats and then vote for him in the state's April 22nd primary.
The tactic, called crossover voting, has allowed Obama to open up an unsurmountable lead in pledged delegates. Republicans for Obama was certainly not bashful in making its case in an email appeal linked to its home page before the March 4th contests. "Since Texas has an open primary," the appeal read, "Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama... Just think, no more Clintons in the White House." Then there was Iowa, which held the nation's first caucus on January 3rd. Here G.O.P. winner Mike Huckabee received just half as many votes as Clinton, who finished third behind Obama and John Edwards. [SIDEBAR: of course, finishing third -- not her fault -- a conspiracy --- read on...]
Of the 17 states holding open primaries, Obama has won 13 of them. And an analysis of the caucus results to date shows that a disproportionate sum of delegates has been awarded to Obama, with red states - which normally vote Republican in the general election - exercising undue influence on the process. For instance, his 13,700 vote margin in the Nebraska caucus netted him 8 pledged delegates, whereas Clinton netted 9 delegates from her 204,000 vote victory in Ohio's primary. In Texas, which holds both a primary and caucus, Obama gained 5 more pledged delegates than Clinton, despite the fact that she won the election by a 100,000 vote margin. And although Clinton won the Nevada caucus, the Obama camp somehow managed to finagle more pledged delegates at the state convention held after the vote.
Never mind that it was Hillary who won Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania, meaning that if there was a conspiracy afoot, it failed... and the rules under which Obama got more delegates out of his states won were crafted by none other than Harold Ickes, who once managed Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign... There's more:
And so we step through the looking glass into a Rovean wonderland. Last year, at the same time Clinton commanded a huge lead in the national polls, political analysts and professional strategists retained by CNN and other broadcast networks began hammering across the notion that "the voters don't like her". Incorporating the use of psychological branding, adjectives like "divisive", "polarizing", and "untrustworthy" have been repeated over and over in connection to Clinton in the same manner that "biological warfare" and "weapons of mass destruction" were disseminated in the lead-up to the Iraq War. In addition, beginning on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the senator from New York has been roundly derided in the media as the losing candidate. Before Indiana-North Carolina primaries on May 6th, the term "panderer" was added to list of press buzzwords, ostensibly in response to Clinton's senate bill to transfer the federal gas tax to the oil companies.
Much of this pejorative terminology, by the way, traces back to a cadre of right-wing, neoconservative ideologues who keep the studio seats warm at Fox News Channel. "There is no candidate on record, a front-runner for a party's nomination, who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has," Rove told Reuters last August. Joining Fox as a part-time election analyst last February, he forgets to mention each time he dwells on this theme that the conclusion is borne of a tautology.
Until recently, Obama himself invariably recited Rove's "high negatives" comment in press interviews whenever discussing Clinton. His often bitter criticism of her, along with other "Washington insiders", who he says want to "boil and stew all the hope out of him", represents a staple of his core political message. The other half of the stump speech, known as the I'm-a-uniter-not-a-divider pitch, is reminiscent of the Bush 2000 campaign, which Rove managed. Perhaps that's not surprising when you discover that one of Obama's speechwriters is Ben Rhodes, the brother of Fox News VP David Rhodes. (Marisa Guthrie, of BC Beat, reported this connection.) You may recall that on election night in November 2000, it was Fox that called Florida for Bush, even though the other networks declared Gore the winner based on the exit polls. How Fox knew the polls were wrong in advance of the votes being counted has never been explained.
And the G.O.P. links to Obama don't end there. The Times of London reported on March 2nd that Obama had interviewed conservative Republican lawmakers Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar for key positions in a future cabinet. "Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary." the story revealed. "Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a 'stretch'." Lugar, who placed Obama's name on his nuclear non-proliferation bill two years ago, is being evaluated as a potential secretary of state.
Hang on, wasn't it HILLARY who during the campaign warmed up to Fox News, and even Richard Mellon Scaife? Obama was slammed by FNC by giving them no quarter, while Hillary's team praised them as the only truly fair network. So who's side was whose? It continues:
Although Obama says he has always opposed the Iraq War, he appears to be linked to Bush Administration policy there through his principle political benefactor in Chicago, Tony Rezko. Rezko received a contract to build a power plant in Iraq through a college chum appointed as the new Minister of Electricity in 2003. Like other Iraqi exiles recruited for posts by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremmer, Aiham Alsammarae absconded hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds as part of a crime spree dubbed "The Mother of all Heists" by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. Currently wanted by Interpol (but apparently not the U.S. Government), Alsammarae now lives in Illinois, where he has donated several times to Obama's presidential campaign. ...
Later, as a state senator, he wrote endorsement letters on behalf of Rezko to government agencies allocating funds to build other housing projects. (Years later, the fact that sued slumlords were still receiving taxpayer funds would raise eyebrows in Chicago, but apparently no one lodged any serious objections at the time.) In fact, a 2007 Chicago Tribune article reported that Rezko's firm got contracts to rehab 30 buildings, including 11 in Obama's state legislative district on the South Side. Edward McClelland, writing for Salon.com, noted that "Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black community that Obama had served in the state senate, and by milking government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses."
While it may be unclear why Obama would continue his relationship with Rezko after this point, it's indisputable that he did. In 2005, while Rezko was under investigation by federal authorities for fraud, Obama approached him for help in purchasing a $2 million Georgian-revival home in the historic Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. The property deal involved splitting the land into two lots, with Rezko buying the large side yard for $625,000. Obama and his wife Michelle then acquired the parcel that included the mansion, paying $300,000 less than the asking price. The Chicago Tribune reported the details of this unusual arrangement in November 2006.
Although no laws were broken in the transaction, the New York Times reported that the Obama property deal may have been an attempt by the developer to shield assets from creditors in several individual lawsuits pending at the time. Even more hair-raising, Rezko - who was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time - received a $3.5 million loan in April, 2005 from a longtime business associate, Nadhmi Auchi. Auchi is a London-based Iraqi exile and one of the world's richest men, according to Forbes. He's also the former moneyman for Saddam Hussein, the Sun-Times reports.
Okay, so after all that, we establish that no laws were broken. Do go on...
According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe." Rezko and Auchi are current partners in a major 62-acre land development in Riverside Park in Chicago. The Times also reported on February 26th that Auchi lent Rezko additional funds shortly before the purchase of the Obama property. "Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007."
Interestingly, Obama's unusual mortgage lender visited Chicago in 2004. (The State Dept. has never explained how he got a visa.) A reception in his honor was attended by both Rezko and Emil Jones, president of the Illinois state senate and a key player in Obama's 2004 U.S. senate bid, according to a CNN report.Obama himself attended the Auchi gathering, held at the posh Four Seasons, but says he doesn't recall meeting the man and was at the hotel that day on other business. A prosecution witness at the Rezko trial in Chicago testified on April 14th that Obama met Auchi during a party at Rezko's home April 3, 2004.
And the skeletons continue to pile up in the closet. Another Iraqi ex-patriot connected to Obama, Aiham Alsammarae, posted more than $2.7 million in property as collateral to help spring Tony Rezko from jail in April, according to a story in the Sun-Times. This was an odd development, since Alsammarae is (or was) wanted by Interpol for the theft of $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funds. Newsweek reported on March 17, 2008 that Alsammarae'a son sent several faxes to Obama's office in Washington in 2006, complaining that his father was being unjustly held in a Baghdad jail in 2006.
In December of that year, Alsammarae escaped. Regarding this incident, the New York Timesreported that "Iraqi officials initially blamed the Americans and later claimed that a private security detail used by Mr. Alsammarae when he was a minister was responsible, saying that a fleet of S.U.V.’s filled with “Westerners” pulled up to the jail and spirited him away, perhaps with the complicity of some of his jailers." (The security firm Blackwater guarded Alsammarae during his time in government.)
The Sun-Times has quoted an Obama spokesperson as characterizing the faxes sent to the senator's office as "a routine request from a constituent." Iraq's former Minister of Electricity, however, boasted that he escaped 'the Chicago way'", according to the New York Times.From the luxury of his compound in Illinois, Alsammarae donated online to the candidate in January, February and March of this year. The Sun-Tmes recently verified that a warrant for the fugitive's arrest remains active, but U.S. officials would not disclose what the warrant is for.
A man of multiple talents, Alsammarae also claims to have brokered a peace dialog with two Sunni militant groups in Iraq in 2005. According to the Washington Post, he "said the groups, which he identified as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujaheddin Army, were willing to enter negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials." Alsammarae also told the Post that he lead his ownpredominantly Sunni political group called the Iraqi National Council Front. He also claims that his conviction for corruption has been vacated. (CNN interviewed Alsammarae in January 2006. Scroll halfway down the page to read the transcript.)
Not to be left out of the party, Rezko contracted in 2005 to build a power plant in Iraq with his friend's help, but the project was later given to another firm due to an apparent kickback scheme uncovered by U.S. authorities. A private blog called RezkoWatchhas also reported that Rezko submitted a second proposal to build a training facility for Iraqi power plant security guards in Illinois.
How such business dealings might impact Obama's position on American troops stationed in Iraq, if he's elected president, is unknown.
But here's the strangest twist of all in the Rezko affair (so far): the federal prosecutor in the Chicago trial is Patrick Fitzgerald, the former special counsel in the Valerie Plame C.I.A. leak case. If you remember, a much anticipated indictment against Karl Rove never materialized in that earlier episode. Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby was tried and convicted on four counts of lying under oath. (His sentence was later commuted by President Bush.) Whether Fitzgerald is delaying indictments of Chicago Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama on orders from the Bush Administration is a matter of speculation. Curiously, on April 23rd, Rove's name came up when a witness testified that in 2004, G.O.P. heavyweight Robert Kjellander lobbied Rove to replace Fitzgerald in the case because a vigorous prosecution might hurt Republicans, according to a report ABC News posted on its website. The allegation defies logic, however, since Fitzgerald had specifically been tapped by the President to handle the Plame incident.
First of all, how did Rezko's banker magically turn into Obama's banker, without actually lending Barack any money? And if he was being guarded in Iraq, while holding a government position, by U.S. firm Blackwater, doesn't that make him our guy? And what, in the end, is the point being made? Precisely what is it that Patrick Fitzgerald should want to prosecute Barack Obama for? This kind of nuttery is passing for journalism in a real, live newspaper, folks, though obviously not a very good one.
This is sheer lunacy, and it's not coming from the right, but from people supposedly on our side.
Welcome to crazy town.
Now, that's not to say that there are not genuine concerns by serious women about gender bias, and about what they saw as attacks on Hillary that had a nasty, gender twist. But make no mistake, there were plenty of racist bombs thrown during the campaign as well, including some from within Camp Clinton. And with Youtube, and Zazzle, and all the ways to spew out a poorly thought through message, you've just got to cope with a certain amount of ugliness in the zeitgeist. I don't think it helps either black folk or women (of which I'm one of each) to moan about it now. Campaigns get ugly. Hell, Howard Dean was compared to Osama bin Laden by other Democrats when he ran, and then he was derided as a screaming lunatic, based on one unidirectional mic. But when campaigns end, they end, and those who really believe that their party has the best plans for the country unite, suck it up, and work together to win.
It's time to put, not party, but country before the cult of personality. I was very disappointed by the Clintons during this race, and have caught myself saying that if she won, I'd skip the presidential ballot for the first time since I turned 18. But I really didn't mean it. In the end, I'm a voter. I'm a supervoter. And I would have voted for the ticket.
Here's hoping we can put away the conspiracy theories and at least agree on that.
As Ed said, Dennis Kucinich read his 35 Articles of Impeachment into the Congressional record yesterday evening, and now awaits a brave majority of House members to come forward so that hearings on the Bush administration's possible high crimes and misdemeanors can begin. Bob Wexler wants hearings, but few other members, including Democrats, seem eager to rehash the administration's crimes, none of which could have been committed without the obsequious obeisance of Congress...
Impeachment is the sole remedy provided by the Constitution to check the presidency when it gets out of control. For Democrats, including Mother Nancy, to take it off the table without digging into the facts is unpardonable.
