If the Obama campaign is making one major mistake, it's underestimating their opponent, John McCain; how desperate he is to win the presidency, and how low he is willing to sink in order to do so. As Josh Marshall pointed out today, to my firm agreement, McCain has already so sullied his reputation as a "maverick," an independent thinker, and an honorable man, he has to win this election, or slink back to the Senate as little more than an angry old man.
If Team Obama is making a second mistake, it's overestimating the sophistication of the average voter, who really is only lightly paying attention to the details, and thus is susceptible to generic negative messages like those being proffered daily by the McCain campaign. In fact, the sheer barrage of negative messages is offering any voter who may have, say, race-based discomfort with Barack to choose from any number of alternative "trap doors" through which to fall and not vote for him, even if they don't like McCain.
If the Obama team is making a third mistake, it is underestimating the determination of the media to make the 2008 election a horse race, and thus, to keep McCain in the running. Dana Milbank should have taught them that the media is almost institutionally biased in favor of the Republican in the race, if for no other reason than to prove to themselves that they are not institutionally biased toward the Democrat in the race. They will continue to bend over backward to advance whatever narrative McCain's team puts forward, no matter how absurd, in order to keep the tight race (and the ratings) going.
Therefore, brushing off McCain's attacks will not be enough. Assuming that "no intelligent person would buy his sophomoric attacks" risks seriously overestimating the number of intelligent people, and thus is a recipe for losing the election. And counting on the press to clear up the lies makes about as much sense as handing the campaign's messaging over to Dana Milbank.
Jonathan Chait makes it plain in his widely circulated LAT column today:
Obama is making the enormous mistake of letting the race be entirely about him, which is the only way he can lose.
McCain may be committing lots of blunders, but the blunders aren't hurting him because the spotlight is on Obama. McCain is getting attention for his attacks on Obama, especially his frequent insinuations that Obama lacks patriotism. The attacks are usually based on lies (such as McCain's discredited claim that Obama canceled a visit with wounded troops when he discovered the media couldn't tag along -- in fact, he canceled the visit, but the media were never scheduled to come).
Obama has barely hit back. His weak-tea replies express "disappointment" with McCain and reject the "same old politics."
Here's the likely rationale: The public, by a wide margin, wants a Democrat to win the presidency. So all Obama has to do is make himself acceptable and he'll win. Hence the focus on building up his own credentials rather than tearing down McCain.
Perhaps that sounds familiar. Let me refresh your memory: it was the John Kerry campaign strategy in 2004.
And needless to say, it didn't work. What Kerry failed to do, and I worked with a 527 that went down with that campaign, so I remember it painfully well, was to mount a successful offense. He never went after George W. Bush on the easy stuff: his failure to complete his military service, for instance, or his failed business dealings and poor stewardship of Texas, not to mention sending up his blue blood background, phony rancher credentials and "son of a president" elitism to counter similar attacks against Kerry. Yet they absorbed attack after attack that, even if disproved, set the narrative table for the media day after day.
It is happening again. This cycle, the media has almost always adopted the daily McCain narrative of the campaign, just as they did with Hillary Clinton during the primary. The bully usually gets his (or her) way, when it comes to the mainstream press. Even when they're debunking some outrageous lie from the McCain camp, the bottom line is that the reporterati and pundit class spend an entire news cycle dissecting whether or not it really is true that Obama hates the troops, is too foreign, is an arrogant lightweight, is Paris Hilton, or is playing the race card. By the time they get to the debunking part, half the audience has come away tainted by the McCain argument. That's how negative campaigning works. And when you add the force multipliers of the late night shows, the Internet, and 24 hour cable, you get a storm that it's very hard to fight your way out of. As one analyst noted on CNN tonight, McCain may not be lifting his poll numbers out of the 40s, but by attacking, he's keeping Obama down in the 40s with him. And when Obama chooses not to hit back, but rather to laugh off the attacks in a town hall, (and use the attacks mostly for fundraising,) I think his team is making a mistake.
Today, for instance, Obama had a great riff during a campaign speech, about McCain taking millions of dollars from the oil companies, and proposing huge tax breaks for them while at the same time championing their cause for offshore drilling. Said Obama to a receptive crowd:
The Illinois senator quickly incorporated news of Exxon Mobil's nearly $12 billion quarterly profit into his remarks at a town hall meeting here.
"No U.S. corporation ever made that much in a quarter," Obama said. "But while Big Oil is making record profits, you are paying record prices at the pump and our economy is leaving working people behind."
McCain's response, Obama said, is to propose a corporate tax plan that would give "$4 billion each year to the oil companies, including $1.2 billion for Exxon Mobil alone" and a gas tax holiday that Obama said would only "pad oil company profits and save you — at best — half a tank of gas" over an entire summer.
Well, that kind of thing belongs in a hard-hitting television or radio ad, not just in a fund raising email, which is where it wound up. Otherwise, the campaign is simply preaching to the converted, and the people on the MyBarackObama list aren't the ones contemplating a vote for John McCain in order to get the drill rigs going off the coast of Florida.
The insularity and frankly, the passivity of the Bill Burton communications operation is really starting to worry me, especially after six months of relentless attacks by the Clinton team. Unfortunately, I think the lesson the Obama folks took from the primary was that the Clinton attacks didn't work. Except that they did. Obama spent the entire primary fighting off charges -- including from the media -- that he is an elitist, a black extremist, or a Muslim, and hello! All three charges have carried right over to the general election campaign. They have became a part of his narrative, just like the word "maverick" is permanently tattooed on John McCain's butt cheeks courtesy of the lips of every reporter and pundit in Washington and New York.
It's time for the Obama campaign to hit back. They don't have to be as nasty or anti-factual as the McCain folks. Hell, how could they be? These are the Karl Rove trainees, who would saw off their mother's head to win an election (and then have Rush, Hannity and RedState.com blame HER for it.) But they have to be tough, and direct, and loud enough to drive the media narrative in the direction they want it to go: toward a debate over whether John McCain is too close to Big Oil, too much of a flip-flopper to be trusted, and most importantly, a human embodiment of George W. Bush's "third term."
As Chait puts it:
Why is Obama-as-alternative failing? First, it ignores Bush. The reason people want a Democrat is that they deem Bush a failure. By letting the race become a referendum on Obama, Bush recedes in voters' minds. McCain's ad blaming Obama for high gas prices was preposterous, but you can see why he ran it. The media are covering Obama as if he's already president. So what's that Obama guy done about high gas prices, anyway? Let's vote the bum out and give McCain a shot! ...
...McCain has de-emphasized or reversed nearly every position that set him apart from Bush, most notably the tax cuts for the rich that are the heart of Bush's economic program. To prove his partisan bona fides during the primary, he boasted that "I did everything I could to get [Bush] elected and reelected." And when an interviewer suggested that McCain was different from Bush, the senator replied, "No. No. I -- the fact is that I'm different, but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush." Why haven't we seen these words in television ads?
I can't answer that question, and frankly, that bothers me. The other day, Keith Olbermann rattled off a string of votes John McCain cast against veterans' issues, in a manner tailor made for a TV or radio ad. But has the Obama campaign gone up with such an ad? Nope. Better not to touch St. John's military record. Or what about an ad hitting McCain's 95% record of voting with President Bush, or one pointing out that he has surrounded himself with the same advisors who got us into the Iraq war, or using his quotes saying he's with the president 90 percent of the time, or that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq? Where are the ads slamming McCain's 30 year tenure in Washington during which he has "changed" nothing, and his newfound ties to Big Oil?
Instead, we get these rather soft spots proclaiming the McCain attacks to be "the same old politics," but only obliquely attacking McCain's Bush-like policies. Sorry, but YAWN. Maybe the spots are designed to be soothing, but most Americans aren't political junkies who sit around decrying the politics of the past. They want STUFF: cheaper gas prices, better paying jobs and a dignified end to the Iraq war. And most of all, they want to be rid of the Bushies, the neocons, and the corporate raiders who have been stripping this country naked for nearly eight years. Tie McCain to all three of them, and do it EVERY DAY, and Obama will win this election. Let him off the hook and he will shiv you like Pookie in the prison yard.
The reluctance of the Obama campaign to go up with comparative ads -- hell, with negative ones -- rather than the gauzy, biographical ads about how much Barack loves his country (which I guess are designed to reassure little old ladies in West Palm Beach that he isn't an Islamofascist terrorist) has left a lot of us out here in "old politics land" scratching our heads. Sure, it may seem that the current strategy is working, but that's only if you discount what I think is an 8-10 percentage point gap between what many white voters tell pollsters they're going to do, and what they're actually going to do on Election Day. The McCain team isn't going to play by the Marquis de Queensbury rules. They're going to attack every single day until every American voter has at least one negative meme about Barack rattling around in the back of their minds at voting time. It's time to take off the gloves.
From what I've seen, what I've heard from Harvard friends who knew him or of him in law school, and having met the man (once) and chatted with him for a few minutes, Barack Obama seems to be a genuinely good guy (unlike McCain, who by all accounts and appearances is a completeass.) No matter what happens in November, he will leave this campaign with his honor intact, having made history, and because I really can't see him running anything other than a principled campaign. However, if in the end, McCain and his Karl Rove goon squad win the White House, once again by a 50-plus-one margin (which is the only way they know how to win,) leaving half the country embittered, enraged and hating the man in the White House for for more years, what will have been the point?
Okay, the Britney and Paris Hilton thing was stupid, but this is just pathetic:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — John McCain's campaign Thursday accused Barack Obama of playing the "race card" after the Democratic White House candidate complained Republicans were trying to scare voters away from him.
"Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong," said McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis in a statement.
Davis was referring to comments by Obama in Missouri on Wednesday, in which he said McCain's campaign was mounting personal attacks against him to divert attention from what he said was a dearth of solutions to America's problems. "Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me," Obama said in Missouri.
"You know, 'he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name. You know he doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know, he's risky,'" Obama said mocking supposed attacks against him.
What's worse, is that Bill Burton and company reacted to the charge as if it's actually serious:
In a later statement, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said Obama had not intended to suggest McCain was introducing race into the campaign.
"This is a race about big challenges -- a slumping economy, a broken foreign policy, and an energy crisis for everyone but the oil companies.
"Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue, but he does believe they're using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign."
Burton, love you man, but don't dignify this silly stuff. The proper response to a charge this desperate would have been "give me a break." Actually, Barack had the tone just right earlier today when he said, "is this the best my opponent can come up with?"
Next, the McCain people will be accusing Obama of ... um ... cheating at Scrabble! Wearing tight pants! He's got a crooked index finger! He's got too many pets! He eats dessert before dinner...! Grow up, McCainiacs. Attack a policy, why don't you.
I'm almost sad for the right. They were turned into a neocon cult, worshipping the person of George W. Bush after 9/11, and then when that went sour, they've been forced to kiss the very old bottom of John McCain. Pitiful.
I agree with Joshua Marshall when he says that the Obama campaign can't afford to get dragged into an argument about race. As bumbling as it is, the McCain campaign has managed to set the narrative for the race day after day, just as Hillary Clinton did during the primary. Of course, in Hillary's case, it ultimately didn't help her win, which leads me to Marshall's second point, to which I also subscribe:
It was always clear that it was going to be hard for John McCain to emerge from this campaign with his reputation and the presidency, simply because of the rough terrain any Republican faces this year. At this point, it's clear that by the end of this, the reputation is going to be shot. There's just been too much demonstrable lying on the candidate's part, too much sleazy campaigning, too much outsourcing his campaign to Karl Rove. More and more editorialists and even some of the prestige pundits are starting to see it.
So that means, he has to win. Because if he doesn't, he's got nothing left. All he is a four term senator from a medium-sized state with no legislative record. It's an eminently worthwhile task to chronicle his descent.
To stop him, the Obama team has to develop an offensive message (offense as in football, not as in O'Reilly.) They need to go up with ads proclaiming McCain to be the last desperate gasp of neoconservatism and the Bush administration, and they need to hit him hard -- but fair. They should do so sooner rather than later, because everyone knows that a desperate man is a dangerous man, and John McCain at present, is a very, very desperate man.
A federal judge puts the ixnay on otnay owingshay upyay in ongresscay... if you know what I mean...
WASHINGTON - President Bush’s top advisers are not immune from congressional subpoenas, a federal judge ruled Thursday in an unprecedented dispute between the two political branches.
House Democrats called the ruling a ringing endorsement of the principle that nobody is above the law.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates said there’s no legal basis for Bush’s argument and that his former legal counsel, Harriet Miers, must appear before Congress. If she wants to refuse to testify, he said, she must do so in person. The committee also has sought to force testimony from White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten.
“Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena,” Bates wrote. He said that both Bolten and Miers must give Congress all non-privileged documents related to the firings.
The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to bolster the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch. The Bush administration argued it was immune from such subpoenas, arguing that Congress can't force them to testify or turn over documents.
The report goes on to quote Nancy Pelosi as saying Dems plan to "act quickly and call Miers and Bolton to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, where they can claim executive privilege in person.
“We look forward to the White House complying with this ruling and to scheduling future hearings with Ms. Miers and other witnesses who have relied on such claims,” Conyers said in a statement. “We hope that the defendants will accept this decision and expect that we will receive relevant documents and call Ms. Miers to testify in September.”
Bates, who was appointed to the bench by Bush, issued a 93-page opinion that strongly rejected the administration’s legal arguments. He noted that the executive branch could not point to a single case in which courts held that White House aides were immune from congressional subpoenas.
“That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: the asserted absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case law,” Bates wrote.
Unless of course it gets to the Supreme Court, where Tony Scalia will find a way, and if Justice Kennedy is having a bad day? Zappo!
So of course now the question everyone is asking is, what does this mean for our good friend Karl Rove? Some thoughts on that here.
Luda bigs up Obama in his mix tape release, and (surprise!) gets smacked down by the communications department...
Of course, Obama was forced to put a whole lotta distance between himself and Cris over his lyrics, which included calling Hillary a "bitch" and saying that McCain belongs in a wheelchair (and that Bush is retarded...) Pat Buchanan should especially enjoy the part about "painting the White House black... So...
"Ludacris is a talented individual but he should be ashamed of these lyrics," said Mr Obama's spokesman Bill Burton.
Of course, that hasn't stopped right wing radio and Fox News from going all apoplectic over the video, and this should do wonders for the Bill-O/Ludacris feud.
The right particularly enjoys reminding us that Obama has Ludacris' music in his iPod, and met with the rapper to discuss youth issues not long before he announced for president. Oh, here we go...
Honestly, I find the video for the Ludacris song much more offensive than any of the lyrics, which are pretty tame by rap standards. I'd question the artistic merit of booty-shaking hos in a video that's supposed to be about voting, and juxtaposing big asses with presidential candidates just strikes me as, well, kind of high school. Other than that, I thought we would have learned by now that if one wants to support a man who is running for president despite an undercurrent of racial rejectionism in a part of America that is certainly larger than polls suggest, it's probably not a good idea to spout off about "painting the White House black."
Exxon Mobile strikes a blow for America's victory in the global war on terror, posting record-shattering profits, and Wall Street actually yawns:
HOUSTON - Exxon Mobil reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results fell well short of Wall Street expectations and shares fell in premarket trading.
The world's largest publicly traded oil company said net income for the April-June period came to $2.22 a share, up from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, a year ago.
Revenue rose 40 percent to $138.1 billion from $98.4 billion in the year-earlier quarter.
... But investors expected even bigger profits Thursday, especially after Europe's Royal Dutch Shell reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter earnings of $11.6 billion, which fell just shy of Exxon's own record earnings from 2007.
Shares fell 2 percent, or $1.68, to $82.70 in premarket trading.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC reported a 33 percent jump in second-quarter profits Thursday, its biggest quarter ever at $11.6 billion thanks to high oil prices and the weak dollar.
The company earned $8.67 billion in the same quarter last year.
Shell said its selling price per barrel of oil was around $112, up from $64 a year earlier. That pushed earnings at its main exploration and production arm up 90 percent to $5.88 billion, despite a 1.1 percent fall in production to 3.05 million barrels of oil and equivalents per day.
Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer dismissed calls in Britain for a windfall tax on oil companies.
Britain's BP PLC reported this week that its profits jumped 28 percent to $9.47 billion in the quarter.
"If we do less investment there will be less supply for consumers" which would drive prices higher, Van der Veer said.
"The world needs energy."
Way to go, boys. You are true heroes of the West. And once again you've proved that George W. Bush's strategy of preemption pays great dividends. ... really great dividends...
We're into day two, and still no correction from either Dana Milbank or the WaPo on his "refinement" of Barack Obama's statement to Democrats on Capitol Hill. Dana has moved on, talking in today's "sketch" (which I think can now officially be renamed "Washingotn sketchy -- and yes, I stole that from a commenter on the thread) about Alaska's "Uncle Ted" Stevens.
It's been nearly a full day, and we're still waiting for a correction from Dana Milbank, whose prissy, spurned media diva, spite-filled column calling the other guy (Barack Obama) imperial, has been debunked all over the web, from TIME Magazine to the Atlantic, by people who actually heard Barack Obama's remarks to House Democrats. Tick ... tick ... tick ... so far, Millbank's column remains posted to the WaPo homepage, unchanged. (Curiously, Keith Olbermann gave Milbank a complete pass tonight. I was certain he'd at least make "Worst Persons," instead he didn't even get a mention...)
Milbank has been taking it on the chin pretty much all day today, from all quarters, and his portrayal of Obama as an uppity presidential wanna-be has taken off in winger world, despite its inherent falsehood, but so far Milbank hasn't breathed a word, or more importantly, updated his column online.
What's it gonna take, Dana? Just post the correction already!
Clearly, Milbank is guilty of, at minimum, seriously sloppy reporting for failing to confirm the quote with either the campaign, or a first hand witness. The less charitable take is that he went with a here-say quote, or worse, a deliberate distortion of a quote, in order to advance his theme and sex up his column. He's only making matters worse by disappearing from view and letting the column stand. Compounding his errors are the Post's editors, who are not only not correcting the record, they're continuing to promote the piece on the homepage.
If you're of a mind to complain, here's where you can write the Washington Post:
Ombudsman Deborah Howell: email@example.com or call 202-334-7582
Who's running the McCain campaign, anyway? The latest ad is a dud, mixing footage of Obama receiving global adulation (duh, it makes him look GOOD, folks) with a thin attack accusing him of wanting "higher taxes and more foreign oil." The ad actually has pics of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears! Seriously.
Over at the Atlantic, Marc Ambinder has an interesting reaction from former McCain strategist John Weaver to the Arizona Republican's new ad attacking Barack Obama's celebrity status (complete with references to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears). Calling it "childish," Weaver also claims that harping on Obama "reduces McCain on the stage."
And by the way, did anyone mention to the geniuses in the McCain camp that Britney is actually a Republican, who, like John McCain, is a big fan of President Bush?
Meanwhile, Keith Olberman the other night did what really should be the latest anti-McCain ad:
Now that's negative campaigning we can believe in.
House Dems grow a pair: vote to hold Rove in contempt
In an almost unprecedented exercise of actual constitutional authority by Democrats, the normally timid House Judiciary Committee voted 20-14 this afternoon to hold Karl Rove in contempt of Congress. From Bloomberg:
A House panel voted to hold former White House political director Karl Rove in contempt for defying a subpoena to testify about whether politics motivated the prosecution of the former governor of Alabama.
The House Judiciary Committee's 20-14 vote along party lines escalated the dispute between the Bush administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over lawmakers' demand for testimony by presidential aides.
President George W. Bush has invoked executive privilege to bar his aides from testifying under oath in Congress about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. The president also barred Rove's testimony on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
The panel has asked a federal judge to order Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten to turn over documents about the firings and to direct former White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify about the dismissals.
A contempt citation against Rove would require approval by the full House. Rove failed to appear at a July 10 hearing.
Glenn Greenwald's adjunct to Brave New Films, the subtly named "Send Karl Rove to Jail," explains the implications of the vote:
WHAT THIS MEANS: The decision by the HJC to hold Karl Rove in contempt is a recommendation to the full House, who can now vote to adopt the recommendation with a contempt resolution by a simple majority vote. Should they pass a contempt resolution, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the chamber would be ordered to arrest Karl Rove and bring him to the floor of the House to answer to the charges and to be issued punishment. The case would then be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who would in turn refer it to a grand jury. If convicted, Rove could face between one month and one year in jail.
The group has been gathering petitions to demand that the HJD do its job, and finally, the Dems have stiffened their spines enough to demand that a duly issued subpoena of the people's House of Representatives be complied with. Imagine that.
McCain's got a bad case of grumpy old man syndrome
The MSM actually take note of John McCain's increasingly nasty, negative campaign. First, the NYT editorial board (arguably more liberal than its McCain-loving reporters) lets Mac have it:
Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.
In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers).
Mr. McCain used to pride himself on being above this ugly brand of politics, which killed his own 2000 presidential bid. But he clearly tossed his inhibitions aside earlier this month when he put day-to-day management of his campaign in the hands of one acolyte of Mr. Rove and gave top positions to two others. The résumés of the new team’s members included stints in Mr. Bush’s White House and in his 2004 re-election campaign, one of the most negative and divisive in memory.
Almost immediately, the McCain campaign was using Mr. Rove’s well-honed tactics, starting with an attempt to widen this nation’s damaging ideological divide by painting Mr. Obama as a far-left kook. On July 18, Mr. McCain even suggested that Mr. Obama is a socialist to the left of the Senate’s only avowed socialist: Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
... Mr. McCain repeatedly said Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war to win a political campaign” and that he “does not understand” what is at stake in Iraq. He also accused Mr. Obama of canceling a visit to wounded American troops in a German military hospital because news cameras were not allowed. That’s a false account of what occurred — and Mr. McCain ignored Mr. Obama’s unheralded visit to a combat hospital in Baghdad.
Like Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain confuses opposition to an unnecessary war with a lack of spine and an unwillingness to use force when the nation is truly in danger. Obviously, Mr. Obama is untested as a commander in chief and his trip was intended to reassure voters. But Mr. McCain is as untested in this area as Mr. Obama, and it is hard to imagine a worse role model than the one Mr. McCain seems to be adopting: President Bush.
Many voters are wondering whether a McCain presidency would be an extension of Mr. Bush’s two disastrous terms. If the way Mr. McCain is running his campaign these days is an indication, Americans don’t have to wait until next January for the answer to that one.
Next, the WaPo states the obvious: McCain's "Obama doesn't love the troops" attack is full of crap, and the Times reports that even some in the GOP are starting to worry about the tone of the McCain campaign:
The old happy warrior side of Mr. McCain has been eclipsed a bit lately by a much more aggressive, and more negative, Mr. McCain who hammers Mr. Obama repeatedly on policy differences, experience and trustworthiness.
By doing so, Mr. McCain is clearly trying to sow doubts about his younger opponent, and bring him down a peg or two. But some Republicans worry that by going negative so early, and initiating so many of the attacks himself rather than leaving them to others, Mr. McCain risks coming across as angry or partisan in a way that could turn off some independents who have been attracted by his calls for respectful campaigning.
The drumbeat of attacks could also undermine his argument that he will champion a new brand of politics.
“The McCain campaign, I think, is being pulled in two directions,” said Todd Harris, a Republican strategist who worked for Mr. McCain in 2000. “On the one hand, this race is largely a referendum on Obama, and whether or not he’s going to pass the leadership threshold in the eyes of voters. So being aggressive against Obama on questions of leadership and trust and risk are important, but at the same time I think they need to be very careful because McCain is not at his best when he is being overly partisan and negative.”
So what's next for the unhappy warrior? A new ad portraying Barack Obama as a celebrity, not a leader. Yeah, that will work. Tell everybody how famous your opponent is. I can just see the tagline now: "hey America, why would you want some famous, cool celebrity as your leader instead of a grumpy old asshole like me!?"
I'm not a huge fan of Joe Klein -- I think he tends to give the right much more credit than it deserves, including one John McCain. However, he is right about the neoconservative movement, and apparently, he doesn't care who knows it:
I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable and a whole bunch of other silly things by the folks over at the Commentary blog. They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me. This is happening because I said something that is palpably true, but unspoken in polite society: There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003. Their motivations involve a confused conflation of what they think are Israel's best interests with those of the United States. They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.
Happily, these people represent a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country. Unhappily, their views have had an impact in the highest reaches of the Bush Administration--and seem to have an influence on John McCain's campaign as well. Happily, the Bush Administration seems more interested in talking to the Iranians than in launching on them--and, according to my Israeli friends, the Israelis are not going to do anything foolish, either. I remain proud of my Jewish heritage, a strong supporter of Israel and a realist about the slim chance of finding some common ground with the Iranians. But I am not willing to grant these ideologues the anonymity they seek.
To echo one of the commenters on the TIME thread: who are you, and what have you done with Joe Klein?
President Bush signs the housing rescue bill in the dead of night, in a locked room with no lights on (okay not really, but he sure was quiet about it...)
Shortly after 7 am today President Bush signed a massive housing bill that will provide relief for more than 400,000 homeowners and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 will allow a limited number of homeowners who can’t afford their mortgage payments to refinance with government-backed loans. As many as 400-thousand families become eligible for help refinancing expensive mortgages. This will not help homeowners who have already been hit with foreclosure. The measure will also give the Bush administration new authority to control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"We look forward to put in place new authorities to improve confidence and stability in markets, and to provide better oversight for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "The Federal Housing Administration will begin to implement new policies intended to keep more deserving American families in their homes."
President Bush signed the bill with no invited Congressional guests despite the fact that Congress has not gone on their summer recess yet and is still in town. The sweeping housing reforms passed with strong Republican and Democratic support.
At his Oval Office desk, President Bush was surrounded by a half dozen administration officials who will now have the authority to better supervise the big mortgage lenders, and help a limited number of families refinance their expensive mortgages.
Bush signed off on the death penalty for Ronald A. Gray, who grew up in the Liberty City area of Miami and was stationed at Fort Bragg at the time of the crimes. Eventually, he was convicted in connection with eight rapes and four murders that took place in in the area. Gray, who was 22 and held the rank of specialist at the time of his court martial, has been on death row at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since 1988.