ARTICLE I.--CREATING A SECRET PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN TO MANUFACTURE A FALSE CASE... Page: H5089 ARTICLE II.--FALSELY, SYSTEMATICALLY, AND WITH CRIMINAL INTENT CONFLATING THE... Page: H5090 ARTICLE III.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5091 ARTICLE IV.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5092 ARTICLE V.--ILLEGALLY MISSPENDING FUNDS TO SECRETLY BEGIN A WAR OF AGGRESSION ARTICLE VI.--INVADING IRAQ IN VIOLATION OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF H.J. RES. 114. Page: H5093 (A) Information provided with Article I, II, III, IV and V. ARTICLE VII.--INVADING IRAQ ABSENT A DECLARATION OF WAR ARTICLE VIII.--INVADING IRAQ, A SOVEREIGN NATION, IN VIOLATION OF THE UN... ARTICLE IX.--FAILING TO PROVIDE TROOPS WITH BODY ARMOR AND VEHICLE ARMOR ARTICLE X.--FALSIFYING ACCOUNTS OF U.S. TROOP DEATHS AND INJURIES FOR POLITICAL... ARTICLE XI.--ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT U.S. MILITARY BASES IN IRAQ ARTICLE XII.--INITIATING A WAR AGAINST IRAQ FOR CONTROL OF THAT NATION'S... Page: H5095 ARTICLE XIII.--CREATING A SECRET TASK FORCE TO DEVELOP ENERGY AND MILITARY... ARTICLE XIV.--MISPRISION OF A FELONY, MISUSE AND EXPOSURE OF CLASSIFIED... ARTICLE XV.--PROVIDING IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL CONTRACTORS IN... Page: H5096 ARTICLE XVI.--RECKLESS MISSPENDING AND WASTE OF US TAX DOLLARS IN CONNECTION... Page: H5097 ARTICLE XVII.--ILLEGAL DETENTION: DETAINING INDEFINITELY AND WITHOUT CHARGE... ARTICLE XVIII.--TORTURE: SECRETLY AUTHORIZING, AND ENCOURAGING THE USE OF... Page: H5098 ARTICLE XIX.--RENDITION: KIDNAPPING PEOPLE AND TAKING THEM AGAINST THEIR WILL... ARTICLE XX.--IMPRISONING CHILDREN Page: H5099 ARTICLE XXI.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT THREATS FROM... ARTICLE XXII--CREATING SECRET LAWS Page: H5100 ARTICLE XXIII--VIOLATION OF THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT ARTICLE XXIV.--SPYING ON AMERICAN CITIZENS, WITHOUT A COURT-ORDERED WARRANT, IN... Page: H5101 ARTICLE XXV.--DIRECTING TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES TO CREATE AN ILLEGAL AND... Page: H5102 ARTICLE XXVI.--ANNOUNCING THE INTENT TO VIOLATE LAWS WITH SIGNING STATEMENTS,... ARTICLE XXVII.--FAILING TO COMPLY WITH CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS AND INSTRUCTING... ARTICLE XXVIII.--TAMPERING WITH FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS, CORRUPTION OF THE... Page: H5103 ARTICLE XXIX.--CONSPIRACY TO VIOLATE THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 Page: H5104 ARTICLE XXX.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN AN ATTEMPT TO... ARTICLE XXXI.--KATRINA: FAILURE TO PLAN FOR THE PREDICTED DISASTER OF HURRICANE... Page: H5105 ARTICLE XXXII.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, SYSTEMATICALLY... Page: H5106 ARTICLE XXXIII.--REPEATEDLY IGNORED AND FAILED TO RESPOND TO HIGH LEVEL... ARTICLE XXXIV.--OBSTRUCTION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11,... Page: H5107 ARTICLE XXXV.--ENDANGERING THE HEALTH OF 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS
Two Sense points out that this is the way it works, my friends.
"First black folks do it ... then everyone starts doing it."
Case in point, the words "dissed, yo, dog (killed by Randy Jackson), mack, kid, and yes, even "nigga" ... all of which were quickly appropriated by white people after black folks started using them. To be fair, we've done it to you all, too. I don't remember when or how we started saying "dude," but damned if we're not saying it...
And by the way, if Kay Bailey Hutchinson is doing the "terrorist fist jab" now, does that mean we've lost the war on terror?
Word on the street (okay, word from Obama) is that Barack will be consulting with none other than Elizabeth Edwards on the issue of healthcare. From ABC News:
... At the first event on his "Change That Works for You" tour, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama was joined by John and Elizabeth Edwards, making known for the first time that he'll enlist Elizabeth Edwards' help in health care policy.
Thirty minutes into his speech, Obama interrupted his prepared remarks and pointed to the wife of his former Democratic rival to declare his intention of her role.
"I'm going to be partnering up with Elizabeth Edwards - we're going to be figuring all this out," Obama said when addressing his proposed reform to the health care system.
And as TPM's Election Central points out, Edwards famously said during the campaign that Obama's health plan wasn't her favorite. She's hugely popular with women, and would make a fantastic surrogate. Particularly since she's no Obamaniac: during the early stages of the campaign when her husband John was still in, Liz famously said that "we can't make John Black. We can't make him a woman," (ahem...) and she never did tell us who she supported, even after her husband endorsed Barack. (Though she did tell us that she liked Hillary's health plan better...) Clearly, Elizabeth can relate to skeptical Hillarettes everywhere.
On a serious note, both the Edwards' are terrific surrogates for Barack. They are an attractive family with a "real woman" (rather than plastic glam --- Cindy...) wife who has real-life health problems, and John has that southern drawl. These two could be Obama's MVPs on the campaign trail.
(GUARDIAN, UK) -- The lobbyist and convicted fraudster Jack Abramoff had a direct pipeline to the Bush White House and influenced several key decisions, according to a bipartisan draft report released in Congress today.
The draft report found Abramoff associates using expensive gifts to curry favour with White House aides and orchestrating the sacking of a US state department negotiator who disagreed with them.
In addition, the congressional report uncovered six one-on-one encounters between Abramoff and George Bush — four more than the White House has acknowledged previously in its denials of any significant ties to the lobbyist.
"This evidence suggests that the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr Abramoff before making public statements characterising the connection," the report states.
Abramoff's corrupt courtship of Republican congressmen played a central role in the Democrats' sweeping victory in the 2006 election.
Though his case has largely faded from public view since then, today's report sheds a new and unwelcome spotlight on the Bush administration's role in the scandal.
Three former White House officials contacted by the House of Representatives oversight committee, which produced the report, invoked their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about their relationship with Abramoff.
E-mails uncovered by the oversight committee show that White House aides eliminated the job of a state department negotiator in 2001 after Abramoff associates complained about his support for labour reform in the Mariana Islands, the Pacific manufacturing hotspot.
"I'm trying to figure out what is the best way to go about [sacking the negotiator]," one White House official wrote at the time. "I don't want a firing scandal on our hands." ...
Total contacts between Bad Jack and the White House from 2001 to 2004: 485. Number of months Abe is serving in prison on tax evasion, fraud and bribery charges? 70. ("He has admitted to stealing $23m from US banks via a fake wire transfer, among other crimes," the Guardian says.)
The full committee votes on whether to make the draft report final this week.
More Bush items for the first steps of your recovery:
That, according to a new book – “Machiavelli’s Shadow” – by former Time magazine reporter Paul Alexander, is where President George W. Bush informed trusted advisor Karl Rove in 2007 that his services would no longer be needed at the White House.
“On a Sunday in midsummer, George W. Bush accompanied Karl Rove to the Episcopalian Church Rove sometimes attended,” writes Alexander. “They made their way to the front of the congregation. Then, during their time in the church, Bush gave Rove some stunning news. ‘Karl,’ Bush said, ‘there’s too much heat on you. It’s time for you to go.’”
The same article states that Republican strategists have joined everyone else in the free world (with the exception of the RedStaters and the really recalcitrant neocons) in turning on the Bushies:
"Machiavelli's Shadow" doesn't portray Rove in a favorable light and Alexander includes plenty of interviews with GOP notables unsatisfied with Rove's influence during the Bush administration.
"Every Republican I know looks at the Bush administration as a total failure," said Matt Towery, chairman of Newt Gingrich's political organization.
“To do what he did politically to us is unforgivable," Rep. Tom Tancredo told Alexander. "It will take generations to recover. I don't know how long; maybe never."
"I think the legacy is that Karl Rove will be a name that'll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it," said long-time GOP strategist Ed Rollins.
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush's former spokesman, Scott McClellan, will testify before a House committee next week about whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered him to make misleading public statements about the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
McClellan will testify publicly and under oath before the House Judiciary Committee on June 20 about the White House's role in the leak and its response, his attorneys, Michael and Jane Tigar, said on Monday.
Finding, then losing, his religion: McCain with the late "agent of intolerance," Rev. Jerry Falwell at Liberty University in 2007
How is it, exactly, that John McCain plans to win the presidency? He is desperately casting about, trying to reclaim his cool, 2000 persona of Bush-busting "maverick," while equally desperately scooping up all of Dubya's crappy policies to pass of as his own ...
He is sucking up to Hillary Clinton's die-hard women supporters while promising to strip each and every one of them of their reproductive rights if he becomes president...
He is grasping for lower income, "Reagan Democrats," hoping they won't figure out that when he calls himself a "free trader," it means HE'S FOR FREE TRADE...
He hopes to keep a lock on the West by scooping Hispanic voters, and at the same time running from his own immigration/legalization plan like it's on fire...
And now, he somehow plans to hold together the Bush coalition of 2000 and 2004 without evangelicals. Huh? Check this out from a source you NEVER see me quote: Newsmax...
In another disturbing sign that Sen. John McCain has little interest in reaching out to his conservative base, including evangelical Christian voters, his campaign has declined an offer to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham.
For almost six decades, Graham has been America’s most influential preacher and evangelist, a man sought out by every president since Harry Truman.
Today, the 89-year-old Graham is in declining health and stays near his home in Montreat, N.C. His last public appearance, in May 2007, marked the dedication of his library. Three former American presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton -- were on hand to honor Graham.
In recent weeks I have been involved with Brian Jacobs, a Fort Worth, Texas, minister and consultant to the Billy Graham Association, to broker a meeting between McCain and Graham. In May, we contacted the McCain campaign with an offer to arrange such a meeting, as we had done between candidate George W. Bush and Graham during the 2000 election.
The "I" in question is historian and former Bush I and Bush II adviser Doug Wead, author of the book, "All the President's Children." Read on...
While meetings with ministers have caused their fair share of controversy in this election cycle, we thought it was worth a try to bring McCain together with America’s most celebrated preacher.
McCain’s campaign responded to Jacobs with the following letter dated June 3, 2008:
Dear Mr. Jacobs,
Thank you for your kind letter offering to set up a personal meeting between Senator McCain and Dr. Billy Graham.
Senator McCain appreciates your invitation and the valuable opportunity it represents. [italics added by McCain campaign]
Unfortunately, I must pass along our regrets and do not foresee an opportunity to add this event to the calendar.
I know you will understand that with the tremendous demands on his time and the large volume of similar requests, events such as this are extremely difficult to schedule even though each one is important. However, we will keep your event in mind should an opportunity present itself in the future.
I know that the Senator would want me to thank you for your interest and to send his very best wishes.
Amber Johnson Director of Scheduling John McCain 2008
Wead includes a link to a PDF of the letter. Click here for that.
Wead goes on to warn that McCain is risking giving up a key pillar of the GOP base:
The danger for McCain is in his campaign’s failure to grasp the size of the born again vote. Latest surveys show that fully 42 percent of all Americans claim to be “born again.”
But the risk is not just that the Republican nominee will lose evangelical voters but that he will lose its massive infrastructure: megachurches with their schools, television programs and massive mailing lists which traditionally play a crucial role for Republicans in voter registration and voter turnout. The cost to the party of replicating this role themselves would be incalculable.
As anyone who's worked a campaign can tell you, it's all about turnout. All ... about ... turnout. And the megachurches have been the GOP's turnout secret weapon since the 1980s, when they switched from Carter to Reagan.
After a bit of exegesis on his own relationships with the Bushes, Wead offers some instructive insights to the mainstream media -- whose reporters are largely non-religious (or Catholic, which is kind of the same thing ... I can say that, I used to be Catholic...) and who therefore really don't "get' religious people, which is why they tend to go ballistic over stories that actual religious people find unremarkable.
Though McCain actually is quite engaging with religious believers -- I have been with him a couple of times at religious events and once interviewed him for a television show that aired on a religious network -- his staff is notoriously hostile. McCain adviser, Charlie Black, and campaign manager, Rick Davis, have a long, troubled history with the evangelical wing of the party.
Maybe that's why McCain and his press corps get along so well...
... The pair were said to be behind McCain’s decision to throw televangelist John Hagee “under the bus” after audio recordings suggested Hagee believed Adolf Hitler was an agent of God.
For those of you paying attention, that's "uh-oh" number one ...
Though Hagee’s views of “predestination” are mainstream among many Christian denominations and Hagee obviously never suggested support for Hitler or Nazis, McCain called Hagee “crazy.” Only weeks before he denounced Hagee, McCain had publicly trumpeted the pastor’s endorsement.
That would be "uh-oh" number two. Who knew that Hagee's Hitler hunting schtick was mainstream evangelical Christianity at work? For that matter, who in the MSM knew that Rev. Wright sounds a hell of a lot like a lot of other Baptist preachers??? Can we have "uh-oh" number three, please?