Bush's action was the first time in more than half a century that a president has approved the execution of a member of the Armed Services.
"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our Armed Services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander-in-chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. She called the crimes "brutal."
Gray will not be put to death for at least 60 days, and it may be much longer because further legal action on his case is possible, said Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman. Edgecombe noted that while the last military execution took place in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower had approved it in 1957.
Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.
Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:
11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.
12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.
1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.
2:55 p.m.: En route TBA.
5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.
Who knew he was such a Diva? ... and I'm talking about Dana. Next, our intrepid "reporter" delivers the money quote, clipped from that 5:20 p.m. TBA, which Milbank describes as an "adoration session" with Democratic lawmakers in a Capitol Hill chamber that the Secret Service swept beforehand "just like they do for the actual president." Wowee. The quote:
Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
So first, Milbank derides the security sweep that Obama happens to require because of threats to his life that began almost the moment he announced his candidacy (he's black, you know...) Then, throwing all reporter etiquette aside, the snarky Milbank throws out a clipped quote that not only did he not hear first-hand, but which it turns out, is way, way out of context.
MSNBC is on the story right now, and they're talking to an actual witness, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California, who was in the Canon Caucus Room when Obama made the remarks. More on that as it hits the air.
Milbank's world of snide
Milbank has something of a history of peevishness toward those he perceived as being on the left, including the very standard Democrats.com. And he has gone Medieval on Obama before, having been one of the principle harbingers of Reverend Wright doom during the primary. Hillary Clinton didn't escape his rapier wit, either, and in general, his Washington Sketch columns appear designed more to turn him into the male, WaPo version of Maureen Dowd than to bring forth actual news.
Meanwhile, later in his column, Milbank gets to what I think is the real point of his and his colleagues' disgruntlement:
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported yesterday that Obama dominated the news media's attention for a seventh straight week. But there are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.
In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign.
The Washington press corps fell in love with John McCain in 2000 because he gave them unprecedented access aboard his "Straight Talk Express."
... They later fell in love with George W. Bush because he gave them cute nicknames like "Stretch" (David Gregory) and made them giggle like schoolgirls during his infrequent press conferences. Bill and Hillary they never liked, and during the impeachment fiasco, they showed their displeasure. Now they've got a new pol to hate -- Barack Obama, who clearly doesn't know how important they are. Obama paid for that dispelasure during the Rev. Wright imbroglio, and a new media study shows that the press has been much, much tougher on him than it has on McCain.
Team Obama now has two choices: try to ingratiate themselves with a press corps that is as pampered, arrogant and self-centered as it has been in my lifetime, or continue to stiff arm the Fourth Estate and ride the negative coverage all the way to Election Day.
Awaiting the full transcript or video from the Obama Congressional chat.
"It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol [of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."]
The "is not about me at all, it's about America" part is pretty important to the quote, I'd think. And Ambinder points out other elements of Milbank's sloppy journalism, reiterating one of my points above and catching something I missed:
The Capitol Police and the Secret Service, not the Obama campaign, closed the halls for Obama to pass yesterday. If you're inclined to think Obama presumptuous for this, then John McCain is also on your list; last week in Columbus, the police department there gave him full intersection control during rush hour. Oh, and that was David Cameron to whom Obama "gave some management advice," not to Gordon Brown, although Brown could probably have used it!
So will Milbank post a correction? Enquiring minds...
“His entire point of that riff was that the campaign IS NOT about him. The Post left out the important first half of the sentence, which was something along the lines of: ‘It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol … .”
As of 1:33 p.m., still waiting for the Milbank retraction... |
What's in a presidential name combo? Sure it's important that a candidate pick a veep who could govern with him (or her) and who could step into the POTUS job if called on. But let's face it, during the campaign, there's more to it than that. The team has got to look good together (think Clinton-Gore) and tell a story (think McCain-Romney; old guy, younger, more economically literate guy) and shore up each other's deficiency (repeat McCain-Romney.) But as far as I'm concerned, the names have also got to fit together in a way that doesn't sound funny. Especially for the Democrats. With the GOP holding their convention in the land of the Wide Stance, with bathroom stall jokes just waiting to be unleashed for an entire week, why take chances with a funny sounding apellido mix?
Take, for instance, Evan Bayh, whom Howard Fineman claims is among the top three survivors of the Obama list (the others are Kaine and Joe Biden). Together, he and Barack would be "Obahmabye" ... which sounds really screwy. Obama and Joe Biden would be "Obahma-biden" ... which actually works well, because it naturally lends itself to a pause in the middle. Obama-Kaine would come out sounding way too much like "Obamakin" for my liking, but it could remind disgruntled Republicans why they're considering switching sides...
Obama could also make a surprise pick, like retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, who traveled to Europe with the Senator, and who is from the solid Illinois Obama pack. Gration has great bona fides that would add a lot to the ticket:
A command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours, Gration has had extensive combat experience in the Middle East and served as the Commander of Task Force West during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His aerial combat experience included 274 combat missions over Iraq.
And he's got other biographical pluses that would make him an interesting pick:
Raised in Africa, Gration joined the U.S. Air Force ROTC program at Rutgers University and went on to serve as a White House fellow, operations group commander, and as the Director of Regional Affairs in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs.
"I met Obama when he toured Africa last year," Gration recalled, "and we visited Robins Island, the prison that was home to Nelson Mandela for 27 years. I couldn't help noticing that both men had the same leadership qualities and the same ability to motivate and inspire others."
"I also realized that both men had a strong understanding of history," he relayed. "You gotta know where you've come from if you want to lead the country towards any sort of future."
And yet, together, Obama and the general would make "Obahmagration" -- kind of like "conflagration," but with Obama in front. My favorite is still "Obama-Hagel," though I think he's getting to be less likely a pick. |
Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, of the famous "bridge to nowhere," has been indicted according to Politico and the AP:
Stevens' Washington office is shut down right now and no one is answering phone calls, and a spokesman in Alaska declined to answer questions. The Associated Press is reporting that the criminal charges are related to false reporting of hundreds of thousands in renovations to his Alaska resort home.
The indictment would be a stunning development in an extraordinary Senate career that has spanned four decades. Stevens is undoubtedly the most powerful politician in Alaska's 50 year history of statehood, but his relationships with contractors and lobbyists have come under intense scrutiny over the past year.
Stevens, 84, has been dogged by a federal investigation into whether he pushed for fishing legislation that also benefited his son, an Alaska lobbyist.
From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said Stevens concealed "his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation." The indictment released Tuesday said the items included: home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as car exchanges, a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools.
Justice Department officials were holding a news conference later Tuesday to discuss the charges.
Matthew Friedrich, acting assistant U.S. attorney general, said Tuesday that the government is charging the legislator with seven felony counts of making false statements between 1999 and 2006. Stevens was chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2005, except for the 18 months when Democrats controlled the chamber.
The Justice Department is alleging that Stevens, who is 84, accepted gifts from oil-services company Veco in the form of material and labor to renovate his private residence in Alaska.
"These items were not disclosed" on Stevens' Senate financial-disclosure forms, according to Friedrich. ...
...The indictment alleged that Stevens received substantial home improvements to property he owns in Girdwood, Alaska; automobile exchanges in which the senator got new vehicles worth far more than the used vehicles he provided in return; and household goods. ...
... The indictment of Stevens is part of an ongoing federal criminal investigation in Alaska. There have been seven criminal convictions to date from the investigation. Former Veco Chief Executive Bill Allen and Richard Smith, the company's former vice president of community affairs and government relations, pleaded guilty in May 2007 to providing more than $400,000 in corrupt payments to Alaska public officials.
As for Friedrich, I just heard on Randi Rhodes' show and confirmed for myself that he is "acting" because he replaced Alice Fisher, the U.S. attorney who cut the plea deal with Jack Abramoff in 2006, and who mysteriously left the Justice Department this May. More on Friedrich's background from a May 22 post on the Legal Times blog:
A veteran prosecutor and top aide on criminal matters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey has been tapped to lead the Criminal Division at Main Justice. ...
... [Matthew] Friedrich is Fisher's former chief of staff and also was a principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division.
Friedrich has served on the department's Enron task force and previously worked as one of the lead prosecutors in the Arthur Andersen case when he served in the Eastern District of Virginia. A former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, Friedrich joined the department as a Tax Division attorney in 1995.
Meanwhile, Fisher's May 1 departure came at an awkward time for the DOJ, as she was probing a number of big cases:
Her departure leaves the Justice Department even more short-staffed. Fisher is one of only four remaining division chiefs who have navigated the Senate confirmation process.
Among the ongoing investigations Fisher has been overseeing are cases involving members of Congress and executives at mortgage companies caught up in the credit debacle.
Her prosecution of the Abramoff cases had raised some eyebrows, according to Sourcewatch:
"I was more than a little tweaked to turn on CSPAN and see Alice Fisher giving the press conference on behalf of" the Justice Department in the Abramoff case, Jane Hamsher wrote January 4, 2006, in The Huffington Post.
"Alice Fisher should have recused herself from this matter long ago," Hamsher said. "Fisher is a Republican who in her former job was registered as a lobbyist for HCA, the healthcare company founded by Bill Frist's father.
Her appointment was also controversial due to the fact that like her boss AbuGonzales, Fisher has no trial experience and with [James] Comey gone there would be no senior member of the Justice Department who was an experienced criminal prosecutor. But Senatorial oversight was dispensed with and BushCo. continued on its Brownie-esque rampage to replace experience with cronyism."
- The role of the torture lawyers in crafting the system is far more intimate than they have acknowledged. John Yoo, Michael Chertoff and Alice Fisher reviewed specific techniques which clearly amounted to torture and blessed them as fine to use, and then lied publicly and to Congress about their involvement. Yoo is said to have given his legal blessing to torture techniques and their application by DOD operatives on the squash court as he played rounds with Jim Haynes.
So we're likely well rid of her, and perhaps the wiser about why she suddenly vacated the premises. If she did indeed lie to Congress about her involvement in torture, all the Jack Abramoff prosecutions in the world might not have saved her from testifying, even at the Dems' sham hearings, and even though no one will likely ever be prosecuted for the various crimes committed by the current administration...
An update on that church shooter in Knoxville, Tennessee. ThinkP has a peek at his reading list:
Jim Adkisson, the man who shot two people to death in a Tennessee Unitarian church this week because he was angry at “liberals and gays,” had an array of right-wing books at his home. Inside his house, “officers found ‘Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder’ by radio talk show host Michael Savage, ‘Let Freedom Ring’ by talk show host Sean Hannity, and ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ by television talk show host Bill O’Reilly.”
What, no Coulter??? Ann, you're clearly losing your touch!
Richard Perle, the "Dr. Evil" of neoconservatism, is now an official war profiteer
"No new group of war millionaires shall come into being in this nation as a result of the struggles abroad. The American people will not relish the idea of any American citizen growing rich and fat in an emergency of blood and slaughter and human suffering." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, May 26, 1940
What's a neocon to do after invading Iraq turns out to be an f**ing stupid idea, your presidupe is almost out of office, your Darth Vader veep can't run because, well, he scares people, and most of the world has figured out that entire belief system is idiotic and dangerous?
(Wall Street Journal) Influential former Pentagon official Richard Perle has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan, according to people with knowledge of the matter and documents outlining possible deals.
Mr. Perle, one of a group of security experts who began pushing the case for toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein about a decade ago, has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, including its Washington envoy, according to these people and the documents.
It would involve a tract called K18, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, according to documents describing the plan.
In March 2003, weeks after the invasion of Iraq, war architect Richard Perle resigned from his position on the Defense Policy Board in an attempt to “defuse a controversy over charges he stood to profit from the war in Iraq.” But that hasn’t stopped Perle from continuing to seek profit from the war. Citing documents and people close to the negotiations, the Wall Street Journal reports today that Perle “has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan. One of the oil tracts, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, “is estimated to hold 150 million or more barrels of oil, would potentially be operated by Houston-based Endeavour International”
Perle also “has explored obtaining an oil concession in Kazakhstan in tandem with a northern Iraq deal,” the Journal adds. Perle denied the reports, stating, “I am not involved in any consortium…nor am I ‘framing plans for a consortium.’” But a spokesman for Qubat Talabani, the Kurdish government’s delegate in the U.S. who deals with “investment information,” “confirmed that the envoy had been approached by Mr. Perle.”
Well good for you, Evil One. And here's a peek at Endeavor's board. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Board Chairman Bill Transier and his wife are recent donors to Oil Gal Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Vice Chairman John Seitz has given quite a bit of money to Andarko Petroleum's PAC, and also in the past to Phil Gramm and big contributions to the RNC, not surprising given their industry and location... )
Meanwhile, other neocons have found employment with their old friend John McCain, an early backer of Ahmad Chalabi, and with Joe Lieberman, an advocate, dating back to the 1990s, of invading Iraq. One of them is Randy Scheunemann, who TPM Muckraker describes this way:
Over the weekend, The New York Timesnoted that some of John McCain's foreign policy advisers from the "realist" camp are uneasy with the amount of influence enjoyed by neoconservatives like Randy Scheunemann, who's been serving as McCain's chief foreign policy aide and spokesman.
And what has he gotten so wrong? (Shortened. Read the full post at the TPMM site)
As a top aide to then-Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, Scheunemann helped draft -- and acted as a driving force behind -- the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (ILA), which essentially made "regime change" the official Iraq policy of the US. ...
Scheunemann was a board member of Bill Kristol's Project for a New American Century, which played a major role in agitating for the war. Scheunemann signed Kristol's influential letter to President Bush, sent nine days after 9/11, which asserted that failing to respond to the Al Qaeda attack by going after Saddam would "constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." Scheunemann also served as a "consultant" to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon while it was planning the war. And in late 2002, Scheunemann, with administration approval, founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an advocacy group with the explicit goal of whipping up pro-war sentiment across the country.
Scheunemann also played a key role in lining up support for the invasion from the "Vilnius Ten," a group of former Soviet bloc countries seeking to gain entry to NATO, some of whom Scheunemann has worked as a paid lobbyist on behalf of. With his partner Bruce Jackson, a Lockheed Martin executive, Scheunemann reportedly gave assurances to the Ten that backing the invasion would help their chances for NATO membership. ...
In the invasion's aftermath, Scheunemann's judgment proved no more effective. He argued vociferously against giving the UN a significant role in stabilizing Iraq. ...
Still other neocons, like Charles Krauthammer, continue to find refuge on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and on Fox News, where their desperate ravings about Barack Obama can be read and heard by millions.
Curious about what's going on with the other neocons who conned Dubya into invading Iraq? ThinkP has you covered here.
From David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," and the guy who helped design the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq with David Petraeus:
Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."
I guess he cares more about pointing out stupidity than he does about the security of the American people... right John McCain? Sadly, Kilcullen's assessment is far from a unique one:
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.
"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."
As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.
On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.
In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.
The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.
Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.
Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.
The latest veteran to slam John McCain's dishonest and dishonerable advert attacking Barack Obama for canceling a visit to Ramstein medical base in Germany in deference to the Pentagon would know what she's talking about. Per Jonathan Martin at Politico:
VoteVets, the pro-Democrat group of retired military personnel, counters McCain's Black Hawk down statement with some outrage from Col. Katherine Scheirman (Ret.), the retired Chief of Medical Operations for United States Air Force in Europe Headquarters at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, who was Chief of Medical Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said in a statement:
"John McCain's new ad is dishonest and shameful, and I say that as the former Chief of Medical Operations. Senators Hagel and Reed confirmed to Bob Schieffer yesterday that Senator Obama visited the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad as a part of their CODEL, with no media present.
"In Germany, Senator Obama made the right decision to respect wounded troops, and the doctors and nurses doing crucial and time-sensitive work, by not making a visit that was characterized as a campaign event by the Pentagon. Senator Obama should be thanked for putting our military above politics. And, I would hope that John McCain would think in those same terms, the next time he is put in a similar situation.
"Senator Obama has voted for the troops when John McCain has not, most recently on the new GI Bill. I am happy that Senator Obama puts the welfare of our troops above politics."
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, MD, MHA, CPE, FACPE, is a Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org, and has twenty years experience in the Department of Defense medical system. She retired from the Air Force in 2006 with the rank of Colonel. During her time in the military, she was assigned to a number of duties where she saw 'first hand' the shortcomings of the DOD medical system and its effect on troops. Most recently, she was at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which saw the majority of those injured during the war in Iraq.
Martin notes that the Obama camp doesn't plan to go up with a counter-ad, surprisingly, unless the McCain team makes a serious TV buy. For now, Camp McCain is happy to let the media and Youtube disseminate their low blow message for free.
The McCain ad has already taken a beating from another prominent veteran: Chuck Hagel, and from other veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
McCain may feel that his new strategy will stand him in better stead with the truly nasty elements of the right which he needs to energize, but he also risks exposing the fault lines between himself and many veterans, who question his commitment to their issues, including healthcare, education, and the ever festering Vietnam MIA saga. |
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says.
According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans.
This month, a former Army medic, Joseph Dwyer, who was shown in a Military Times photograph running through a battle zone carrying an Iraqi boy, died of an accidental overdose after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder for almost five years.
Janet Kemp, national suicide prevention coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Department, said the hot line is in place to help prevent deaths such as Dwyer's. "We just want them to know there's other options and people do care about them, and we can help them make a difference in their lives," she said in an interview.
The VA teamed up with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch the hot line last July after years of criticism that the VA wasn't doing enough to help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In April, two veterans groups sued the VA, citing long delays for processing applications and other problems in treatment for veterans at risk for suicide. The department has spent $2.9 million on the hot line thus far.
The hot line receives up to 250 calls per day — double the average number calling when it began. Kemp said callers are divided evenly between veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Richard McKeon, public health adviser for SAMHSA, said 10 to 20 of the 1,575 calls received each week have to be rerouted to high-volume backup call centers throughout the country.
The VA estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year.
Meanwhile, the Huffpo has some reactions from VoteVets.org members to John McCain's smear campaign against Barack Obama. A sample:
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Senator McCain has yet to clearly define what victory in Iraq looks like for the United States, it is extremely discouraging to hear such divisive rhetoric coming out of what Senator McCain promised would be a campaign "on the issues." During my time as a soldier and now as a civilian, I have never doubted that anyone on either side of the political spectrum has wanted anything less than the complete success for our troops. It is so unfortunate to see Senator McCain adapt the old tactic of baselessly calling a political opponent's patriotism into question as a campaign tool.
Neil Riley Ashburn, VA Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Army 2002-03 and 2004-05
Not that it's all about ego, but I just tried "Cuiling" myself, and got a "try again" message. Then, like any good egomaniac, I "Cuil" searched the Reidblog. More there, but all categorized in this weird, stacked paragraph format. Bottom line: nice try by the renegades, but I'm sticking with Google, (even if they have the worst damned blog program in the history of earth...)
BOSTON (AP) -- Syndicated columnist and former "Crossfire" host Robert Novak has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and is suspending his journalistic work.
Novak issued a statement Monday saying the tumor was found Sunday after he had been rushed to Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital from Cape Cod, where he was visiting his daughter.
The Chicago Sun-Times columnist says he is suspending his journalistic work for an indefinite, "but God willing, not too lengthy period." His statement did not say if the tumor was malignant.
Novak's most recent columns include a prediction that Mitt Romney as a running mate could clinch Michigan for John McCain, and his column today suggesting that McCain could fumble and fumble his way right into the White House if Obama doesn't "close the deal." Well, I could have written that...
Anyway, here's hoping the P.O.D. gets well. Even a man who would out a CIA agent and who hits old guys with his Porsche deserves human sympathy.
Cheney is booted from a speaking gig before a disabled vets group after his camp demands they be locked in room for two hours in order to hear him speak:
The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas.
His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney's arrival and couldn't leave until he'd finished talking, officials confirmed.
"Word got back to us ... that this would be a prerequisite," said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn't have any rest rooms. "We told them it just wasn't acceptable."
When Cheney spoke to the group in 2004, his handlers imposed the same stringent security lockdown, upsetting members, officials said.
Many of the vets are elderly and left pieces of themselves on foreign battlefields since World War II, and others were crippled by recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan. For health reasons, many can't be stuck in a room for hours.
"It was a huge imposition on our delegates," added David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official.
Autry said vets would've had to get up "at Oh-dark-30 and try to get breakfast and showered and get their prosthetics on."
Once inside, they "could not leave the meeting room, and the bathrooms are outside," he said.
Cheney's office acknowledged the security requests, but insisted he is sensitive to combat veterans' needs.
Spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said the two-hour rule is "a recommendation, not a requirement," and "we always work to make sure the bathrooms are within the security perimeters."
Turns out the veep has tougher security requirements than the POTUS, who apparently has no interest in addressing disabled vets anyway:
President Bush routinely speaks at events such as large dinners where thousands of guests freely pass back and forth through Secret Service screening portals.
Gorman first invited Bush, who has never addressed the group, but the White House declined last month.
In case you missed it, John McCain's latest fanciful tale, from his Stephanopoulos interview yesterday, is that we were, in fact, greeted as liberators in Iraq, just like Don Rumsfeld (whom he absolutely, positively, never ever ever agreed with, ever) said we were:
A Justice Department report confirms that two former underlings of America's worst Attorney General EVER, Alberto Gonzales, broke the law by taking political persuasion into account in JD hiring. The perps: Regent University "Law School" grad Monica Goodling, and fellow traveler D. Kyle Sampson. Alberto wasn't faulted in the report... why? The only remaining question: how quickly does Michael Mukasey announce that he will do nothing?
Meanwhile, how big of a budget deficit will George W. Bush leave to the next president? Try $490 billion:
The next president will inherit a record budget deficit approaching $490 billion, a Bush administration official said Monday.
The official said the deficit was being driven to an all-time high by the sagging economy and the stimulus payments being made to 130 million households in an effort to keep the country from falling into a deep recession. A deficit approaching $490 billion would easily surpass the record deficit of $413 billion set in 2004.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because the new estimate had not been formally released. Administration officials were scheduled to do that at a news conference later Monday.
The new figure actually underestimates the deficit, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.
White House press secretary Dana Perino had no comment on the $490 billion figure. But she told reporters that the White House and lawmakers acknowledged months ago that they were going to increase the deficit by approving a short-term boost for the slumping economy.
"Both parties recognized that the deficit would increase, and that that was going to be the price that we pay," Perino said.
The White House had earlier predicted next year's deficit at $407 billion. Figures for the 2008 budget year ending Sept. 30 may also set a record.
When Dubya took office in 2001, the CBO estimated the U.S. had a ten-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. Bush even trumpeted the surplus in a campaign ad back in 2000:
Bush for President, Inc. "Surplus" 30 sec. TV spot run in NH latter part of Jan. 2000. Maverick Media
Male Announcer [music]: George W. Bush's tax plan is called an economic agenda worthy of a new president.
The Bush plan reserves $2 trillion of the surplus to protect and strengthen Social Security and pay down the national debt. The rest is dedicated to priorities--education, rebuilding our military, and providing a real tax cut for every taxpayer.
Some Washington politicians say it's better to keep the money in Washington. Governor Bush believes we can meet priorities and still give families back more of what they earn.
Over to Iraq (a/k/a "Surgistan,") where two apparent female suicide bombers killed more than 50 people and injured some 240 others in Baghdad and Kirkuk. The Guardian puts the death and injured toll even higher, at 55 and 300.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Knoxville's police chief says the man accused of a shooting that killed two people at a Tennessee church targeted the congregation because of its liberal social stance.
Chief Sterling Owen IV said Monday that police found a letter in Jim D. Adkisson's car. Owen said Adkisson was apparently frustrated over being out of work and had a "stated hatred of the liberal movement."
Adkisson is charged with first-degree murder. Police say a gunman entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church during a children's performance Sunday. No children were hurt.
The church is known for advocating women's and gay rights and founding an American Civil Liberties Union chapter.
"It appears he was acting alone," Chief Sterling Owen IV tells reporters. "In his written statement, he does not describe any affiliation with anybody and the subsequent search at his residence shows that it appears he was operating alone."
The chief says Adkisson fired three times with a 12-gauge shotgun. They recovered 76 shotgun shells at the Tennessee Valley Universalist Church. The gun was purchased last month at a pawn shop.
"I do not believe he expected to leave there alive," Owen says.
Owen says officers were at the church within minutes of receiving a call for assistance.
The FBI and ATF are assisting with the investigation.
Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the four-page leter that investigators recovered from Adkisson's truck "indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week."
Good thing he's got the individual right to bear arms. Otherwise he would have had to resort to something weak and liberal; very strong language, perhaps. Just a bit more, from the aforementioned Knoxville News Sentinel:
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.
“It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance,” the chief said. The church has a “gays welcome” sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.
The church’s Web site states that it has worked for “desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights” since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
Officers recovered 76 shells for a 12-gauge, semiautomatic shotgun inside the church. Among those shells were three spent rounds. He had carried the shotgun inside the church in a guitar case, Owen said.
“He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties,” the chief said.
Church members praised Greg McKendry, 60, who died as he attempted to block the gunfire. Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."
"Greg McKendry was a very large gentleman, one of those people you might describe as a refrigerator with a head," said church member Schera Chadwick. "He looked like a football player. He did obviously stand up and put himself in between the shooter and the congregation."
A second victim was identified as Linda Kraeger, 61. She died at a hospital hours later, Kenner said.
Five others remained hospitalized Monday in critical and serious condition. Two others were treated and released Sunday.
A new study says the obvious: the major networks may give Barack more airtime, but they're tougher on him than they are on John McCain.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.
You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.
During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.
Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.
Conservatives have been snarling about the grotesque disparity revealed by another study, the online Tyndall Report, which showed Obama receiving more than twice as much network air time as McCain in the last month and a half. Obama got 166 minutes of coverage in the seven weeks after the end of the primary season, compared with 67 minutes for McCain, according to longtime network-news observer Andrew Tyndall.
... But the center's director, RobertLichter, who has won conservative hearts with several of his previous studies, told me the facts were the facts.
this information should blow away the silly assumption that more coverage is always better coverage," he said.