Indeed, Hagee has been one of the greatest supporters of Israel and Jewish causes in the evangelical community.
McCain’s hasty decision to discard Hagee was seen by many evangelicals, even those who are not fans of Hagee, as a betrayal.
Whoop, there it is.
Although it was done in the context of Sen. Barack Obama’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, it was a moment that seemed to pander to the media’s ignorance and hostility toward religion in general. Many evangelicals saw it as grossly unfair.
And, as Wead goes on to say, Ed Koch didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit. But wait, there's more, and it has to do with a major, major swing state...
... Hagee and Graham are not the only evangelical leaders to be rebuffed by McCain. Press reports indicate McCain has turned away olive branch invitations from the influential Dr. James Dobson for the senator to visit him at his headquarters in Colorado Springs.
That would be James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, a massive Colorado mega-church, 7 million radio listeners and an even larger mailing list, and some of the last real national-level political clout in the religious right world (liberal Christianity is coming on strong, so it remains to be seen how strong the RR is today.) I found myself on the same side as FOTF this year in a fight against the spread of legalized gambling in Miami-Dade, and I can tell you, his people are dead serious about voting their faith. Reading on...
The theory behind the McCain campaign’s strategy to ignore evangelicals is that they have nowhere else to go, that Obama is too liberal, and they’ll vote against him come November.
But McCain’s team is missing the fact that the vacuum created by the GOP’s divorce from them is being filled by the Democrats.
Both Clinton and Obama have been quietly courting evangelicals, the former in private meetings last year and the later with open, religious language.
Aside from Carter’s winning outreach to born again voters in 1976, this is a new phenomenon among Democrat candidates. New polling shows younger evangelicals have different views about the poor, the environment and societal attitudes toward gays. Public relations expert and evangelical leader Mark DeMoss suggests that Obama could win fully 40 percent of the evangelical vote this November. By my calculations that figure is low.
McCain’s decision not to meet with Graham will likely provoke outrage. And the campaign will likely back down. Graham is no Hagee or Dobson. They will say it was all a mistake and blame it on staff or a “misunderstanding.” But in the process they have revealed their mind-set. Their decision to ignore the leaders of America’s 80 million born-again voters represents a stunning, high wire act for a Republican presidential candidate. ...
Damn ... okay, not appropriate given this post, but daaaaaamn...
Prediction: McCain will change his mind, as Wead said, and have the meeting. But deep skepticism will remain within the evangelical movement about him and his intentions. I can tell you, many hardcore Christians I know where praying for Mike Huckabee. McCain is going to have a hard time getting this part of the base energized this fall.
George W. Bush will leave office next January, having somehow survived being impeached for his administration's pre-war lies, doctored intelligence, Iraq war bungling, war profiteering, propaganda campaigns, domestic spying regimes and politicization of the federal judiciary, not to mention escaping electoral retribution for his crowd's denuding of the treasury, post-disaster bungling, regulation stripping, profligate spending and general mismanagement of the federal government.
So, Dubya's headed to Europe, to try and find some love.
The leading German news source, Der Spiegel, reports that “senior politicians from Merkel’s ruling grand coalition as well as from opposition parties have done away with diplomatic niceties, seizing on Bush’s farewell visit to express their aversion to the president who remains vilified in Germany for launching the Iraq war”:
– Hans-Ulrich Klose, foreign policy expert for the center-left Social Democrats and deputy chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “One really can’t say George W. Bush made the world a better place. On the contrary: His actions played a big part in damaging America’s image around the world.”
– Guido Westerwelle, the head of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, said: “The Bush era was not a good one — neither for America nor for those who see themselves as friends of America.” … The Iraq war weakened the UN, he said, adding that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was a “disgrace to all the values that America, of all countries, stands for.”
– Jürgen Trittin, a senior member of the opposition Green Party, said Bush “definitely made the world worse.”
Hell, maybe he should skip Europe altogether. After all, they consider America a "force for evil" under his management.
When he's ready to come home, George might want to skip reading newspapers, magazines, or anything where his presidency might come up... He won't like what he reads:
As the door begins to close on his tenure, Bush is increasingly drawing on selected events of the past to argue that history will vindicate him on Iraq, terrorism, trade and other controversial issues.
Historical analogies have become a staple of Bush speeches and interviews this year, whether he is addressing regional leaders in Egypt or talking to workers at an office park in suburban St. Louis. Bush will continue this historical focus in a visit to Europe this week, where he will commemorate the Berlin Airlift in Germany and deliver a speech in Paris marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.
White House aides say Bush, who majored in history at Yale, likes to emphasize historical comparisons because they are easy for the public to understand and illustrate in dramatic fashion how differently future generations may come to view him.
Unfortunately for the president, many historians have already reached a conclusion. In an informal survey of scholars this spring, just two out of 109 historians said Bush would be judged a success; a majority deemed him the "worst president ever."
"It's all he has left," said Millsaps College history professor Robert S. McElvaine, who conducted the survey for the History News Network of George Mason University. "When your approval ratings are down around 20 to 28 percent and the candidate of your own party is trying to hide from being seen with you, history is your only hope." ...
Bush MAJORED IN SOMETHING at Yale? Geez, I thought he just did bong hits and cheerleaded...
Anyhoo, countdown to the Bush-McCain reference, in three... two... one...
Many historians accuse Bush of cherry-picking history to bolster his arguments, in what the late author David Halberstam last year called a "history rummage sale."
One controversial example emerged during a speech at the Israeli parliament on May 15, when Bush compared talking with "terrorists and radicals," including Iran, to the appeasement of Nazis before World War II.
The reference was widely seen as an attack on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- who has said that if elected president, he would talk with Iran's leaders -- although the White House said that was not Bush's intent. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, seized on Bush's words to attack Obama.
Oh, Johnny Mac didn't need that. Let's go to something sunnier ... say, Bush as Harry Truman:
Some historians are particularly critical of Bush's frequent references to Truman, who had an even lower approval rating than Bush amid opposition to the Korean War. They say Truman's place in history is elevated by his roles in leading the victory in World War II, creating institutions such as the United Nations and implementing the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe.
"The only connection between Harry Truman and George Bush is that they left office with low opinion numbers," said historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. "That's a very thin reed."
A thoughtful discussion on race and the 2008 campaign
The political ascendancy of Barack Obama has brought a lot of issues into focus, when it comes to the always thorny issue of race. We've discovered that there are racist Democrats as well as racist Republicans, that black voters initially chose based on loyalty (Clinton) and only cleaved to ethnic pride when Obama proved to them that white people would vote for him. And we've learned that the issues of racial grievance, on both sides, are potent draws for media attention, but not necessarily useful in defeating a black candidate (as both the Clintons and the Reverend Wright-obsessed mainstream media recently found out.)
To that end, in the New York Times today, journalist Marcus Mabry analyzes the particular challenges facing Mr. Obama, and comes to the conclusion that the dividing line on race may be the number 45 -- those below that age, who are part of the hip-hop generation, are more "un-self consciously multicultural," and thus, less phased by Obama's race. Those roughly older than that are more touchy about race, and more susceptible to a race-based reasoning for voting against him. From Mabry's very smart column today:
Millions of African-Americans celebrated Barack Obama’s historic victory, seeing in it a reflection — sudden and shocking — of their own expanded horizons. But whether Mr. Obama captures the White House in November will depend on how he is seen by white Americans. Indeed, some people argue that one of the reasons Mr. Obama was able to defeat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was that a large number of white voters saw him as “postracial.”
In other words, Mr. Obama was black, but not too black.
But where is the line? Does it change over time? And if it is definable, then how black can Mr. Obama be before he alienates white voters? Or, to pose the question more cynically, how black do the Republicans have to make him to win?
Social observers say a common hallmark of African-Americans who have achieved the greatest success, whether in business, entertainment or politics — Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson and Mr. Obama — is that they do not convey a sense of black grievance.
Clearly, Mr. Obama understands this. Until his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, forced race into the political debate, Mr. Obama rarely dwelt on it. He gave his groundbreaking speech on race only in response to the Wright controversy.
Indeed, after he effectively won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, he left it to the media to point out the racial accomplishment, and the relative he thanked most emotively was the woman who raised him: his white grandmother.
There is a reason for this. Race is one of the most contentious issues in American society, and, as with many contentious issues, Americans like to choose the middle path between perceived extremes. “In many ways, Obama is an ideal middle way person — he is just as white as he is black,” said Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College.
John McWhorter, who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, put it more bluntly: “White people are weary of the kinds of black people who are dedicated to indicting whites as racists. So, to be ‘too black’ is to carry an air about you that whites have something to answer for.”
That was the root of Mr. Obama’s Jeremiah Wright problem. Mr. Wright spewed exactly the kind of angry racial repudiation that many whites associate with black leaders.
Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, argues that the one arena where black grievance is acceptable is in music, particularly in hip-hop, where an estimated 70 percent of listeners are white. But the generation exposed to hip-hop, mostly under 40, are part of what Mr. Patterson calls a growing “ecumenical” American culture that is unselfconsciously multiracial.
This Obama Generation came of age in the post-civil-rights age when color, though still relevant, had less impact on what one read, listened to or watched. It was the common crucible of popular culture, he said, that forged a truly American identity, rather than the “salad bowl” analogy cherished by diversity advocates.
Mr. Obama’s campaign so de-emphasized race that for most of the 17-month nomination contest much of the news media became obsessed with the question of whether he was “black enough” to win black votes.
Most African-American Democrats were for Hillary Clinton early on, until voters in Iowa proved to them that whites would support a black candidate.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said that Mr. Obama, unlike the immediate successors of Martin Luther King Jr., understood the importance of language and the need to frame social debate in a way less likely to alienate whites.
“In the absence of Martin Luther King,” he said, “I think the void was filled by Stokely Carmichael, James Bevel and Jesse Jackson,” who did not use language as well. “With all respect to my father, 40 years later, this is the first time we have gotten back to a very thoughtful and careful approach to language.”
But a crucial difference between Dr. King and Mr. Obama, said the King biographer Taylor Branch, was that Dr. King sought to point out hypocrisy and shame white people into changing the system.
It was not simply framing and language choice that has helped Mr. Obama reach white people. He is genuinely of a different place and time than the generation of black leaders forged in the civil rights struggle. His story is, in part, an immigrant’s story, devoid of the particular wounds that descendants of American slaves carry.
His father was a black Kenyan and his mother a white American. His mixed-race heritage is less discomfiting to whites, Mr. McWhorter said, than the more common source of black Americans’ mixed-race blood: the miscegenation of slavery.
Mr. Obama’s generation of black political leaders have benefited from the gains of the civil rights movement, and are now attempting to broaden them. They include Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark; Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington; Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts; and former Representative Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee. They attended top schools, often in the Ivy League and often law school as well, and began their public-service careers in community organizing rather than in national civil rights organizations. ...
Read the whole thing. It's well worth it. The bottom line, Obama will be successful with many older, less educated white voters to the extent he can convince them that he has no race-based grievance with them, and they will reject him to the extent that they suspect he does, and it somehow hiding it. We'll see if that analysis pans out.
Have I mentioned lately that Republicans don't like John McCain? He survived the Old White Dude derby to become the candidate, but he only did so because the other candidates were even more objectionable, he had higher name recognition, and the FisCons poisoned all but the South against Mike Huckabee. So here he is, your really bad candidate... A different Bay Buchanan than the one who defends McCain on TV weighs in, pointing out that because of McCain's deficiencies, there really is one question in the November election: are you with Barack Obama or are you against him:
It’s finally over: the mother of all primaries has done her job reducing the field to two. But in reality there is only one candidate. Barack Obama. In November he will win or he will lose.
John McCain is relevant only in so far as he is not Barack Obama. The Senator from Arizona is incapable of energizing his party, brings no new people to the polls, and has a personality that is best kept under wraps. And while his strong suite is experience, especially on military matters, it was gained almost entirely in Washington, a city that 80% of Americans now believe has miserably misled and mismanaged the nation.
Since McCain has become the presumptive nominee, I have spoken at more than two dozen Republican gatherings. The sentiment everywhere can best be summarized in the words of one of the activists, “No matter who wins in November, we lose.”
Some pundits are suggesting that because Obama is having difficulty attracting Hillary’s women and Reagan’s Democrats that John McCain could pick them up. Not on the issues he can’t. Hillary’s women are big government feminists who are not going to be particularly impressed with McCain’s commitment to conservatives to appoint Scalia-like judges. (It was a commitment, wasn’t it?)
As for the Reagan Democrats they tend to be socially conservative, economically nationalist, working class white voters. McCain, on the other hand, continues to defend the very trade policies that have sent their jobs overseas. And he further alienated these Americans with his open border immigration policies that depressed their wages with cheap labor and ignored their plight while catering to the 20 million living here illegally.
So if he isn’t going to attract these voters with the issues and we know it won’t be with his charm, how does he do it? He doesn’t. Obama does. ...
Bay goes on to say that Obama must find a way to bring the women who felt "as entitled as Hillary" to the nomination into his tent, and must do the same with Hispanics, who in some parts have tension with African-Americans. And she says he has to return to the spark he somehow lost in between 20,000 screaming fan rallies... OK... she concludes this way:
By November there will be two Obamas. The articulate, attractive, dynamic candidate who inspired the nation with his message of hope and would be the first African American President and the anti-war, left-wing, inexperienced black candidate with a patriotism problem.
It’s all up to Obama now -- and a few 527s.
Obama, I'm not worried about. But Team Obama had better brace themselves for those 527s...
Forgetting what you just said like, three days ago, when age is an issue in your campaign... From Balloon Juice:
McCain, in Louisiana on Tuesday, in front of a lime-green banner:
I commend both Senators Obama and Clinton for the long, hard race they have run. Senator Obama has impressed many Americans with his eloquence and his spirited campaign. Senator Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage. The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received.
John McCain, talking to reporters on Friday:
Holly Bailey and Jon Meacham: Want to back up a little bit and talk about press coverage. One of the things that you mentioned in your speech in New Orleans was that you felt that the media hadn’t recognized or had overlooked some of the attributes that Hillary Clinton had brought to the race. And I wondered—
John McCain:I did not [say that]—that was in prepared remarks, and I did not [say it]—I’m not in the business of commenting on the press and their coverage or not coverage … My supporters and friends can comment all they want about the press coverage, and that’s their right. They’re American citizens. I will not because I believe it’s not a profitable enterprise for me to do so. I can’t change any of the coverage that I know of except to just campaign as hard as I can and try to seek the approval of the majority of my fellow citizens.
John McCain. Straight talk you can believe in.
More "things that are unhelpful":
Campaign surrogates who say the opposite of what you want your message to be, thereby verifying the charge, made by your opponent, which you most want to refute ... From ThinkP:
In a widely-ridiculed speech last Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) noted that “you will hear from my opponent’s campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I’m running for President Bush’s third term. You will hear every policy of the President described as the Bush-McCain policy.” He added that he believes those comparisons are “false.”
But it seems that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), McCain’s chief surrogate and attack dog, disagrees. Today on ABC’s This Week, Graham stated unequivocally that McCain’s tax and health care policies were not only an extension of Bush’s polices but also an “enhancement”:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring Senator Graham back in on this because you brought up two. You said the tax policy and the health care policy were essentially, Senator Graham, John McCain is calling for an extension or maybe enhancement of the Bush policies.
GRAHAM: Yeah, absolutely.
No, Miss Lindsey, absolutely NOT what your man friend wanted you to say.
On NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show today, Time magazine assistant managing editor Michael Duffy said that the renewed attention to the scandal is causing White House lawyers to be “very concerned”:
DUFFY: White House lawyers are concerned, very concerned, now that Scott McClellan’s book has led Henry Waxman and John Conyers to take another look at the Valerie Plame business. There may be hearings. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be called. Just another way in which a Democratic Congress might make a difference during the fall.
Just when you thoughhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gift it was safe to go back on the campaign trail ... courtesy of Wonkette, via Balloon Juice and the rest of the investigative blogosphere, here it is ... the tape ... Team Obama ... doesn't want you to see...
Barack Obama will launch a nationwide tour focused on the economy this week, bringing his unique brand of charisma to small towns and parts of Appalachia that you'd normally expect a Democrat to cede to John McCain. Writes the New York Times today:
WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama’s general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states — from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana — as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.
On Monday, Mr. Obama will travel to North Carolina — a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years — to start a two-week tour of speeches, town hall forums and other appearances intended to highlight differences with Mr. McCain on the economy. From there, he heads to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1996. His first campaign swing after securing the Democratic presidential nomination last week was to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.
With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton now having formally bowed out of the race and thrown her backing to him, Mr. Obama wants to define the faltering economy as the paramount issue facing the country, a task probably made easier by ever-rising gasoline prices and the sharp rise in unemployment the government reported on Friday. Mr. McCain, by contrast, has been emphasizing national security more than any other issue and has made clear that he would like to fight the election primarily on that ground.
Mr. Obama has moved in recent days to transform his primary organization into a general election machine, hiring staff members, sending organizers into important states and preparing a television advertisement campaign to present his views and his biography to millions of Americans who followed the primaries from a distance.
In one telling example, he is moving to hire Aaron Pickrell, the chief political strategist of Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio — who helped steer Mrs. Clinton to victory in that state’s primary — to run his effort against Mr. McCain there. In another, aides said, he has tapped Dan Carroll, an opposition researcher who gained fame digging up information on opponents’ records for Bill Clinton in 1992, to help gather information about Mr. McCain. That is the latest evidence that, for all the talk on both sides about a new kind of politics, the general election campaign is likely to be bloody.
The campaign is apparently also considering hiring Patti Solis Doyle, who ran Hillary's campaign during the chaotic months before she was replaced by Maggie Williams. An interesting choice, but probably smart because Ms. Solis Doyle is Latina. And the article says Michelle Obama will get her own staff which will work on imaging her.
Meanwhile, you've got to believe that Barack has his eyes on those 600,000 unregistered black voters in Georgia, and the millions still unregistered nationwide. I participated in a panel / live town hall meeting in Liberty City yesterday (big ups to Hot 105 and 99 Jams, inclulding Jerry Rushin, Cheryl Mizell, Tracy Cloyd, and the folks from MMAP, John Johnes, Joey Walker etc., for putting on the forum that was broadcast live on both radio stations...) and the key point made by myself and other panelists is that registering African-Americans to vote, and then getting them to the polls, will be key to this campaign.
Hillary Clinton didn't mention it today (and that's a good thing) during her quite wonderful concession speech in Washington, but the question of who really won the popular vote continues to hang over the Democratic contest, if only in the world of pundits. So who won?
Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign in gracious fashion earlier this afternoon, with a speech that was about as good an exegesis about the consequences of politics as I've heard this campaign season. I just watched it on the TiVo, since I was at a community forum in Liberty City with Hot 105 and the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust for most of the morning and afternoon. As to grades, I'd give the speech an "A." Like Al Gore, Hillary gave her best speech at the end.
Hillary declared that though the race had been tough, "the Democratic party is a family." She fully endorsed Obama, drawing a smattering of boos when she first mentioned his name about 6 minutes into the talk. But by the end, she had captured the crowd with the formulation "when we live in a country when (mentions something that must change, like healthcare for all or proper care for veterans,) we will live in a stronger country. And that's why we have to work hard to elect Barack Obama as president." Then, toward the end, came the part about consequences, with an elegant merger with Obama's major theme added for emphasis:
... You know, I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. And during those ... During those 40 years, our country has voted 10 times for president. Democrats won only three of those times, and the man who won two of those elections is with us today. [Ovation for Bill Clinton]
We made tremendous progress during the '90s under a Democratic president, with a flourishing economy and our leadership for peace and security respected around the world.
Just think how much more progress we could have made over the past 40 years if we'd had a Democratic president. Think about the lost opportunities of these past seven years on the environment and the economy, on health care and civil rights, on education, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.
Imagine how far ... we could have come, how much we could have achieved if we had just had a Democrat in the White House.
We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much.
Now, the journey ahead will not be easy. Some will say we can't do it, that it's too hard, we're just not up to the task. But for as long as America has existed, it has been the American way to reject can't-do claims and to choose instead to stretch the boundaries of the possible through hard work, determination, and a pioneering spirit.
It is this belief, this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes, we can!
Hopefully, her die-hard supporters will listen. Two words, sisters: Supreme Court.
I think it's clear that Hillary did everything the Obama team could have wanted her to do today. She offered a sense of triumph and inspiration to her women supporters, particularly those older women who believed this might be their last opportunity to see a woman running the country. To them, she announced that the way had been set for the next woman who runs to go all the way, and for that victory to be rendered unremarkable. She unambiguously declared Obama the winner of a close contest. And she very effectively laid out the consequences of failure. She talked about the challenges of sexism and discrimination, but thankfully, she didn't dwell on it. Instead, she declared that if the highest glass ceiling remains in place in America, "there are 18 million cracks in it" now. By doing so, she secured her place in history as the pace-setter for whoever becomes the first woman president, even if it ultimately is not her.)
In addition, the venue, the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. (which is dedicated to one of my favorite subjects: architecture,) was nothing short of spectacular. (The NBM website's homepage says the venue will be "closed for a special event" on Saturday. Ha!)
I have been a harsh critic of the Clinton campaign, having come into the primary last January as a die-hard Clinton Democrat, who became both incredibly inspired by Barack Obama and sorely disappointed with the negative trajectory of the race, which I feel was driven by the former president and the Senator from New York, as well as by some of her senior advisers. Today, I think Hillary took a step back toward the grace that people like me had long expected of her.
Every so often, the corporation-worshiping Bush-bots at RedState stumble on a grain of truth. Here's your morsel for the week. It's from their section titled, "Barack Obama is like Jesus but cooler"...
The post, "To battle with a metaphor," starts with this Tom Toles Cartoon...
... then goes into the typical RedState blather about how underqualified Barack Obama is supposed to be (this from the people who still think George W. Bush is a fine president...)
Then, comes the kernel of truth:
In the 2008 campaign John McCain is fighting a metaphor not arguing policy or even facts.
Unless he does something to strip away the patina of a transcendent post-racial leader who will usher in the Age of Aquarius from Barack Obama, John McCain will spend election day shouting "where is the outrage?"
The trouble for McCain, is that to strip away said "patina," he would need some really compelling facts. And Johnny Mac has trouble remembering most of his script, can't read the teleprompter, and has thrown out all of his "facts" in favor of the entire idea portfolio of George W. Bush.
Barack Obama, for all the media's obsession with his pastor, enjoys a distinct advantage over John McCain this fall ... okay, he enjoys several of them (his age, vigor, excitement, ability to draw a crowd, fundraising, speaking ability and the fact that he's not super creepy and a lackey of the Bush administration like Johnny Mac...)
But the advantage I'm getting at here is that Barack Obama is a religious man (a Christian, righties, not a Muslim...) and that means he can speak the language of faith in a way that infrequent church-goer McCain cannot. And so...
In a new interview with Dan Gilgoff for BeliefNet's God-o-Meter, DeMoss explains the lack of religious enthusiasm for McCain and predicts a potential major shift to Obama.
You represent some of the nation's most powerful evangelicals. What do those leaders say about McCain?
This is one guy's perspective, but I am surprised by how little I've seen or read in conservative circles about McCain since February. I don't think I've gotten one email or letter or phone call from anybody in America in the last four months saying anything about this election or urging that we unite behind John McCain and put aside whatever differences we have. Back in the fall and winter, you'd get several things a day from conservatives saying, "The future of the Supreme Court is at stake. We have to stop Hillary Clinton. Get behind so and so--or don't' go with this guy." It's just very quiet. It could meant there's a real sense of apathy or it could mean they're' waiting for the general election to begin. But it's a surprise, given the way email networks work now.
Barack Obama is trying hard to win evangelical voters. Does that effort stand a chance?
If one third of white evangelicals voted for Bill Clinton the second time, at the height of Monica Lewinsky mess--that's a statistic I didn't believe at first but I double and triple checked it--I would not be surprised if that many or more voted for Barack Obama in this election. You're seeing some movement among evangelicals as the term [evangelical] has become more pejorative. There's a reaction among some evangelicals to swing out to the left in an effort to prove that evangelicals are really not that right wing. There's some concern that maybe Republicans haven't done that well. And there's this fascination with Barack Obama. So I will not be surprised if he gets one third of the evangelical vote. I wouldn't be surprised if it was 40-percent.
Another issue is that younger Christians, including evangelicals, are beginning to embrace faith issues of the Book of Matthew variety -- issues that broaden the conversation beyond gay marriage and abortion. Those include environmentalism, peace, and caring for the poor. It's interesting that Republican voters and establishment types rejected the one GOP candidate who, like Obama, speaks the language of faith fluently, and whose pleasantnes and communication skills would have made him a fresh, compelling candidate for president: Mike Huckabee. And you know why they dissed the guy who probably could have given Barack a real run for his money? Tax cuts. Huck raised taxes in Arkansas once, and it was the kiss of death from the Club for Growth hard liners.
Give a man a fish, and you still can't stop him from being stupid.
I'll be doing some guest blogging for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, starting in earnest next week. Feel free to give Larry Thorson and the gang a look-see here (or refer to the blogroll.) I know I live in Broward, but Dade is sort of my home away from home... besides, there's nothing going on up here but foreclosures and the price of gas. Maybe someone will wake Broward from the dead before the election is over...