If you're still in disbelief, a quick check of the transcripts of the two big Sunday shows, "Meet the Press" (with Tom Brokaw) and "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos should do the trick. Brokaw spent half the interview hectoring Barack Obama on the surge, and confronting him with commentary on his overseas trip, not from neutral analysts, but from neocon columnists, and McCain supporters, Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks. Surprise, surprise, neither was impressed with his trip. When Obam pointed out to Brokaw that both men are supporting his opponent, and that there are far more positive reviews out there than negative, Brokaw shot back that he should "just answer the question." Over to George, who retreated to the role of communications aide during his chummy interview at John McCain's wife's ranch in Arizona, helpfully correcting McCain when he declared Vladimir Putin to still be the president of Russia, and kindly supplying, unprompted, the name of Vlad's successor, Mr. Medvedev, just to help Senator McCain get through his answer. Stephanopoulos is the master of the failed follow-up, and demonstrated the technique time and again with McCain, who was allowed to not answer question after question, including the one tough one: whether he was wrong about the initial decision to invade Iraq.
Compare and contrast:
A sample question from the Brokaw interview with Obama:
MR. BROKAW: Let's talk about Afghanistan. That war, as you've emphasized a lot in the past week or so, that war's been going on since shortly after 9/11. This was your first trip. You're a member the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I know schoolteachers and NGO volunteers
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MR. BROKAW: ...who go there on a regular basis. How is it possible that, as a candidate for president of the United States and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is making his first trip to what you call the central front in the war on terror?
And one from the Stephanopoulos chat with John McCain:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've also taken some heat this week with your comments saying that Senator Obama would rather lose...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... a war than win a political campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't believe you believe that.
MCCAIN: Well, I'm not questioning his patriotism. I'm questioning his actions. I'm questioning his lack, total lack, of understanding. His...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that is questioning his total...
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you say someone would rather lose a war, a candidate, that's questioning his honor, his decency, his character.
MCCAIN: All I'm saying is -- and I will repeat -- he does not understand. I'm not questioning his patriotism. I am saying that he made the decision, which was political, in order to help him get the nomination of his party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, putting lives at risk for a political campaign -- you believe he's doing that.
George, I think, speaks for most of the media, Joe Klein et. al., who simply can't bring themselves to believe that McCain could harm a hair on Barack Obama's head, while the tone of the questioning of Obama is fierce and combative (even at the Unity Conference today, which I think most observers expected to be softball.)
So does the media find Obama more interesting than John McCain? Hell yes. Who wouldn't? But do they prefer him, or are they promoting him? No way. The only goal of the media, particularly on television, is to keep the circus going. And to do that, they have to keep McCain competitive. And believe me, they will do what it takes to help him, lift him, give him whatever passes are necessary and otherwise bend over backwards to shore up his moribund campaign.
More smears against Barack obama, this time in the form of an email that's been making the rounds of right wing and milblogs (winger blogs like this one even sexed it up for their readers...) but which has since been recanted by the author. From the Military Times:
The e-mail, signed by Capt. Jeffrey S. Porter at Bagram Airbase, characterized Obama’s July 19 visit with soldiers there as contrary to the positive portrayals of the mainstream press.
“As the soldiers where (sic) lined up to shake his hand he blew them off and didn’t say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the general,” the e-mail said.
Porter wrote that Obama then went straight to the base’s “Clamshell” or recreation facility to pose for “publicity pictures playing basketball” and “shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service. I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States. I just don’t understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-in-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country.”
Army Times sent an e-mail to Porter, a Utah Army National Guard member assigned to the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, asking if he could verify that he wrote the controversial e-mail and requesting an interview.
Porter’s reply declined the interview request, but said:
“I am writing this to ask that you delete my e-mail and not forward it, after checking my sources some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong. This e-mail was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the e-mail and if there are any blogs you have my e-mail portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too.”
The reason for Porter's hasty, and nervous sounding retreat? The Army confirmed that Barack Obama never even visited the "clamshell" at Bagram Airbase, to work out, or play basketball there. That's according to Bagram spokesman Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, who called the email contents “inappropriate and factually incorrect,” and "added that such political commentary is barred for uniformed personnel," which means that he may have violated military regulations.
Home-state troops were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons.
“We were a bit delayed ... as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs.”
The only place that Obama played basketball wasn't even in Afghanistan, it was days earlier in Kuwait, at the start of the trip (where Obama sunk that now famous three-pointer.) Porter had literally made the whole thing up. (Hat tip to the Carpetbagger Report))
More about Captain Porter, with a bit of embellishment from The Richmond Democrat blog, (whose post includes the entire text of the email, which was headlined "Hussein's visit to Afghanistan"):
Jeffrey S. Porter--a man who is obviously unfit to carry a commission in the armed forces of the United States, intended this false e-mail to be mass e-mailed anonymously so that Barack Obama would never get the opportunity to confront his false accuser. But Porter's wife made the mistake of forwarding the e-mail under his real name to friends and family, who soon forwarded it on to complete strangers. In only a few days, the e-mail was tracked back to Porter. When confronted by his superior officers, Porter admitted that the allegations he made in the e-mail were false.
Oops. And Tiff included her own name as well:
I don't know each of your personal political convictions, and apologize if anyone finds this offensive. I thought it was important enough to share.
This is Jeff's first hand view of Senator Obama.
Though she was less personable when contacted by the Army Times:
When contacted, Tiffany Porter who identified herself as his wife, said: “There were discrepancies in the e-mail, but I am not at liberty to say more.”
Porter made the same plea for deletion that he did to the Army Times to the Daily News' Mouth of the Potomac, which added this bit of detail on the young man's internal struggle:
An Army officer familiar with the incident told The Mouth today that the writer is “devastated that the letter was made public. It was never his intention that it go beyond members of his family.”
Yeah, right, if by "his family" you mean the right wing blogosphere, right wing talk radio, and Fox News. As this blogger points out, how many letters home are signed this way:
In service, CPT Jeffrey S. Porter Battle Captain TF Wasatch American Soldier
And why the clumsy attempt to disguise his branch of service? Clearly, this was no innocent intra-family email.
So what will happen to dear Captain Porter, now that he has been made famous? Will the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion of the Utah National Guard discipline him for conduct unbecoming? Lord knows we're too shorthanded on troops for "the surge" to let him go. And how dumb is his wife? She clearly needs to go back to the Karl Rove School of Political Chicanery for a refresher course... What's worse, I'm told the couple have six ... count 'em, SIX kids. What a stupid, career-jeopardizing risk to take with so many mouths to feed. And for what? To make Sean Hannity proud?
I think this is why the military frowns on its members engaging in politics. Either that or its an object lesson in what happens when the only media you feed the troops consists of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
More info, with video of Obama with the troops, taken by the military, from Factcheck.org.
And still more from Snopes.com, which received emails from some troops who actually did meet Obama, complete with pictures of Obama meeting the troops (he also shared a meal with them at Bagram.)
And courtesy of Snopes, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Porter probably won't face disciplinary action, just red faced embarrassment and public humiliation:
Utah Guard spokesman Hank McIntire said soldiers need to make sure they "separate their private views with what they say when they're in uniform."
"When you send out an e-mail, you just never know where it's going to end up," he said. "It's becoming more and more difficult to have a privately held opinion, you have to be doubly careful what you say and who you say it to."
McIntire said he did not expect Porter to face any disciplinary measures, noting that the captain appears contrite for having sent an e-mail with inaccurate information.
Remember the Keating Five scandal from the 1980s, the one John McCain once said would probably be on his tombstone? Well, it involved failed savings and loans, shady deals with politicians and, well, John McCain. A reminder from Slate, circa 2000:
In early 1987, at the beginning of his first Senate term, McCain attended two meetings with federal banking regulators to discuss an investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan, an Irvine, Calif., thrift owned by Arizona developer Charles Keating. Federal auditors were investigating Keating's banking practices, and Keating, fearful that the government would seize his S&L, sought intervention from a number of U.S. senators.
At Keating's behest, four senators--McCain and Democrats Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, and John Glenn of Ohio--met with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, on April 2. Those four senators and Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., attended a second meeting at Keating's behest on April 9 with bank regulators in San Francisco. Regulators did not seize Lincoln Savings and Loan until two years later. The Lincoln bailout cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million.
In November 1990, the Senate Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the meetings between the senators and the regulators. McCain, Cranston, DeConcini, Glenn, and Riegle became known as the Keating Five.
(Keating himself was convicted in January 1993 of 73 counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud and served more than four years in prison before his conviction was overturned. Last year, he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and was sentenced to time served.)
McCain defended his attendance at the meetings by saying Keating was a constituent and that Keating's development company, American Continental Corporation, was a major Arizona employer. McCain said he wanted to know only whether Keating was being treated fairly and that he had not tried to influence the regulators. At the second meeting, McCain told the regulators, "I wouldn't want any special favors for them," and "I don't want any part of our conversation to be improper." But Keating was more than a constituent to McCain--he was a longtime friend and associate. McCain met Keating in 1981 at a Navy League dinner in Arizona where McCain was the speaker. Keating was a former naval aviator himself, and the two men became friends. Keating raised money for McCain's two congressional campaigns in 1982 and 1984, and for McCain's 1986 Senate bid. By 1987, McCain campaigns had received $112,000 from Keating, his relatives, and his employees--the most received by any of the Keating Five. (Keating raised a total of $300,000 for the five senators.)
After McCain's election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights.
And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain's wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall....
Andrew K. McCain, son of Arizona senator and GOP presidential candidate John McCain, has resigned two high posts in the banking industry.
McCain stepped down from the boards of Silver State Bancorp and Silver State Bank of southern Nevada for "personal reasons," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Silver State would not comment further.
McCain had served on the board of Silver State Bank, originally Choice Bank, and Silver State Bancorp since February 2008, having been a director with Choice Bank starting in 2006.
McCain's current posts include Vice President and CFO of Hensley & Company, the beer distributorship which his stepmother Cindy chairs, and chairman-elect of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
Shares of Silver State Bancorp, of which Andrew McCain owns 1,226, closed at $1.28 a share on Friday. The stock's 52-week high on Nasdaq (symbol SSBX) is $24.10.
On CBS's Face the Nation this morning, host Bob Schieffer asked Hagel about McCain's claim that "Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign."
"I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, 'You're less patriotic than me. I’m more patriotic,'" Hagel said. "I admire and respect John McCain very much. I have a good relationship. To this day we do. We talk often. I talked to him right before I went to Iraq, as a matter of fact. John’s better than that."
Schieffer also asked about McCain's new TV ad in which he says Obama in Europe "made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."
Hagel, who accompanied Obama on their official trip to Afghanistan and Iraq but broke off in Jordan, said, "the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds - not the taxpayers -to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign...I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing."
Hagel said he wasn't sure about all the details of the controversy, but "we saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops."
Meanwhile, Obama's GDTP lead is up a tick, to 9 points.
McCain's 'troops' hit job: the Obama Campaign responds
The Obama campaign is hitting back at John McCain's really nasty attack ad on his decision to skip a planned visit to Lanstuhl last week. A few excerpts from the campaign's response, starting with a statement from the Florida campaign chief Steve Schale:
“John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the 'civil' straight talk campaign he claimed he would run."