John McCain was against the warrantless wiretapping of Americans ... until he was for it:
The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports that in a recent letter, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, top adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said McCain believes that the Constitution gave President Bush the authority to wiretap Americans “without warrants,” bringing him “into closer alignment” with the Bush administration’s views of executive power.
More from Think Progress here. At the rate that McCain is selling his soul to the Bush-bots in exchange for the keys to the White House, Cindy's family jewels can't be far behind...
There are a lot of things to admire about Hillary Clinton: her tenacity, her killer debate prep, her advocacy for children's healthcare, and many of her pantsuits. But Hillary Clinton is not going to be Barack Obama's vice presidential choice, no matter how badly her supporters may want her to be. Why? Let me count the ways...
1. The primary
Hillary Clinton made such a vehement case against Barack Obama's qualifications to be president, she essentially exempted herself from qualification from the prime directive of the vice presidential candidate: believing that the person you're running with is capable of running the country. The ads featuring the newly minted v.p. attacking her would-be boss would be too juicy to resist for the GOP. Yes, we all know that GHWB called Ronald Reagan's economic policies "voodoo economics" and still wound up on the ticket, but the truth is, Reagan was headed to a landslide, and nobody cared what George Bush Sr. had to say. Barack has a potentially much tighter race on his hands.
2. The oxygen
The Clintons have a way of sucking it up, big time, and as a very senior Republican operative here in South Florida told me today, the best chance John McCain has to win the White House is for Barack Obama to choose Hillary as his running mate. With Hillary on the ticket (and her husband in the proverbial background,) the fall campaign would be A-B-C: all about the Clintons -- Bill's finances, Bill's possible dalliances, Bill lurking around the West Wing, Hillary's 2016 ambitions, and the Clintons' possible machinations behind the president's back. We'd be arguing about them all general election season, and Barack would be left scratching his head, wondering where his narrative went.
3. The weakness
If Barack Obama chooses Hillary, he would have a hell of a time convincing most people, including the press sharks, that he didn't do it under duress, or because he had to, or because he was otherwise certain to lose the "hard working white Pennsylvania vote." By picking her, he looks weak, and she looks like Dirty Harry. Not a good look for a would-be commander in chief.
4. The theme-breaker
In sharp contrast to Barack Obama's theme of breaking with the politics of the past, and forging a new, youthful, energetic American narrative, Hillary Clinton and her husband are a two-person 1990s time capsule. Their entire purpose is to bring back the good old days between 1992 and 1999. By attaching their narrative to his, Barack Obama would forfeit his future-focused campaign for one that inevitably looks backward -- a restoration rather than a refutation of the past. John McCain's people would love that, because then, both campaigns would be fought on a backward-looking narrative, and McCain's meme of choice is the Reagan era. In a battle of the 1980s versus the 1990s, which do you think would win? Maybe we should ask Al Gore.
5. The bottom line
Even if you believe that Hillary could deliver Arkansas, which I doubt, the other states she supposedly locks down for Barack are ones that he damned well better be able to lock down on his own: Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio... and I see no evidence that she hand-delivers states like West Virginia and Indiana, where recalcitrant white voters recoil from anything but a Republican who promises to further impoverish them. With or without Hillary, Obama probably can't win those states. Florida is the only state where Hillary makes a strong case that she helps make him more competitive against John McCain, and the costs of doing business with her out-weigh the potential benefit of having her deliver the sunshine state. At the end of the day, if Hillary is a team player, she will help deliver Florida anyway, without being on the ticket. Besides, the key to winning Florida will be maximizing the black vote in the two most populous counties in the state: Miami-Dade and Broward. That's how Bill Clinton pulled it off (along with attracting a larger than normal share of Cuban-Americans, which Barack is doing on his own with his policy of allowing more family visitation to Cuba.) Clearly, after the kind of primary the Clintons ran, they can't do a damned thing to help Barack with black turnout, in or out of Florida.
With apologies to Hillary fans, what Barack Obama needs is a white guy with a drawl of some kind, preferably with military or executive governing experience, or extreme popularity in a key swing state. He can't pick Jim Webb because of his past, harsh words for women, but someone Webb-like would work for him. I still like Chuck Hagel the best, because he reinforces Barack's message about reaching across the aisle. But there's also Wes Clark (even though he's much, much shorter than Barack), or Montana's Schweitzer, or Ohio's Strickland or even Joe Biden. If he goes the woman route, he could roll with Kansas' Kathleen Sebelius, or skip the woman as ticket-mate and choose someone with a really popular wife (John Edwards comes to mind, though he has apparently taken himself out of the running...)
But Hillary Clinton it will not, and should not, be.
U.S. unemployment keeps tacking upward, suggesting that we are in, or very near, a very real recession. From CBS Marketwatch:
The U.S. unemployment rate jumped by a half percentage point to 5.5% in May on the biggest increase in seasonally adjusted unemployment in 33 years, the Labor Department reported Friday. Nonfarm payrolls fell by 49,000 in May, the fifth consecutive decrease and in line with expectations of economists. The economy has lost 324,000 jobs so far this year. Unemployment rose by 861,000 to 8.5 million, the government said. The 0.5 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate was a shock, as economists expected a much smaller 0.1 percentage point gain to 5.1%. The jobless rate is the highest since October 2004. It was the biggest percentage point gain in unemployment since 1986.
The folks on CNBC's "Squawkbox" yesterday were hoping for a slight job GAIN. I guess you could say they were a bit off base.
The hardest hit sectors aren't surprising: retail (nobody's buying jack, not even with the stimulus checks -- those are going in the gas tank and to the grocery store, if not to bill collectors...) along with manufacturers, homebuilders and airlines.
Bush is finally right: this really IS like World War II !!!
For the first time since the 1940s, Americans' net equity in our homes is negative.
NEW YORK - The equity Americans have in their most important asset — their homes — has dropped to its lowest level since the end of World War II.
Homeowners’ portion of equity slipped to 46.2 percent in the first quarter from a revised 47.5 percent in the previous quarter. That was the fifth quarter in a row below the 50 percent mark, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.
The total dollar value of equity also fell for the fourth straight quarter to $9.12 trillion from $9.52 trillion in the fourth quarter, while Americans’ total mortgage debt rose to $10.6 trillion from $10.53 trillion.
You're starting to see the abandoned homes strewn around even this very suburban, once booming neighborhood, meaning that people have mailed the keys to the bank and walked away, leaving an overgrown lawn, and sometimes a purposefully damaged property. Thanks for everything, George.
Then, she and Obama faked out the press corps twice -- once by ditching them on Obama's press plane, and then by forcing all the cable nets to camp outside Hillary's D.C. area home, while the two Senators met privately somewhere else.
Clearly, the adults are back in charge of Hillaryland.
Howard Dean, who many Democrats, myself included, have considered to be a dismal failure as DNC president (his pitiful fundraising being the biggest problem, which is ironic because he was the Obama of fundraising before Obama was the Obama of fundraising... but also his over-sanctioning of Fla or) will keep his job under the new boss, Barack Obama. But Obama exacted a price: the DNC will now have to live by the same rules as his own campaign: no money from PACs or federal lobbyists.
Dean probably was advantaged by being outside the Clinton orbit (where Terry McAuliffe, Don Fowler and other former chairmen reside.) He also scores a victory for his 50 state strategy, which D.C. insiders hate (they like the swing state strategy that focuses resources on about 17 states, the way my old outfit under Harold Ickes, ACT, did in 2004). But Dean clearly believes in his strategy, which is similar to Obama's, of building strong party infrastructure in all 50 states, red or blue, for the long term benefit of the party, and the short term benefit to down-ticket races. He was proved right three times this year, in Mississippi, Louisiana and Dennis Hastert's former district in Illinois.
And this is one more indication that the Clinton name is being unscrewed from the Democratic dressing room door.
Today, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most ... active ... Clintonista in the Sunshine State, signed onto the following statement endorsing Barack Obama:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
June 5, 2008
Washington, DC – Florida Congressional Representatives Alcee L. Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kendrick B. Meek, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued the following statement today endorsing Barack Obama for President:
“It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we endorse Barack Obama for President.
“We are looking forward to working with Senator Obama in the days, weeks, and months ahead. America cannot afford another four years of failed Republican leadership, and we are committed to doing anything and everything in our power to ensure that Barack Obama is elected the next President of the United States.
“We also ask Shttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifenator Obama to do everything in his power to see to it that Florida has a full delegation to the Democratic National Convention with full voting rights.
“We congratulate Senator Clinton for a hard-fought campaign. Never in our lifetimes did we think that we would have the choice of a woman or an African American for the office of the presidency. We hope Americans realize how much the two of them have done for our country during this campaign. America is, indeed, a better place for having the two of them run for the highest office in the land.
“Recent elections have shown that the path to the presidency passes directly through Florida. Florida is in play this November and we invite Senator Obama and Senator Clinton to come to Florida to join us in events across the state from Key West to Pensacola and beyond. All of us standing on one stage, hand-in-hand will send a clear message to Florida voters that regardless of who we previously supported, we stand united and as one from this day forward.”
So why did we learn today, as I heard from someone on the Hill, that Debbie is also behind the following effort to strong-arm the presumptive nominee?
embers of Congress who support Clinton are weighing a joint letter to Senator Barack Obama pressing him to put Clinton on the ticket, a congressional aide confirmed.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida has suggested the letter, which would aim to represent the voices of female members of congress and those from swing states and key demographic groups.
The letter hasn't been drafted yet, though, and as with much of the day's vice presidential buzz, Clinton's supporters seem to be pressing ahead in the absence of clear direction from the candidate, who is meeting with her top advisors -- though not her husband --at her Arlington headquarters today.
"It’s still sort of in the premature stage of whether it’s going to happen or not," said John Bowman, Wasserman-Schultz's chief of staff. "She’s mentioned the idea but it hasn’t gone further."
Surely by now, Deb has caught a bit of cable news and analysis, and has figured out that this unsubtle approach is not only off-putting to the Obama camp, it's also bad for her (still) preferred candidate, Mrs. Clinton. It makes her look desperate, and it makes her look pushy -- not the best audition for a job she had scant chance of getting in the first place...
More on the machinations by Debbie and her Louise, Stephanie Tubbs Jones:
At a moment when Democrats would be expected to be rejoicing over the historic significance of Obama’s victory, any sense of joy seemed to be drowned out by competing messages from factions of lawmakers who have been warring for months.
In one corner of the House, female lawmakers such as Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) were planning to write a letter demanding that Clinton be on the presidential ticket.
“There are a lot of members of Congress who feel this way,” Wasserman Schultz said. “That way, we can maximize party unity and the odds of winning the election. They balance each other out in every way. They’re the dynamic duo. They really are.”
In another corner, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) declared that the Congressional Black Caucus should stay out of the business of pushing for a vice presidential nominee.
And in the Senate, Clinton and Obama surrogates talked respectfully about helping the party heal itself — yet Democrats disagreed over exactly how that should happen.
“The question now is: How do we integrate the supporters on both sides?” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a Clinton supporter. “But I think the winning side should do the reaching outhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif. They have to make sure they reach out to Clinton supporters to solidify the Democratic Party.”
Menendez, like other Clinton backers, said the vice presidential nod would seal the deal.
This is the height of hypocrisy. Miss Debbie is overstepping her mark, and combined with Stephanie Tubbs Jones latest TV performance today, saying that it's up to the Obama people to "welcome the Clinton backers in," you've got to think that these women are losing the plot.
The Ohio governor, and probably veep contender, also made the switch from HRC to BHO today. Strickland's office released this statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 5, 2008
Governor Ted Strickland issued the following statement this afternoon:
"Today, I announce my wholehearted and enthusiastic support for Barack Obama for President of the United States.
Earlier today I talked with Sen. Hillary Clinton. I thanked her for her friendship and the strong effort she put forth in this historic campaign. I pledged to work with her to unify the party and to make sure that Barack Obama wins the presidency.
Ohioans have suffered as a result of the failed policies of the Bush Administration, including job loss as a result of rising fuel prices. Ohioans desperately want real, meaningful change. And I believe Barack Obama will bring that change."
Five accused terror suspects, including accused 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (who also murdered WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl) began their, well I don't think you can call it a trial ... today in Gitmo. Bloomberg sez:
elf-proclaimed al-Qaeda commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, he would welcome the martyrdom of execution for masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
``This is what I wish,'' Mohammed, speaking in English, told a judge who warned that he might be executed if convicted. ``I am looking to be martyred for a long time.'' Mohammed said he was rejecting legal representation and will defend himself. ``Nothing shall befall us, save for what Allah has ordained for us.''
Mohammed, 43, identified in the 9/11 Commission report as the ``principal architect'' of the strikes, is accused of murder with four co-defendants who also appeared in court. The charges carry the death penalty. Mohammed said he and his co-defendants were tortured following their capture by U.S. forces and now face a proceeding that ``is inquisition, it is not trial.''
``After torturing, they transferred us to inquisitionland in Guantanamo,'' said Mohammed. ``We don't have a right to anything.''
The five defendants are charged with conspiring to finance, train and direct the 19 hijackers who seized four airliners used in the attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon outside Washington. They are charged in the deaths of 2,973 people killed in the attacks and the crash of one airliner in Pennsylvania.
Translated to Arabic
The men spoke to each other and laughed as they pointed to reporters seated in a glassed-in spectators' gallery. ``It seemed to be a reunion'' of the suspects, Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, who represents Ramzi Binalshibh, 36, told reporters during a break.
Lachelier said it was her ``impression'' that Mohammed was orchestrating his co-defendants to refuse counsel. Binalshibh was the only defendant to sit in court with his legs shackled to a bolt in the courtroom floor, a restraint Lachelier said is ``protocol'' for a detainee who is medicated. A court order forbids disclosure of the drug or why he is taking it, she said.
Trial judge Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann repeatedly warned civilian defense lawyers to be seated and admonished them for being argumentative.
``Don't ever interrupt me,'' he told one defense lawyer, Thomas A. Durkin, who also represents Binalshibh. ``You are way off point.''
A story in the UK Independent reveals a secret plan by the Bush administration to lash the next U.S. president to his Iraq policy, and maybe the president after that, too...
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.
The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.
The Independent digs into the details of the "deal":
The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.
The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.
Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.
The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.
Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.
This is a breathtaking step by a brazen administration. What does Congress plan to do about it?
I'm probably very slow on the uptake but a pollster friend of mine just hipped me to a great blog called fivethirtyeight.com. It's chock full of poll data, analysis and all the other stuff we political junkies love. The specific link was to this post, which puts forward a pretty darned good argument for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as an Obama veep possibility. (I still like Chuck Hagel, though I know a lot of people who are pushing for the "Abercrombie and Fitch ticket" (Obama, Edwards)...)
There's a thing in politics that you might call "the pivot." It's when you're on what might be an unpopular side of an issue, and then, as if by magic, you're on the right side (or the same side as your constituents, or more to the point, the winning side...) I just got a tip that the Florida Democratic delegation, all of whom were Clinton backers, will endorse Barack Obama en masse today. There will be no press availability (and no questions), just a statement.
The delegation includes three Congressional Black Caucus members, Kendrick Meek, whose district went 55% to 40% for Barack, Corinne Brown, whose district favored Obama 58.1% to 30% and Alcee Hastings, whose district was Obamafied by a 52.1% to 41.2% margin, all of whom will make the switch, along with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the most vigorous of the Florida Clinton backers (with the possible exception of Brown), whose district is the only one of the four to favor Mrs. Clinton (62.7% to 25.3%). (I also hear that Wasserman Schultz is part of a letter campaign coming from inside Congress to try and shoehorn Hillary onto the ticket as Obama's vice president. Note to whoever: that's what you might call "unhelpful.")
The other members of the delegation include Kathy Castor, who was already for Obama. Robert Wexler is not only already an Obama endorser, he's the official "Obama Guy," and the man who stole the show at Saturday'http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifs Rules Committee meeting... Sen. Bill Nelson, who was for Clinton, and Ron Klein (Boca) and Tim Mahoney (Palm Beach Gardens) were still uncommitted as of Monday.
The Florida switch will be interesting news in the black community, where just today, a prominent Democratic activist told me they were planning to write an op-ed piece demanding that the black members respect the votes of their districts (just to show that turnabout is fair play, Robert Wexler's district favored Hillary in the primary, and he's taking some heat from some older, Jewish voters there for supporting Barack ...)
Georgia's John Lewis, who made a pain-filled switch to Obama earlier this year, has been all over TV as a born-again Obama supporter. He is the logical choice to introduce Barack at the nominating convention, where Obama will give his acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. By switching earlier in the year, he fended off a primary challenge, tamped down a revolt among voters in his district, and had to say no to longtime friend Bill Clinton.
The pressure has always been on HRC's black supporters, though the really beligerent ones like Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio caught the most flak. Charlie Rangel I think has gotten a pass, because he was the one who pushed Hillary to run for the Senate in the first place, and probably for the White House, and because the New York delegation made its endorsement of her as a NY "favorite daughter" and as a group. There was no one left hanging out there. But I can't tell you how much grumbling I've heard and read online about the others.
Now, they start trying to put the primary behind them, as Mrs. Clinton does too.
UPDATE: The endorsement statement, from Corinne Brown, Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been released. It reads in part:
“It is with enthusiasm and excitement that we endorse Barack Obama for president.
“We are looking forward to working with Senator Obama in the days, weeks, and months ahead. America cannot afford another four years of failed Republican leadership, and we are committed to doing anything and everything in our power to ensure that Barack Obama is elected the next President of the United States.
“We also ask Senator Obama to do everything in his power to see to it that Florida has a full delegation to the Democratic National Convention with full voting rights.
“We congratulate Senator Clinton for a hard-fought campaign. Never in our lifetimes did we think that we would have the choice of a woman or an African American for the office of the presidency. We hope Americans realize how much the two of them have done for our country during this campaign. America is, indeed, a better place for having the two of them run for the highest office in the land.
Barack Obama has assembled his vice presidential search team, which includes former Clinton deputy A.G. Eric Holder, veteran veep vetter Jim Johnson, and newfound pal Caroline Kennedy (whom I wouldn't surprised will confer at least some time with her uncle Ted.) I said it before, and say it again, Hillary won't make the final cut. Now, the WSJ has another reason, and it shows that Team Obama does indeed know how to play this game:
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, who refused to concede after Sen. Barack Obama claimed the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, will do so Saturday, two top advisers said. Close supporters suggested she would like to be his running mate, on a unity ticket.
But close advisers to Sen. Obama signaled an Obama-Clinton ticket was highly unlikely. People in both camps cited what several called "a deal-breaker" -- Bill Clinton may balk at releasing records of his business dealings and big donors to his presidential library.
So the answer to Clintonistas is, "OK, you want on the ticket? Show me your husband's financials."
Finally, after months of being mathematically eliminated from the Democratic nomination for president, after race-baiting, fictional sniper fire, hard-working white people, angry white women, big wins in states that couldn't get her closer to the nomination, dubious Osama bin Laden references, the red phone ad, even more dubious assassination references, the Michigan and Florida compromises, Harriet Christian, Barack reaching the magic number plus more than 100 and 24 hours after the worst ... non-concession ... speech ... ever ... Hillary Clinton will finally suspend her wheels-off-the-tracks campaign, mercifully, on Friday. The New York Times reports tonight:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Friday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her on Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said she would “express her support for Senator Obama and party unity” at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said that Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory.
Her decision came after a day of conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about her future now that Mr. Obama had clinched the nomination. Mrs. Clinton had, in a speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, suggested that she wanted to wait before deciding about her future, but in conversations throughout the day on Wednesday, her aides said, she was urged to step aside.
“We pledged to support her to the end,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who has been a patron of Mrs. Clinton since she first ran for the Senate. “Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.” ...
Rep. Rangel was apparently one of the prime movers in pushing Mrs. Clinton out of the race. He was visibly angry in an interview with NBC News today, and according to Andrea Mitchell, he told Hillary point blank, along with 23 fellow members of Congress, that she had erred last night in not acknowledging that Barack had reached the number of delegates needed to seal the nomination. Mitchell reported that members were approaching Obama repeatedly on Capitol Hill today and telling him they wanted to move over to him (as many undecided supers are rushing to do before the train is so far out of the station it becomes a puff of smoke,) but Hillary wouldn't release them to switch their endorsement. And Howard Fineman reported that there was a subsequent conference call arranged, no less, by senior Clinton advisers, on which eight senior Senators, presumably including Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Barbara McCulsky and Diane Feinstein, told Hillary it was time to go.
A bit more from the Times:
The desire of the party for Mrs. Clinton to leave the race was signaled — if politely as four top Democratic leaders issued a statement on Wednesday morning asking all uncommitted delegates to make their decisions by Friday. The statement from the party officials — Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker; Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — stopped short of endorsing Mr. Obama, but aides said they would likely move in that direction if Mrs. Clinton lingered in the race.
“The voters have spoken,” they said in their joint statement released before 7 a.m., purposefully timed to set the tone for the day after the election. “Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election.”
Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat with close ties to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton who had kept studiously neutral throughout the presidential contest, said in an interview that he was “coming out from my desk” to endorse Mr. Obama. “The fact is that he is the nominee,” Mr. Emanuel said
He seemed quizzical at the slowness of Mrs. Clinton’s decision not to acknowledge this. “You don’t answer about whether you want to be about vice president unless there’s no doubt in your mind that he is the nominee,” he said, referring to Mrs. Clinton’s initial reluctance to congratulate Mr. Obama, noting that she told supporters she would be open to be vice president, if Mr. Obama wanted her.
Mrs. Clinton’s initial ambivalence about her future in her speech on Tuesday night stirred concern among some of her top supporters.
“By the time she got on that podium last night, she knew it was over and that she had lost,” Hillary Rosen, one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prominent women supporters, wrote on the Huffington Post Web site. “I am sure I was not alone in privately urging the campaign over the last two weeks to use the moment to take her due, pass the torch and cement her grace.”
Now, Hillary will get a second shot at that moment. Unfortunately, it will have been forced upon her.
UPDATE: Keith Olbermann just reported that Hillary will make some sort of concession-like announcement to her senior staff at her home in D.C. on Friday, followed by a bigger public event on Saturday.
During a radio appearance today, I made the point that the problem with Hillary Clinton's performance last night has little to do with Barack Obama. I don't believe the hype that "most" of her supporters are so distraught that they will vote for John McCain in November. Most of the 17-plus million people who supported Hillary Clinton in the primary are firm Democrats, who will vote for the party's nominee in the fall. Many are older women -- the party's strongest voting base -- and they will support the Democrat over anti-choice, Supreme Court threatening Republican John McCain.
But there are those bitter-enders out there who are determined to go over the edge for Hillary, writing in her name, voting for McCain or not voting at all, just to punish the Democrats for not picking their girl. Some of these older, white women are, like the notorious Harriet Christian, in true blue states like New York, so we're more than happy to lose them. (Nobody likes a bitter pill.) Others, are in red states where they will simply be joining the majority, and thus will have no impact on the results. To them, we bid a fond "adieu." But there is a small group of dead-enders who DO matter, because they're in key swing states, and like Ralph Nader voters, if enough of them get together, they could do some electoral damage.
These are the voters Hillary Clinton is responsible for and to. Only she can truly talk them down off the ledge. Last night, Hillary missed a golden opportunity to begin to administer that much-needed therapy. She missed the opportunity to end her campaign with the ultimate act of grace and class, by beginning the process of telling her supporters the hard truth, followed by the soft turn toward the real importance of this election, and of at least giving Barack Opportunity the chance to be heard. (Ironically, Hillary tried to do just that with Israel partisans at AIPAC today, but Barack didn't need the help. He got an overwhelming ovation...)
By squandering that opportunity, Hillary diminished herself last night. She disappointed many of her strongest partisans -- people like Hillary Rosen (the non-supporter, supporter, who was on CNN after she wasn't on MSNBC...)
| , and she made herself look small, out of touch with reality, and, well, bitter. And she is tacitly allowing her dejected followers to continue to feel like the ultimate victims. And I'm not sure how bitterness and victimization fit into the feminist message. Actually, I'm pretty sure they don't.
You wouldn't catch Indira Ghandi whining about the sexist media, or Margaret Thatcher clinging to the drapes as they try to drag her off the stage.
This is no way to end a campaign, Mrs. Clinton -- a very nearly successful one at that. It's hard to believe it reading this blog, but I came into this election as a die-hard Bill Clinton fan, a longtime Clinton supporter, and someone who said in 2004 that if she ran for president that year, or this year, I'd quit whatever I was doing to go and work for her. But once Barack Obama made the case to me last summer, I got the chance to take a step back and see the Clintons the way non-Clintonites saw them. For the first time, I didn't like what I saw. I like it even less the more I see, hear and read about them. And last night, I had not love for Hillary at all.
As I said to the radio audience this afternoon, it's time for Mrs. Clinton to go. If not for her country's sake, than for her own.
Meanwhile, Gary Hart, whom my sister and I went door to door for in Colorado when I was in junior high school, has some good advice for Mrs. Clinton:
When he did finally abandon his push for the nomination, Mr. Hart was quick to embrace his rival. It was easy, he said, because he’d been fond of and friendly with Mr. Mondale in the decade before the campaign—and had even recommended him to Jimmy Carter’s vice presidential search committee in 1976. But he admits that his own political future entered into his thinking.