Next, a flashback from St. John of Surge:
Senator McCain in 2007: “How can we possibly find honor in using the fate of our servicemen to score political advantage in Washington? There is no pride to be had in such efforts. We are at war, a hard and challenging war, and we do no service for the best of us-those who fight and risk all on our behalf-by playing politics with their service.” [Congressional Record, 5/24/07]
The campaign also offers a point by point rebuttal of the McCain ad, including the charge that Obama "hasn't held a single hearing on Afghanistan." To that, the campaign responds that such hearings are held at the full foreign relations committee level, and not by Obama's subcommittee, as is confirmed by both Republican Dick Lugar and the committee's chairman, Joe Biden. And besides:
McCain Missed Every Armed Services Committee Hearing In The Last Two Years That Discussed Afghanistan. A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain’s committee has held six hearings that included the word “Afghanistan” in the title or Central Command — which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan. McCain missed them all. [ABC News, 7/17/08]
On the charge that Obama "voted against funding our troops," the campaign cites Factcheck.org and the Associated Press:
Annenberg Fact Check: Saying Obama Voted Against Troop Funding Is “Oversimplified To The Point Of Being Seriously Misleading, Which Is Exactly The Problem With McCain’s Ad.” “As recently as April 2007, Obama voted in favor of funding U.S. troops again, but this time Democrats added a non-binding call to withdraw them from Iraq. McCain (who was absent for the vote) urged the president to veto that funding measure, because of the withdrawal language. President Bush did veto it, and McCain applauded Bush's veto. Based on those facts, it would be literally true to say that ‘McCain urged a veto of funding for our troops.’ But that would be oversimplified to the point of being seriously misleading, which is exactly the problem with McCain's ad.” [FactCheck.org, 7/22/08]
AP Fact Check: The McCain Ad’s Charge That Obama Voted Against Troop Funding Is “Misleading.” “The ad's most inflammatory charge — that Obama voted against troop funding in Iraq and Afghanistan — is misleading. The Illinois senator consistently voted to fund the troops once elected to the Senate, a point Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton made during the primaries when questioning whether his anti-war rhetoric was reflected in his actions.” [AP, 7/18/08]
And on the main charge, that Obama "found time to go to the gym, but not to visit the troops," made ironically, using video of Obama visiting U.S. troops in the war theater, the campaign provides the following:
Obama Has Been Clear: He Did Not Want Visit to Wounded Soldiers To Be Perceived as Political, Which The Pentagon Had Ruled It Would Be, And Never Planned To Bring Media. "We had scheduled to go, we had no problem at all in leaving, we always leave press and staff off -- that is why we left it off the schedule. We were treating it in the same way we treat a visit to Walter Reed which I was able to do a few weeks ago without any fanfare whatsoever. I was going to be accompanied by one of my advisors, a former military officer." Continued Obama, "And we got notice that he would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn’t on the Senate staff. That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political. And the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns." "So rather than go forward and potentially get caught up in what might have been considered a political controversy of some sort," Obama said, "what we decided was that we not make a visit and instead I would call some of the troops that were there. So that essentially would be the extent of the story." [ABC News, 7/26/08]
Obama Visited Wounded Troops at Walter Reed Last Month. The AP wrote, “Barack Obama stopped by Walter Reed Army Medical Center Saturday to visit wounded war veterans, a group that he has said endures substandard care under the Bush administration. The presumed Democratic nominee, who was in Washington to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, slipped into the facility shortly after 9 a.m. without stopping to speak to the small group of reporters who follow him. The visit wasn’t on his public schedule.” [AP, 6/28/08]
Obama Visited Wounded Troops In Baghdad’s Green Zone. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “On Monday, Sen. Obama stopped into a combat support hospital in the green zone of Baghdad, some of you may have seen the show on HBO called Baghdad ER, that was this hospital.” [Fox, 7/25/08]
McCain Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt: “We Follow The Rules” Banning Political Campaigning On Military Bases. “With Department of Defense rules prohibiting political campaigning on military bases, it was determined that in some cases McCain could visit the installations as a senator but could not engage in any political activity or have news media present. McCain campaign officials said Thursday they intentionally did not campaign on military property. ‘We follow the rules,’ said senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt.” [CNN.com, 4/3/08]
The campaign also points to McCain's voting record on troop funding:
Obama Voted For And McCain Voted Against $360 Million for Armored Vehicles for Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, Obama voted for and McCain voted against providing $360.8 million for armored tactical wheeled vehicles for units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and $5 million to establish ballistics engineering research centers at two major research institutions. The measure against which McCain voted also required such centers to advance knowledge and application of ballistics materials and procedures to improve the safety of land-based military vehicles. [HR 2863, Vote 248, 10/5/05, Passed 56-43: R 13-42 D 42-1 I 1-0]
Obama Voted TWICE Against And McCain Voted TWICE For Keeping Capital Gains Tax Cuts, Rather Than Using the Savings to Replace or Repair Equipment for Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, Obama voted for and McCain voted against repealing the extension of capital gains tax cuts and use the savings to repair, rehabilitate or replace the equipment used by the Army and Marine Corps in Afghanistan & Iraq. A week later, prior to the issuance of a conference report regarding that measure, Obama voted for and McCain voted against a measure to “insist that conference report include funding to strengthen America's military, as contained in Senate-passed amendment, instead of any extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends (which do not expire until 2009), as contained in House-passed bill.” [HR 4297, Vote 8, 2/2/06, Passed 44-53: R 1-52 D 42-1 I 1-0; HR 4297, Vote 18, 2/14/06, Failed 45-55: R 1-54 D 43-1 I 1-0]
McCain Voted Against Providing An Additional $322 Million for Troops’ Safety Equipment, Including Body Armor. In 2003, McCain voted against an amendment to provide an additional $322 million for battlefield clearance and safety equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq. As National Journal noted, the amendment would have provided funding for “soldiers' body armor, communications and other equipment.” The increased spending would have been offset by a reduction in Iraqi reconstruction funds. [S 1689, Vote 376, 10/2/03, Passed 49-37: R 46-0 D 2-37 I 1-0; National Journal’s CongressDaily, 10/3/03]
McCain Opposed $1 Billion For Equipment For National Guard. In 2003, McCain opposed providing $1 billion for equipment for the National Guard and Reserves. [S 762, Vote 116, 4/2/03, Passed 52-47: R 51-0 D 1-46 I 0-1]
Though they left off his longstanding opposition to bills that would increase funding for veterans' healthcare, and his opposition to the Jim Webb-authored G.I. Bill for the 21st Century. This is, after all, the same John McCain whose ratings with veterans groups are shockingly low. As ThinkP reported after McCain's run-in with a well-read vet at one of his town hall meetings:
As for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — with whom McCain claims to have a “perfect voting record” — both groups vigorouslysupported Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) GI Bill that McCaintirelesslyopposed.
John McCain. Campaign first.
I agree with TPM's Greg Sargent that the Obama team's explanation for the cancelled visit should have been clearer, since from all the credible reporting that's out there, they are correct that the Pentagon informed the campaign, late in the game (on Wednesday) that it would violate DoD rules for the candidate to visit with campaign staff (he had no Senate staff with him, since they had gone home following the Mideast portion of the trip.) The question wasn't whether cameras could tag along, but how the Senator would make the visit unstaffed. I suppose he could have gone alone, just with his Secret Service detail, but the campaign apparently decided the logistics wouldn't work at that late hour.
The bottom line is that McCain is attacking Obama for not caring enough about the troops to visit them, during a trip in which he started the friggin thing by VISITING THE TROOPS. And since McCain knows better, he is engaging in exactly the kind of down and dirty politics that did him in in 2000, and his supposed friend John Kerry in in 2004. For once, I agree with Joe Klein. It smacks of desperation, and raises questions about his temperament, and fitness to be president. But sometimes in politics, desperation is all you've got, and if you're a basically nasty guy, as McCain is, you use it. Or as a very witty blogger, Wisco, over at Griper Blade, puts it:
With the way things are shaking out, you might expect John McCain to do something different. And he is -- kind of. He's not abandoning the tried and untrue "referendeum on Obama" strategy that failed so well for Clinton. He does what Republicans often do when their ideas aren't working; he assumes he's not being a big enough dick about it.
Meanwhile, guess what Fox News and right wing talk radio are going to spend the next week talking about? If you tuned in to Fox's "fair and balanced" coverage at any time today, you already know.
BTW, you'll recall in 2000 that one of the most dramatic moments of the Republican primary was the debate in which John McCain demanded an apology from George W. Bush for insinuations made on his behalf that McCain had abandoned fellow veterans. Let's take a walk back in time, to a campaign in which John McCain was cast as the hero, and when the old boy could still draw a crowd. See if this doesn't strike you as funny as it did me:
THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE VETERANS ISSUE; Five Senators Rebuke Bush For Criticism of McCain
By MARC LACEY Published: February 5, 2000, NEW YORK TIMES
Gov. George W. Bush was slammed today by five senators who, like his chief rival, fought in Vietnam for using a veterans activist to criticize Senator John McCain's record on veterans issues.
The incident also drew a rebuke from an official of Mr. Bush's father's administration.
On Thursday Mr. Bush shared a stage in Sumter, S.C., with J. Thomas Burch Jr., chairman of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Committee, who said Mr. McCain, hailed as a hero for surviving five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, had opposed measures dealing with Agent Orange and gulf war syndrome as well as legislation to help families of soldiers missing in action in Vietnam.
''He came home, forgot us,'' Mr. Burch said.
In the letter to Mr. Bush, the senators said: ''We are writing to express our dismay at the misinformed accusations leveled by your surrogate.''
''These allegations are absolutely false,'' said the letter signed by Senators Max Cleland of Georgia, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles S. Robb of Virginia, all Democrats, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican and one of Mr. McCain's few supporters in the Senate.
''Indeed,'' it went on, ''Mr. Burch was a leading critic of President Reagan's and your father's policies on POW/MIA issues, and he vehemently opposed a historic effort led by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs carried out on a bipartisan basis which resulted in the declassification of millions of documents and the identification and return to the United States of the remains of hundreds of American servicemen who were missing in action.''
The senators wrote that Mr. McCain was a leader on veterans issues. ''We hope you will publicly disassociate yourself from these efforts, and apologize to Senator McCain.''
Referring to the senators, Mr. McCain said: ''Their friendship is all the honor I need in my life, and more than compensates for the temporary irritation of baseless attacks by apparentlydesperate political campaigns.''
Aides to Mr. Bush said he never questioned Mr. McCain's status as a war hero and called the McCain campaign's efforts to counter Mr. Burch's criticism desperate.
''This shows that the McCain campaign is worried about the strong support Gov. Bush has from veterans,'' said Scott McClellan, a Bush spokesman.
... Campaigning in South Carolina today, Mr. McCain drew crowds so huge that organizers have been searching out bigger venues.
At a medieval-theme restaurant in Myrtle Beach this morning, well over a thousand people packed every inch of floor, stair and hallway space, even spilling out the front door.
Mr. McCain, clearly buoyed by the energy of the room, gave a stump speech in which he declared, ''A primary ended on Tuesday night and a crusade began.''
Later in the day, a crowd squeezed into a National Guard armory here, where a sign on the front door read: ''Occupancy by more than 720 persons is dangerous and unlawful.'' The audience was pushing the limit but everybody's attention was on the table of McCain stickers, posters, pamphlets and contribution forms, all of which were moving briskly.
Despite the aura of excitement, Mr. McCain is warning his backers against overconfidence, noting that polls, and a campaign's fortunes, can sway dramatically from one moment to the next.
''I've been involved in too many campaigns to have any degree of confidence here,'' Mr. McCain said aboard his campaign bus, which is trailed by two overflow buses.
''I'm pleased we're doing well at this particular time. We've seen a huge swing -- 20 points or more in South Carolina. I think the message there is that it can swing back just as easily.''
Mr. McCain said he is seeking to assemble the same type of coalition that had propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency, a broad-based, centrist approach he said President Clinton had also successfully employed.
pscyhotic radio host Michael Savage sounded defensive and almost whiney last week when I tuned in for a few minutes to hear if he would comment on the backlash from his "autistic kids are brats who need to be told to stop acting like morons" rant. He's got reason to whine:
A group of seven Mississippi talk radio stations owned by Telesouth Communications has dropped Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio program over comments the host made last week suggesting that nearly every child with autism was “a brat” of inattentive parents. “Michael Savage’s comments about autistic children were beyond inexcusable and are unacceptable,” the station group said in a statement posted Tuesday on its Web site, supertalkms.com. The cancellation follows the decision on Monday by Aflac, the insurance company, to pull its advertising from the show. On his Web site, Michaelsavage.com, the host posted a letter on Monday in which he iterated the central point he said he had been trying to make on his July 16 program: that autism is too often misdiagnosed in the cases of children, or falsely diagnosed, at least partly as a means of wringing resources. “Let the truly autistic be treated,” he wrote. “Let the falsely diagnosed be free.” On July 16, Mr. Savage, above, referred to autism as “a fraud, a racket,” and asserted that what “99 percent” of children with autism most needed was a parent willing to tell them things like, “Don’t act like a moron.”
The radio wack job has also lost affiliates in Virginia and Cleveland, and the duckie isn't the only advertiser that's heading for the hills:
Six more major companies have yanked ads from Michael Savage's talk-radio show after he branded autistic children "brats."
Home Depot, Sears and Budweiser all withdrew their support from the fiery hatemonger's program, along with Direct Buy, Cisco and Radio Shack, according to Autism United.
Even Annheuser Busch, which has given so much to Weiner's friend John McCain via the missus, is saying "Savage who?"
UPATE: According to Allaccess.com, here's how it went down in Cleveland:
SALEM Talk WHK-A/CLEVELAND is dropping TALK RADIO NETWORK's MICHAEL SAVAGE in the wake of the controversy over SAVAGE's comments about autism, according to the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER. The paper's JULIE E. WASHINGTON reports that the station has a contract to carry SAVAGE through 2010 but that station manager MARK JAYCOX told her "This guy's a knucklehead, and I want to get rid of him."
And Autism United isn't sitting back waiting for other sponsors to walk:
"We are going after each and every advertiser that hasn't dropped him yet," said Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United, who joined angry parents in a protest on Wall Street Friday.
"We are doing this in all states and really hoping that more people will immediately drop out supporting him. We are going after every angle."
Get him, guys. If anyone deserves to lose his radio gig and wind up sleeping in his car, it's Savage. It's one thing to go after politicians, but autistic kids? Come on. I know conservatives hate the defenseless, but wingers also believe in free market consequences, so let's let Savage get to know the market first hand. And for anyone on the right who might be tempted to defend Savage, this is what he said:
“I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Act like a man.”
The McCain campaign has been lurking around like vultures, looking for a crumb from the Obama overseas trip to turn into an anvil. They have it, and the ads are going up post haste:
Signaling a new aggressiveness, aides to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Saturday that he is going up immediately with an ad called "Troops" criticizing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for canceling plans to visit wounded troops at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
The 30-second ad is to run during NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in Denver. Colorado is one of this election's most important swing states. On Sunday it will air in the Washington market and in Harrisburg, Pa., another key swing state.