“I was going to have a future in the party, even if Mondale won,” he said, “so there was no interest on my part in being a dog in the manger.”
At the convention, Mr. Hart’s name was entered into nomination, but when Mr. Mondale went over the top, Mr. Hart immediately asked that his name be withdrawn and that Mr. Mondale be nominated by acclamation. The next morning, he met with Mr. Mondale, promised to vigorously campaign for him, and then went out and did just that—totaling, by his count, 50 to 60 campaign stops for his former foe in the fall.
“I think she’s got to do the same,” Mr. Hart said. “Whatever happens, she has to do her best to get Barack Obama elected president. She can’t pull punches or be cute about it. She’s got to work hard.”
And, he added, even if she suspends her campaign beforehand, she should keep an eye on her delegates at the convention: “It’s not in her interest, and I would think her key supporters would want to keep from happening in Denver what happened at that [DNC] meeting in Washington, D.C. It’s a black eye for her. These people might think they’re helping her, but they’re not.”
Hart, back in 1984, was in as strong a challengers position as Hillary is now, if not stronger. He closed by winning California, not Puerto Rico, and he took other big states from Mondale, and was the Obama of his generation -- younger, good looking, a "fresh face" and change candidate. And he would have done much better in the general election than Walter Mondale. In the end, he didn't fight to the death. And he wasn't un-gracious. It worked for him. Monkey Business aside, Hart is a respected, sought after figure in the party, not an angry spoiler.
Surprise, surprise, it was our friendly neighborhood taper, Mayhill Fowler who caught Bill Clinton on tape calling a Vanity Fair reporter a "scumbag." Note to pols: when you see Mayhill coming, go directly to your talking points. She's wired.
What's it going to take to make Bob Johnson shut up?
Black Exploitation Television founder Bob Johnson continues to be an embarrassment, most recently as regards his support for defeated presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Bob's latest hit? He has written to SC Congressman Jim Clyburn to ask for ... well ... a little favor:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Billionaire businessman Bob Johnson, a close adviser and friend to Sen. Hillary Clinton , launched a campaign Wednesday to persuade Sen. Barack Obama to offer the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket to Clinton.
Johnson told CNN's "American Morning" that Clinton knows about his push but "she didn't direct me to do it."
A day after the final two primaries, Johnson sent a letter to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Wednesday to lobby the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Clinton as Obama's running mate. He said it needs to be done for the sake of party unity.
"There's no question that Sen. Clinton will do whatever she's asked to do for the party and she will certainly … entertain the idea if it's offered," Johnson said.
In his letter directed at the Congressional Black Caucus, Johnson wrote:
"As African Americans we agree that the stakes in this election are far too high to take any chances that this party will not be unified from the top to the bottom in our effort to gain control of The White House." ...
... "You know as well as I the deep affection that millions of African Americans hold for both Senator Clinton and President Clinton. … But most important, we need to have the certainty of winning; and, I believe, without question, that Barack Obama as President and Hillary Clinton as Vice President bring that certainty to the ticket."
Johnson, who founded Black Entertainment Television, also owns the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team.
He told CNN he was not trying to limit Obama's options, or force him to pick Clinton.
"My letter was not a pressure letter," he said. "This is Sen. Obama's decision.
"If the Congress members can come together and agree as I do that it would be in the best interest of the party to have Sen. Clinton on the ticket, they carry that petition to Sen. Obama," he said.
"This is not a pressure. This is elected officials giving their best judgment."
So Bob wants Hillary to join the ticket of a man he once derided as a drug dealer? Seriously? And he thinks that ... what ... pro-Clinton Congressional Black Caucus members (of whom Clyburn is certainly NOT ONE ... he's been clearly pro-Obama the whole way and formally endorsed him this week) have some sort of leverage with the Obama campaign? Signs point to "no," Bob. Go back to exploiting Black college kids and playing low-brow music videos, you know, the things you do best. Politics is just not your bag. |
The three speeches tonight couldn't have been more different. John McCain was downright creepy in New Orleans with that ghoulish laugh every few bars... his speech, which was supposed to be about REAL change, was so boring, I must admit I fast forwarded through much of it. But I got the drift: "welcome to the general election, punk."
Hillary gave absolutely nothing to the cause of party unity. Stunningly, she continued to call herself the more electable candidate, maintained that she's the real winner (of the fictitious popular vote,) and could barely manage a kind word for Barack as she spoke to supporters in a sensory deprivation chamber in the basement of a New York college (so that no one could get cellphone or Blackberry service and find out that Barack had clinched the nomination...) She did not acknowledge that Obama has clinched the nomination, and she essentially threatened to hold him up unless she gets whatever it is she wants (bullying her way onto the ticket? Not a good look, and not a good way to deal with the man who could be the next president...) Text of Hillary's speech here.
Meanwhile, Barack was gracious to a fault, praising Hillary for more than three minutes, even praising Bill Clinton and his administration, after all the barbs the former president has thrown at him, and delivering a truly soaring speech capped with the theme: "it's our time." Read the full text here.
He did get in a good couple of swings at McCain, including saying that he honored and respected McCain's experience "even if he chooses to discount mine." And he stated that change may mean many things, but staying in Iraq for 100 years isn't one of them.
Meanwhile, EUR Web compiles a couple of reports that suggest that when Hillary finally exits the stage, she plans to mug Barack on the way to her dressing room, in part, on behalf of her Black elected supporters, many of whom, including Kendrick Meek of Miami, Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), Sheila Jackon Lee of Texas, Gregory Meeks of New York and others, were on stage with her tonight:
We've also learned that part of the process calls for Obama to help payoff Clinton's campaign debt which is estimated to be between $20 and $40 million dollars.
Apparently, once that happens Clinton is prepared to step aside and put in place plans to endorse Obama. To that extent, it's being reported that she has asked her key donors and backers to be in New York city tonight where she is expected to make a speech to announce the above items.
The Huffington Post.com says that "Obama and Clinton spoke Sunday night and agreed that their staffs should begin negotiations over post-primary activities, according to reliable sources. In addition to seeking Obama's help in raising money to pay off debts, Clinton wants Obama to assist black officials who endorsed her and who are now taking constituent heat, including, in some cases, primary challenges from pro-Obama politicians."
“It’s not about the vice-presidency or any other position she might get. It’s about the money – in particular the Clinton family money,” a source close to a Clinton donor told the UK's Telegraph.
I'll be interested to see how much of her Christmas list she gets.
Mark Nicholas picks up on the Chris Matthews reference to Desmond Tutu, and his reaction to the peculiar American drama regarding race. And he links to the Tutu op-ed that says it all:
When I first came to this country in '72, I was quite shaken, actually, by the intensity of feeling that African-Americans had. And I said I couldn't understand: Why are they so bitter, why are they so angry?
There, in South Africa (under apartheid), they told you, "You're nothing, and we're going to treat you like the nothing you are. And don't ever hope to think that you have a chance of being treated differently."
Here, you say to them, "You're equal, and the sky's the limit." And they keep bumping their heads against this thing that's stopping them from reaching out to the stars. And so I understood that it was the illusion of equality -- which is still the case.
You've got all of that going against you, and yet you produce (Obama). Where else in the world would you ever have had anything like that? I mean an African-American being not just a credible candidate but one who has galvanized -- I mean, the number of young people who have come out and said, "Yes, we think it is actually possible to have a different kind of society." Only here.
AP's count says Barack Obama has reached the magic number. The candidate is expected to acknowledge the same tonight in Minneapolis (where the GOP will try to avoid all references to Larry Craig during their nominating convention in September ... ahem...)
UPDATE: The big news I actually almost forgot to mention (which I suppose is a mark of progress,) is that for the first time in America's history, just 143 years after this country fought a civil war, largely over the issue of slavery, an African-American is heading the ticket of not just any major party, but the very party that once worked hardest to keep black people in chains.
Hillary Clinton has a lot of power this week, to shape the psychology of her most fervent supporters -- the ones who aren't core Democrats enough to go with whomever is the nominee, the older, white women who are bitter, angry, passionate and enraged that she has been "denied" (never mind the mistakes made by her own campaign, the 11 straight losses after Super Tuesday, and those damned caucus states) the nomination for president.) What she does over the next several days will matter, not so much for Barack Obama, who I believe will win a majority of the women's vote regardless of the Clinton dead-enders, but to those women themselves, who have put everything -- and I mean everything -- into her campaign. For Obama, she can make this easy, or she can make it difficult. She can bow out gracefully, or she and her supporters can go out ugly, but make no mistkae. Tonight, like it or not, it ends.
WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton told colleagues Tuesday she would be consider joining Barack Obama as his running mate.
On a conference call with other New York lawmakers, Clinton, a New York senator, said she was willing to become Obama's vice presidential nominee if it would help Democrats win the White House, according to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak for Clinton.
Advisers for Clinton are also indicating that the former first lady is withholding a formal departure from the race partly to use her remaining leverage to press for a spot on the ticket. ...
Well that depends on what the meaning of "press" is.
I was on the radio this afternoon with my mentor, James T (Hot 105 FM Miami) and when asked whether she would be on the ticket, I gave an emphatic "no." (Hey, it was a one-word answer request.) I continue to take the Nancy Pelosi view, that a joint ticket will not happen, and from a messaging point of view, makes no sense for Barack. But if Camp Clinton decides to play hardball, and attempts to railroad her onto the ticket in August, that, my friends, would be ugly, ugly, ugly.
And I don't think it would work. What it would do is tarnish the Clinton name within the Democratic party, maybe forever. James has made the very good point that if Obama is a strong man who knows who he is, he should be able to handle a strong vice president (and her husband). I agree. But I think Obama has to be allowed to make a fresh start -- to write his own chapter in Democratic history, without dragging her and her husband's vast library behind him. He needs to be, to quote Al Gore, his "own man," free from the Clinton legacy. Already, Washington is shaking off that legacy; as the "Hardball" crew just pointed out, when Howard Dean beat Clinton guy Donnie Fowler for DNC chair in 2005 and when Nancy Pelosi and not a Clinton loyalist became Speaker of the House, the race was on the close the door behind the Clinton family.
I think that door, for now, needs to remain closed. Bill Clinton needs to get about the work of rebuilding his legacy, particularly his tremendous work on global philanthropy. Hillary needs to find an identity apart from the White House. And America needs to take a big gulp of fresh air, free from the Bushes (mercifully) and -- and I say this with sadness, not with relish, because I always really liked and respected Bill -- free from the Clintons.
A wise Obama operative recently said to me that the importance of a 50-state election strategy is not some pie-in-the-sky belief that your candidate can run the table, but rather, the importance of having a campaign in every state where you think you can make some gains down the ticket. As this operative put it, "when you're president, you want to have as many friends (in Congress) as possible.
Well, when you're the presumptive nominee, you also gain a lot of friends you didn't think you have.
Eleven of the nation's governors will have to perform some political sleight of hand now that Barack Obama has effectively clinched the Democratic nomination for president. After months of supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton, they will have to convince voters they're just as happy with her rival.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland repeatedly has said Obama is less experienced than Clinton. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said the election was not about choosing a rock star.
"He needs a little more seasoning," Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas said at a rally last August where he announced his endorsement of Clinton.
Nonetheless, an Associated Press tally of convention delegates found that Obama had effectively locked up the nomination as of Tuesday.
Other governors supporting Clinton include Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, along with the chief executives of Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York and North Carolina.
Obama also has 11 Democratic governors, including Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, frequently mentioned as a possible running mate.
She tried to minimize the downside of switching candidates.
"Every colleague that I have in this country will do everything he or she can to make sure we have a Democratic president," Sebelius said.
Six other Democratic leaders are uncommitted, among them Govs. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Brian Schweitzer of Montana.
All aboard, folks. The train, she is leaving the station.
South Dakota and Montana close it out for Barack tonight. |
What is with this affinity between Hillary Clinton's campaign and Fox News? Her most ... um ... nutty?... supporter, Harriet Christian, went right to the Faux News Channel to explain herself after her racially-charged rant following Saturday's Democratic Rules Committee meeting.
During the interview with Neil Cavuto, Harriet adds to her "inadequate black man" comment, parroting the Fox talking points about Reverend Wright, and adding her insight that "99 percent of the blacks don't even know why they are voting for him" (Obama) and then states that she, on the other hand, does know why: because he's black! Harriet fails to explain the irony of her supporting Hillary primarily because she's a woman, adding instead that she very much wanted to see a woman president in her lifetime ... Harriet also claims that because she somehow, opaquely, "worked for civil rights," she is "the furthest thing from a racist." Whatever gets you through the night, dear. Incredibly, Ms. Christian, who apparently now is a John McCain supporter, blythely dismisses the importance of the Supreme Court as an issue for her as a woman. She intends to support McCain, Court be damned, unless her choice, Hillary Clinton, is made the Democratic nominee. Harriet does say that she would support a ticket with Hillary at the top, and Barack at the bottom, "because then, Hillary would be running the country, and not Obama."
Meanwhile, one of her homies claims she really isn't nuts. And in doing so, Will Bower proves that he's as loony as she is:
I have a confession to make. It was I who encouraged Harriet to stay and to face the cameras. Each time she wanted to storm from the lobby in a fiery exeunt, it was I who stopped her, consoled her, turned her around, and told her "Your anger needs to be heard, friend. Don't stop."
Did I think that she could have been more coherent at first? Yes, I did. Did I feel that she was flirting with the edge of reason? Yes, I did. Would I have had her change a thing? No, I wouldn't.
I would like to add that I don't condone any correlation between the words "black" and "inadequate." It is my belief that she was not *equating* "black" with "inadequate." I believe she was saying that *Obama* is inadequate, and that he is where he is because of affirmative action tactics -- much as Geraldine Ferraro has said, and not unlike Joe Biden's misspeak last year. Again, though, not words I personally would have ever chosen.
Many have criticized Harriet for what is being categorized as her "circus antics." What they call "antics," I call the red blood of Democracy. She was angry. She was angry as I was angry. We were angry as thousands of people were angry. That anger needed a voice that wasn't couched behind cold, intellectually dishonest reason.
he DNC had committed an act of war, and Harriet was firing back with bullets of passion. Was she the best marksman? Perhaps not. But did she reveal to America the depth of frustration that many, many people are feeling right now? That she did. ...
Montana and South Dakota bring up the electoral rear today, with polls closing at 10 p.m. Eastern time. So will Hill fold up her tents after tonight? Don't go to Vegas and put money on it. But I do believe what I have been told about her campaign being effectively over as of Friday. No advance staff means no travel. And I've been on the business end of a campaign directive to "get your expense reports in by (date)" the implication being, after that, good luck getting your money. (I won't even go into the hot mess that was the end of ACT's South Florida campaign offices... (stomach gurgling...) ... you really don't want to know...)
But in the end, I'm looking for Hillary to make a fairly gracious, but non-committal statement at the end of today, and to make no sudden moves until early next week, when she's back in New York for her big Tuesday party (another surefire sign of the end of a campaign: the candidate goes home for a "big party.")
Either way, by Wednesday of next week, I suspect we'll all be Hillary-free. And no, she's not getting on the ticket.
Meet Harriet Christian, the angry Hillary supporter who was booted out of Saturday's Rules Committee meeting after the Michigan and Florida compromises were struck. To put it mildly, she was hopping mad. Her big line: Hillary's the best nominee ever, and yet the Democrats are "throwing the election away ... for what? For an inadequate black male!" She added that Obama only joined the race "because there was a white woman in the race." And she capped it all with a Jeremiah Wright-esque "God damn the Democratic Party!" Watch for yourself:
Geez. She makes John McCain look like a guy who actually wants those kids on his lawn...
More seriously, Harriet's response, which goes right to the race card, sure makes you worry about the inner demons of many of Hillary's older supporters. Maybe it's just generational -- after all, in people like Harriet's lifetime, blacks were codified as inferior to them, and largely barred from public life. Harriet, who is a New Yorker, probably felt comfortable with that arrangement. Or maybe she's just momentarily pissed off and she'll feel foolish later on for losing it like this on camera. ... maybe she'll vote for John McCain, with all the implications for the Supreme Court. ... (Maybe she's just nuts.) Who knows. But let's all hope Harriet's hubby had her slippers and a hot toddy waiting for her when she got home. Otherwise, there's probably a busted up old man wandering around Manhattan in his pajamas.
Vice President Dick Cheney has apologized through his spokeswoman for making an offhand joke during a speech at the National Press Club Monday stereotyping West Virginia as a state prone to incest.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride tells us, "The Vice President's offhand comment was not meant to hurt anyone. On reflection, he concluded that it was an inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made. The Vice President apologizes to the people of West Virginia for the inappropriate remark."
So get to the remark already!
Cheney was at the Press Club to congratulate this year's winners of the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. During a question-and-answer session toward the end of the luncheon, someone asked the vice president about his wife Lynne Cheney's revelation on MSNBC last year that "Dick and Barack Obama are eighth cousins."
The questioner jokingly asked the vice president if he and Obama were going to have a family reunion, to which Cheney replied he would "have no objections" though he said he doubted Obama would want one - "certainly not before November."
Then came the offensive punch line. Cheney explained that during the course of researching his family lineage for Lynne's memoir "Blue Skies, No Fences" last year, he learned there were Cheneys on both his father's and his mother's side of the family. There was a Richard Cheney on his mother's side, the vice president said.
"So I had Cheneys on both sides of the family and we don't even live in West Virginia," Cheney quipped.
Cheney's remarks received universal rebuke from W.Va pols, Democrat and Republican, state and federal, and so he apologized (what, no "so what"???)
I'm not sure which is worse: Dick Cheney's crude joke about West Virginia, or the fact that the state voted for him and his little buddy George twice, and will likely vote for more of the same with John McCain, another Republican who would gladly accept their votes and then screw them... and their sister... for four more years...
The South Carolina congressman and highest ranking African-American in Congress endorses Obama, getting out ahead of the starting gate that could (at last) open the flood of superdelegates for Barack. The official announcement is tomorrow.
There are so many reasons to throw the Diaz-Balart brothers (one of whom is my Congressman) out of office, I'm not sure I know where to begin. From the hijacking of U.S. foreign policy by the drama of their personal feud with Fidel Castro...
From The Nation -- In 1948 Fidel Castro married his best friend Rafael Diaz-Balart'ssister, Mirta (whom he later divorced). A year later their son was born and christened Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, a remarkable oxymoronic apellido (last name) uniting two warring families in one name. The Diaz-Balarts were powerful ministers in Batista's government--and Batista's close friends and neighbors--upon whom Castro would soon declare war.
Rafael would have four sons, two of whom--Lincoln and Mario--inherited their father's passion for politics. Lincoln is among Castro's most implacable and bellicose enemies and led the crusade to keep Elián González in the United States. During his political career, Lincoln has called for a naval blockade of Cuba and military force to be used against his former uncle, and even suggested on Miami television this year that the assassination of Castro was a good idea. (For an even more in-depth look, click here...
, to their inability to put forward a single coherent political idea in forever, that's divorced from ... well ... Castro ... the Diaz-Balarts have been a Florida sideshow long enough. And to that, we can now add this:
A Maryland prosthetics company pushing a new federal bill that would broaden insurance coverage for its products -- and boost its bottom line -- has enlisted significant political support from two of South Florida's most prominent members of Congress. Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart are among the bill's key backers. At the same time, the company is backing their reelection bids.
Hanger Orthopedic Group's political action committee and its executives provided more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to the brothers in the weeks before they co-sponsored the prosthetics parity bill on March 13.
The company's lobbyists, paid $130,000 to push the issue since last summer, went further: They helped raise campaign money for several bill sponsors, including the Republican Diaz-Balarts in March and April as they face Democratic challengers.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart, whose campaign collected $7,100 from Hanger's PAC and executives through March, said he is a ''proud'' bill sponsor.
''I will continue to fight for those in need of prosthetics,'' said the senior member of the powerful Rules Committee, who declined to be interviewed but provided written replies. ``There is a clear and adhered-to fire wall between my legislative work and fundraising for the campaign.''
Representing parts of Miami-Dade and southwest Broward counties, Lincoln faces former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez.
Younger brother Mario faces former Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Joe Garcia in a district spanning the Everglades from west Miami to Naples.
''You better believe I am a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to cover prosthetics for 1.8 million Americans without limbs including children and veterans!'' wrote Mario Diaz-Balart, whose campaign got $3,000 from the PAC.
Hanger is supporting key bill backers across the country. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., who introduced the bill, received $5,000 from Hanger's PAC for his primary campaign for a New Jersey Senate seat.
The Diaz-Balarts, traditionally not healthcare leaders on Capitol Hill, stand out from the bill's three other original co-sponsors. Not only was Hanger's PAC more generous to their campaigns, neither brother is on the Committee on Education and Labor where the bill was referred.
Lincoln, too, has another unique tie to Hanger.
Last fall, the company and Lincoln launched a mission to provide artificial limbs for Ukrainian children. The trip to Florida earned public goodwill for the politician -- and gave the publicly traded company a chance to highlight the bill.
The Diaz-Balarts say they are firmly behind providing better coverage for those needing prosthetic devices.
''It's the moral thing to do,'' Mario Diaz-Balart wrote.
Yet the ties between politicians and Hanger are so tight, say public watchdogs asked about the arrangement, they appear almost like partners.
''Members are here to serve the public interest and not the interests of a private corporation,'' said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Washington nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Hanger bills itself as the nation's leading provider of orthotic and prosthetic patient-care services. It has 653 care centers, including three in Broward and one in Miami-Dade, and 2007 revenues of $637 million.
Old politics, meet the new politics. And be sure to shake hands with it on your way out the door.
I have it from a prominent Florida Democrat that Hillary Clinton's staffers have been told that Friday will be their last day on the job. My source heard it first hand from a senior Hil staffer Washington/Arlington. Hillary may talk a good game through Tuesday, but according to this source, it truly will be just talk at that point. She's ending her campaign at the end of the week. This confirms similar reporting from Politico's Ben Smith:
Members of Hillary Clinton's advance staff received calls and emails this evening from headquarters summoning them to New York City Tuesday night, and telling them their roles on the campaign are ending, two Clinton staffers tell my colleague Amie Parnes.
The advance staffers — most of them now in Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana — are being given the options of going to New York for a final day Tuesday, or going home, the aides said. The move is a sign that the campaign is beginning to shed — at least — some of its staff. The advance staff is responsible for arranging the candidate's events around the country.
My source also indicated that Camp Clinton appears eager to begin healing some of the racial wounds from the bruising primary campaign. We'll see how that works out ...
Meanwhile, this morning, I got a first-hand peek at an ad soon to be run by a major Hillary superdelegate in Congress. The ad features a center graphic that looks curiously like the red and white striped Obama "O", and which exhorts Democrats to "take back the white house and the state house." The member of Congress, a CBCer who's up for re-election, hasn't spoken about the campaign in months, but has been very close to Bill Clinton. Now, it seems, it's everybody on board for Barack.
Update: Clinton spokesman Mo Eleithee says the story is not true. He elaborated further with Ben Smith, saying the staff simply has no schedule past next Tuesday. That either means the campaign won't fold on Friday, or the Clinton campaign is not prepared to say that it will. |
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.
But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.
“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”
Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.
Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.
While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.
“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”
General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.
General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.
It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.
On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.
The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.
At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.
It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.
Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.
There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.
“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.
He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.
And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.
Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.
Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.
The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.
It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.
According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.
Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.
Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.
At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.
Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...
So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?
And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?
It emerged over the weekend that Barack Obama's team had the votes, by one or two, to seat the Michigan delegation on a 50-50 basis, giving Hillary no advantage in Denver. But in the interest of party unity, his team chose the Michigan compromise, giving Hillary an advantage, though not the full 73 delegates she wanted (and none for him.) Harold Ickes confirmed the information on "Meet the Press" Sunday, saying that before his now infamous on-screen rant just before the vote was taken, he had told the panel, "why not just give Obama all the delegates?" As Donna Brazille said on Stephanopoulos' show Sunday, members of the panel looked at the two campaigns, and saw one that was coming across the table, seeking unity and diffusion of tensions, and another bent on conflict. That made a difference to the committee.
Hillary Clinton won the Puerto Rico primary today, by a commanding 68% to 32%. But here's the thing: PR normally turns out 80 percent of its registered voters for local elections. This time, with a major national election on the line, turnout was only about 20 percent, according to CNN. And the numbers won't help bolster Camp Hillary's phony-baloney popular vote argument, given that the whole shebang turned out just over 300,000 voters. The finally tally, per the CNN election thingy:
Clinton 257,331 votes, 38 delegates
Obama 118,972 votes, 17 delegates
Clinton net: 138,359 votes, 21 delegates (she had been looking for a 200,000 vote net out of PR.)
That doesn't exactly help put Hillary ahead in the popular vote, even if you use her multi-state deleting, Michigan-including math.
There's a lot of talk today about how John McCain could capitalize on the rage of Hillary Clinton's white women supporters by adding a woman to his ticket -- maybe Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, or Elizabeth Dole. But there's an important caveat to that: in order to keep conservatives quiet, particularly social conservatives, McCain would have to choose a female running mate who is pro-life. So the question would be, would women be so angry about Hillary's defeat that they would be willing to support an anti-choice woman over a pro-choice man? |