An announcer says: "Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hadn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain. Country first."
Then McCain says: "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."
Two questions for the Obama team: were they deliberately set up by the Bush Pentagon? And how long till they produce a response ad? They'd better do the latter quickly, and not get caught up in the "it wasn't a mistake" meme. Worse, the Obama camp's explanation, that he didn't want to exploit the troops politically, is frankly not going to fly in the environment the McCainiacks are about to create for him. The McCain people are meaner, and more desperate, than they are. They've got to constantly keep that in mind. As Josh Marshall puts it:
McCain's new ad, which you can see here, is really beyond disgusting. At this point I think it's clear that honor really doesn't mean much to McCain. When things get tough, as it is in this election campaign, there's no limit to what he'll do.
That may be true, but based on the headlines it's creating, which at this point are subsuming the positive headlines from earlier in the week, the Germany troops visit story will be THE attack thread of the next few weeks of the campaign, and the media WILL play ball.
McCain's campaign didn't have footage of Obama's actual trip to the gym Wednesday in Germany, so for the portion of their new ad when they ding the Democrat for making time to work out they flash imagery of Obama shooting hoops.
The problem, as noted by many emailers, is that the shots are taken are from a gym on an American military post. That's right, McCain's camp went after Obama for ditching a trip to see wounded troops with images of Obama's visit to see American military personnel stationed in Kuwait last weekend.
Good thing for McCain, the picture is too blurry to make clear Obama is with soldiers at the time.
Obama fans are reacting angrily, but I don't think that most of them realize how effective this line of attack can be, particularly with older, more conservative Democrats in key swing states. This is going to be pounded day after day on talk radio from now to the convention, and probably beyond. Despite the outrage of using DOD footage in a campaign ad, and the plain falsehood of the attack, the ad represents the way John McCain plays ball, and the way he will continue to do so throughout this campaign. Fasten your seatbelts. It's not by accident that McCain acquired the following commentary, cribbed with great thanks from a an anonymous commenter on Politico:
"His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, that should disqualify him." - Former Senator Bob Smith, R-NH
"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic." - Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS
"I decided I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger." - Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM
"There's nothing redeeming about John McCain...he's a hypocrite." - Former House GOP Whip Tom DeLay
"He is a vicious person. They so disliked him that they wouldn't support him." - Former Representative Charles LeBoutillier, R-NY
"What happens if he gets angry in crisis in the presidency? It's the president's job to negotiate and stay calm. I just don't see that he has that quality." - Former Arizona GOP Chairman John Hinz
"John McCain is Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism, and youth. Unlike McCain, Dole didn't lie all the time while claiming to engage in 'straight talk.'" - Conservative blowhard Ann Coulter
"Hardheaded is one way to say it. Arrogant is another way to say it. Hubristic is another way to say it. Too proud for his own good is another way to say it. It's a quality about him that disturbs me." - Larry Wilkerson, former chief aide to Colin Powell
An "embarrassment to the party." - Arizona GOP State Senator Susan Johnson
"I don't like him at all." - Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO
"It just seems like everything we did, John was someplace else...In my mind, he is not a conservative." - Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL
"He is the anti-conservative. He instinctively sides against conservatives and relishes poking them in the eye." - Conservative blowhard David Limbaugh
"If either John McCain or Mike Huckabee gets the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, it's going to change it forever, be the end of it." - Conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh
If the 109th Congress will go down in history as boot-licking hand maidens to a criminal White House, the 110th will go down as the most cowardly, utterly useless opposition body in U.S. history -- the polar opposite of the body that faced down Richard Nixon, and the wimp-ridden antidote to the scheming, partisan body that tried to undo the election of William Clinton.
How useless is the current Congress? Let me count the ways...
They can't compel Karl Rove or Josh Bolten to testify before them, and their constant threats of "contempt!" fall by the wayside...
They can't out-maneuver Republicans, who stop bills cold on the House and Senate floor.
They capitulated in cowardly fashion on FISA, giving Bush everything he wanted on domestic surveillance and telecom immunity, junking the Fourth Amendment in the process (and they've got more coming, from the still-enforced PATRIOT Act to complete surveillance of the Internet.) ***NOTE: read this post on the Bushies' database of some 8 million Americans whom they could surveil and detain at will in the event of "an emergency" if you really want to feel sick to your stomach.***
They continue to give Bush everything his heart desires on Iraq, backing down time and again on the issue of a timetable for orderly withdrawal, and forking over all the cash Dubya's Pentagon can stuff into a sideways appropriation.
They cannot reign in a recalcitrant attorney general who is thumbing his nose at them as surely as his predecessor did.
They cannot pass meaningful legislation outside of a housing bill that even Bush wasn't dumb enough to veto in an election year.
And their only concern, from Pelosi on down, appears to be getting re-elected.
Worst of all, they refuse to hold accountable, through the only means the Constitution allows: impeachment; a president that many of them -- or really any of them who have an iota of understanding of the Constitution -- know committed clearly impeachable offenses (many of these guys are lawyers.) Instead, the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, like their GOP-led predecessors, are spending their time "saving the president's chestnuts" and scheming among themselves to hold sham "impeachment-like" hearings that are unworthy of press coverage (which is why they aren't getting any,) while promising the White House that nothing will come of them. Even Dennis Kucinich, the author of the "hearings," capitulated, allowing the House leadership to let him make a fool of himself and his colleagues, while wasting the valuable time of dozens of earnest witnesses (not to mention bloggers, who thankfully have lots of time on their hands...)
What then, is the purpose of our current Congress? A useless bunch, almost all of them, particularly in the House, where most of the rotten, Bush-petting legislation and cowardice orginates, but also in the Senate, where Harry Reid and company continue to quizzle and cower under the outright treachery of one Joseph Lieberman.
With all of the lack of spine, one wonders whether the administration's domestic wiretapping extended into the Congressional office building. That might at least explain why they continue to do the bidding of a lame duck president and his criminal gang. Next, I expect them to approve offshore oil drilling and pass a law declaring torture to be the law of the land. What more damage can they do to the constitution and the Republic at this point, having declared, in essence, that there are no impeachable offenses -- that a president can break the law with impunity, and that he and his cabinet; hell, his FORMER cabinet members -- can feel free to ignore Congress altogether, with Congress's blessing. They have squandered their constitutional prerogatives, made a mockery of their own authority, and allowed that man, that idiot in the White House, to humiliate them and blacken our country's honor, not to mention killing more than 4,000 of our bravest citizens in furtherance of a fundamentally un-American neoconservative cause.
Now the Debbie Wasserman Schultz's of the world might explain that I simply don't understand how politics works -- the Congress has to "get the people's business done," and the people want lower gas bills, not impeachment. Well when members of Congress take the oath of office, they, like the president, swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The pork for their districts comes later. And because the Constitution is so fundamental to our freedoms, to our ability to live free in a country that still belongs to us, and not the president, impeachment of a criminal administration IS the people's business. Getting re-elected, well, that's YOUR business, Debbie. Besides, what exactly has Congress gotten done "for us" in the last two years? Hm? Not much.
Checks and balances are endangered when Congress refuses to perform its oversight role and hold members of the executive branch accountable for their actions. The Intelligence Committee decision is just the latest in a series of caves to the White House by this Republican-led Congress. Congress caved when it reauthorized the PATRIOT Act, which includes provisions that deprive Americans of civil liberties. Congress has failed to fulfill its oversight responsibility for a wide variety of executive agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which has reportedly reduced some fines for safety violations and failed to collect others at all.2 Congress has refused to investigate the Bush administration’s attempt to hide the true estimated cost of its Medicare prescription drug benefit, the White House’s disclosure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, and corporate special interests’ and oil lobbyists’ involvement in Vice President Cheney’s energy policy task force.
It’s no wonder that, according to the Washington Post, “Government scholars and watchdog groups say the decline of congressional oversight in recent years has thrown off kilter the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers created to keep no one branch of government from becoming too powerful.”iii
At this stage, I'm not even sure why they're there. We should throw off this false patina of multi-cameral government and simply install our president as king. He already has his puppet parliament.
If I had my way, our pathetic Congress would be turned out on their asses this fall, starting with Nancy, Harry and the hugely disappointing John Conyers, and with the exception of a small handful, including Jim Webb (because of his advocacy for our veterans), Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman and Robert Wexler. The rest of them can go to blazes. (Chuck Hagel is retiring, Barack Obama is running for president.)
Unfortunately, most of these clods' seats are perfectly safe.
And that might be the biggest shame of all.
I'll close with part of the testimony from Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the other "good guys," at the faux-impeachment hearings yesterday:
"What this Congress does, or chooses not to do in furthering the investigation of the serious allegations against this administration - and if just cause is found, to hold them accountable - will impact the conduct of future presidents, perhaps for generations."
"Mr. Chairman," Baldwin continued, "there are those who would say that holding this hearing - examining whether or not the president and vice president broke the law - is frivolous. I not only reject this, I believe there is no task more important for this Congress than to seriously consider whether our nation's leaders have violated their oath of office. The American public expects no less. It is, after all, their Constitution. No president or congress has the authority to override that document, whereby 'We the People' conferred upon the branches of government limited and defined power, and provided for meaningful checks and balances."
There can be no question at this late date in the Bush presidency that the issue of whether the American system will be characterized by "meaningful checks and balances" is at stake - and that goes to the heart of the matter of why Friday's hearing ought not be the end of a process but a beginning.
Even after George Bush and Dick Cheney have left the White House, the definition of the presidency that they have crafted will remain.
"On January 20, 2009, the next president and vice president of the United States will stand before the American people and take an oath of office, swearing to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.' This commitment and obligation is so fundamental to our democracy that our nation's founders prescribed that oath in our Constitution. They also provided for the removal of the president and vice president for, among other things, 'high crimes and misdemeanors,'" Baldwin explained to the committee. "Presidents and vice presidents do not take that oath in a vacuum. They are informed by the actions or inactions of past presidents and congresses, who establish precedents for the future."
It is in the power of the Congress to begin setting the precedent to which Baldwin addressed herself. That power was defined by the framers of the Constitution, as were the practices and procedures to be used in executing it.
... (The) American people have been forced to sit by while credible allegations of abuse of power mount:
And we continue to sit by, waiting for a Congress with the courage to act.
UPDATE: Check out Congress' latest capitulation, to big oil. |
How far is Fox News willing to go to help John McCain become president? They're now pulling a stunt that would make the Fidel Castro regime proud: actually de-aging the wizened Republican candidate by using video from his 2000 campaign. Dan Abrams caught it, as Raw Story reports:
Over a "Beat the Press: Fox Anti-Aging Fix" graphic, Abrams urged, "Take a good look at the senator and the video they use." He then showed a clip in which Fox ran http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifvideo of a strangely youthful and vigorous-looking McCain at a campaign rally to accompany a story about McCain's current campaign schedule. However, the video also prominently features a sign reading "www.mccain2000.com," which at one point is even waved in front of McCain's face.
"Fox is actually using eight year old video to discuss today's activities," Abrams marveled. He concluded cheerfully, "They report -- you decide."
Good work, Fair and Balanced team! Hell, at this point, they're almost as helpful to Republicans as Nancy Pelosi!
Another day, another reason to clap Karl Rove in leg irons. This one from the Brad Blog:
Karl Rove has threatened a GOP high-tech guru and his wife, if he does not "'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio," according to a letter sent this morning to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, by Ohio election attorney Cliff Arnebeck.
The email, posted in full below, details threats against Mike Connell of the Republican firm New Media Communications, which describes itself on its website as "a powerhouse in the field of Republican website development and Internet services" and having "played a strategic role in helping the GOP expand its technological supremacy."
Connell was described in a recent interview with the plaintiff's attorneys in Ohio as a "high IQ Forrest Gump" for his appearance "at the scene of every [GOP] crime" from Florida 2000 to Ohio 2004 to the RNC email system to the installation of the currently-used Congressional computer network firewall.
Connell and his firm are currently employed by the John McCain campaign, as well as the RNC and other Republican and so-called "faith-based" organizations.
In a phone call this afternoon, Arnebeck could not publicly reveal specific details of the information that triggered his concern about the threats to Connell. The message to the IT man from Rove is said to have been sent via a go-between in Ohio. That information led Arnebeck to contact Mukasey after he found the reports to be credible and troubling.
"If there's a credible threat, which I regard this to be," he told The BRAD BLOG, "I have a professional duty to report it."
Brad has a lot more, including a copy of the email to Mukasey, and information that Rove may be linked to the "gaming of the Ohio election" in 2004:
The motion was made following the discovery of new information, including details from a Republican data security expert, leading Arnebeck towards seeking depositions of Rove, Connell, and other GOP operatives believed to have participated in the gaming of election results in 2004. A letter [PDF] was sent to Mukasey at the same time last week, asking him to retain email and other documents from Rove...
"Mr. Rove's e-mails from the White House to the Justice Department, the FBI, the Pentagon, Congress and various federal regulatory agencies are obviously relevant to the factual issues that we intend to address in this case," Arnebeck wrote last week to the Attorney General. "We are concerned about reports that Mr. Rove not only destroyed e-mails, but also took steps to destroy the hard drives from which they had been sent."
In his email to Mukasey today, Arnebeck writes: "We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to 'take the fall' for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations."
"This appears to be in response to our designation of Rove as the principal perpetrator in the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act/RICO claim with respect to which we issued document hold notices last Thursday to you and to the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform," the Ohio attorney writes, before going on to link to The BRAD BLOG's coverage of his press conference last week and requesting "protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness."
Combined with his serial contempt of Congress, and his near death experience in the Valerie Plame case, what more evidence do we need that Karl Rove is a criminal? Does he have to shoot someone in the face? Run over them with his car? Oh, right ...
Barack Obama today spoke of America's "deep and abiding affection" for the UK as he ended his lengthy global charm offensive tour with talks with Gordon Brown in London.
The Democratic party candidate, who flew in last night from Paris, spent about 20 minutes answering questions outside Downing Street after two hours of discussions with the prime minister.
Much of the talks concerned Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change and the state of the global economy, Obama said. He called for the "burden" of Afghanistan to be more evenly shared while praising the UK's military efforts, saying: "I know the troops here have paid a heavy price for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Aside from addressing domestic political issues – notably jibes from his Republican opponent, John McCain, that he is revelling excessively in overseas acclaim – Obama stuck mainly to generalities, as he has done for much of a trip that has already taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Germany and France.
Noting the US and UK's common linguistic and institutional heritage, Obama spoke of the "deep and abiding affection for the British people in America, and a fascination for all things British that is not going to go away any time soon".
Brown remained inside as Obama spoke and posed for pictures with him in the Downing Street garden, not on the front steps.
While the PM, who faces persistent questions about his future after Thursday's Glasgow East byelection defeat, would most likely enjoy basking in Obama's reflected star quality, he is bound by protocol. When McCain visited London in May, there were no joint press conferences or appearances on the Downing Street steps, meaning Brown had to do the same for the Democrat.
[Back to the Independent...] Barack Obama arrived in London last night from Paris on his plane, nicknamed "Obama One", having conquered continental Europe and been anointed with headlines of "Obamania" in European newspapers.
After emerging from the aircraft – which has his catchphrase "Change we can believe in" printed on its side – a relaxed Mr Obama met the American ambassador, Robert Tuttle, and his wife, Maria, before greeting the waiting press. The presidential candidate and his entourage were then driven to their West End hotel, the Hyatt Regency London near Marble Arch, in a convoy of black Mercedes people carriers.
In Paris, where opinion polls mirror those across Europe by showing public support for his candidacy as US president, he appeared to have won the unofficial endorsement of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who praised him effusively at a news conference. Mr Obama and the French President emerged from talks that focused on the hot spots toured by Mr Obama on his international trip: Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Mr Obama successfully played the political rock star in Berlin with the only public event of his global tour, when he delivered a speech to more than 200,000 Germans in the city's central Tiergarten.
Mr Brown could have bathed in the reflected glory of the Democratic presidential candidate by holding a joint press conference with him today after their scheduled 45-minute meeting. However, he is forbidden by protocol from doing this as he did not hold a press conference with John McCain, the Republican candidate, last May.
M. Sarkozy threw such diplomatic niceties to the winds yesterday, having allowed Mr McCain to answer journalists' questions alone outside the Elysée Palace during his visit. The French President, whose popularity ratings are as dismal as those of Mr Brown, clearly hoped for a "bounce" as he revelled in the presence of Mr Obama, whom he described as "my mate" in Le Figaro.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has no such bounce on the horizon. His party appears ready to turn him out the door...
Back to Obama. He and his camp are busy lowering expectations for the aftermath of the trip, with Obama agreeing with naysaying pundits who suggest that the trip could actually hurt him politically.
LONDON -- "I am not sure that there is going to be some immediate political impact," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told reporters today about his eight-day, eight-country world tour.
"I wouldn’t even be surprised if that in some polls that you saw a little bit of a dip as a consequence we have been out of the country for a week," he said. "People are worried about gas prices and home foreclosures."
Any guesses what the campaign will be focused on next week?
But for now, Obama will own the Sunday shows, although I'm expecting Stephanopolous and the folks at Fox to lead the charge in damning the trip as a political mistake, and I expect George and his new friends on the right to harp on the scrubbed visit to wounded troops in Germany as part of their "save McCain" salvo.
Next up, the Sun tracks down Barack's half-brother in London who ... wait for it ... is a Muslim! Oh, I can just see the Fox News breaking developments banner now!
The Sun was the first newspaper to track down and speak to Bernard Obama, 37.
And he said of Democrat candidate Barack: “I’m very proud of my big brother.
“It’s quite a funny feeling that he might be the next President of the USA.”
Muslim Bernard — an avid Manchester United fan and Sun reader — is staying with his bingo-loving mum Kezia, 67, who has lived in the Berkshire new town for six years.
He was glued to the TV news in the modest suburban bungalow last night as Barack, 46, was due to arrive in Britain.
Bernard leads a quiet life, running a car parts firm in Nairobi, Kenya.
But he is a regular visitor to the UK to visit Elvis fan Kezia.
She married Barack Obama Snr in Kenya in 1957 when she was a teenager.
He later left for the US and went on to meet Ann Dunham, who gave birth to his now widely acclaimed son.
And in a story I can directly relate to, Barack Sr. then returned to Kenya and had two more kids with Kezia (if he's anything like my father, he was married to both women at the same time...)
Speaking outside Downing Street, Mr Obama, who is on the final part of the European leg of his tour, also thanked the British people for their support in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I know that the troops here in Great Britain have borne a heavy price for wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I think the American people are grateful for all the help that has been provided," he said.
"The prime minister's emphasis - like mine - is on how we can strengthen the trans-Atlantic relationship to solve problems that can't be solved by any single country individually," he added.
Mr Obama spoke of a "deep and abiding affection for the British people in America and a fascination with all things British".
He also referred to a shared history and the role of the "English tradition" in shaping the US constitution.
"We've been through two world wars together," he said.
"We speak a common language. We share a belief in rule of law and due process."
Or at least we did share a belief in the rule of law and due process, before the Bush crowd came along. And with any luck, we will again.
And with that, it's bye-bye Europe, and back to the good old, U.S.A.
(See more great pics from The Guardian's Obama slide show here.)
At British Parliament today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, met with Tory Leader David Cameron.
Seemingly unaware of an enormous fuzzy boom mike held by ABC News' Eric Kerchner, the two chatted casually -- and privately.
"You should be on the beach," Cameron told Obama. "You need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together."
"You've got to refresh yourself," agreed Obama.
... "These guys just chalk your diary up," said Cameron, referring to a packed schedule.
"Right," Obama said. "In 15 minute increments …"
"We call it the dentist's waiting room," Cameron said. "You have to scrap that because you've got to have time."
"And, well, and you start making mistakes," Obama said, "or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel-- "
"Your feeling," interrupted Cameron. "And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions."
"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."
There's so much wrong with the McCain campaign, I don't have the time or patience to get into it all. But I think the thing that's wrapped around all the other problems is this: McCain is the most miserable, dour and downright angry candidate I think I've ever seen. He's even angrier than Bob Dole.
Now, angry can be kind of interesting. Ross Perot was angry, but he was interesting, because what he was angry at was the same thing we were angry at: the wasteful, spend-happy U.S. government. But even Perot's act got old after awhile, and even his funny, high voice couldn't save it. With McCain, there's a funny voice, but not "ha ha" funny -- more like, "wierd guy who's house you're scared to trick or treat at" funny.
Even when McCain does smile, which is rare, it's damned creepy, like when he follows statements like "that's not change you can believe in" with a spooky, grimacy laugh.
It would be different if McCain came off as righteously indignant at some external ill that All Americans can relate to; if he railed against an economy that's hurting the little guy, or against big corporations that take American jobs overseas... if he spouted off about the administration's failure to find Osama bin Laden (something that would also help distance him from his ball and chain, George W. Bush.) Instead, McCain's constant outrage these days is that Barack Obama won't admit that the surge is working, damnit! Not exactly the issue on the top of struggling middle class American minds.
McCain rages that Obama won't allow the big oil companies to have more oil leases (though he says nothing about oil companies that refuse to drill on the leases they have, or who are bilking the American people (not to mention his opposition to a bill that would have forced oil companies to sell any oil they drill offshore in the U.S., to Americans, rather than the higher bidding Chinese...) Thus, he misses the chance to take advantage of a tried and true political axiom: attack the unpopular big guy in defense of Joe American.
Most of all, McCain doesn't seem to be angry on behalf of the American people -- he seems angry for HIMSELF, and at his situation, which makes him look petty and mean. He seems to be angry that his ambitions are being dashed, that his luster has been stolen away by someone else, that some little nobody has dared to take away his newness, his "wow factor," his change message, and even his friends in the press. In short, McCain seems to be angry at life -- at the fact that for the second time, a guy he thinks is inferior to him is taking away his chance to be president.
That's not a good look.
And so, John McCain turns to yet another attractive quality: his penchant for ridicule:
DENVER (AP) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain, ridiculing Barack Obama for "the audacity of hopelessness" in his policies on Iraq, said Friday that the entire Middle East could have plunged into war had U.S. troops been withdrawn as his rival advocated.
Speaking to an audience of Hispanic military veterans, McCain stepped up his criticism of Obama while the Illinois senator continued his headline-grabbing tour of the Middle East and Europe. The Arizona Republican contended that Obama's policies - he opposed sending more troops to Iraq in the "surge" that McCain supported - would have led to defeat there and in Afghanistan.
"We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right," McCain said, a play on the title of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."
McCain laid out a near-apocalyptic chain of events he said could have resulted had Obama managed to stop the troop buildup ordered by President Bush: U.S. forces retreating under fire, the Iraqi army collapsing, civilian casualties increasing dramatically, al-Qaida killing cooperative Sunni sheiks and finding safe havens to train fighters and launch attacks on Americans, and civil war, genocide and a wider conflict.
"Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened," he said. "Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war."
Noting that the buildup was unpopular with most Americans, McCain said: "Sen. Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth."
Not exactly "morning in America."
Worse, McCain made his latest miserable remarks in Colorado, where he met with the Dalai Lama. Maybe the zen master could teach him to loosen up.
It strikes me that Americans don't like dour, angry presidential candidates. Historically, the country has tended to chose the sunnier candidate. Americans picked buoyant Kennedy over glowering Nixon (even with the latter's substantial experience); they chose optimistic Ronnie Reagan over grim school marm Jimmy Carter, and saxophone toting Big Bill Clinton over clock watching scold George Bush. Even Al Gore was done in by the frat boyish George W. Bush, because Bush was the guy America wanted to spend the soon-to-be-squandered surplus on beers with (which is why Bush was able to get close enough for his dad's friends on the Supreme Court to make him president.)
So can McCain "win angry?" Maybe, but only if enough Americans are as dour and miserable and rejectionist as he is. And then, what kind of country would that mean that we are?
Even the right has remarked on McCain's demeanor. Back before the right wing bloggers got on the conference calls and got the orders to become slavishly devoted to the Republican nominee, Riehlworldview had this to say about McCain:
Intolerant, Angry McCain
While I'm not a big fan of protesting during a speech, there is something to be said for free speech. It shouldn't include being brow beaten with a now tired response from John McCain. He continues to use an exceptional case to close down debate on illegal immigration. And his temperament in doing it doesn't really play well at all.
If he wants to yell and curse at his colleagues in the Senate, it's their business if they want to put up with it. But how long before this guy really goes off on someone in the heat of a national campaign?
Mr. Shamnesty-Short Fuse almost walked off the stage during a campaign event with the AFL-CIO in Michigan. Audience members didn’t like his soft-on-illegal immigration blather. They booed.
Of course now, he's rational, exceptional, wonderful McCain, but there you go. Politics. Some of us can't get it out of our heads that this guy is a ticking time bomb of randomly placed rage (examples here, here, here and here.) More on McCain's McTemper:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and French president Nicolas Sarkozy today called on their respective nations to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties, saying the security and environmental challenges confronting the world cannot be met without coordinated action.
The joint press conference was the latest stop on Obama's weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe.
The two men were warm in their praise for one another. Obama lauded Sarkozy's political instincts, noting that on a 2006 trip to the US, Sarkozy met with only two US senators: Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
"I would suggest that for the reporters in the room, if you want to know something about elections you should talk to the president of France," said Obama, who towered over Sarkozy. "He seems to have a good nose for how things play out."
Meanwhile, Sarkozy referred to "my dear Barack Obama," and said, "Barack Obama's adventure is an adventure that rings true in the hearts and mind of the French and of Europeans."
On the main topics of discussion, Sarkozy said the two were largely in accord.
"Barack Obama and I talked about many things -- Iran, peace in the Middle East -- and I want to say that there's a tremendous convergence of views," he said. "This was a fascinating discussion we had."
Obama and Sarkozy deftly parried attempts to draw them into uncomfortable political territory, and kept their lengthy remarks focused on French- and European-American relations and on common security and climate goals.
The realty of the reaction to and resonance of Obama's visit may be much more complex, however. While many Europeans see Obama as a symbol of change in the United States, in France, where racial issues play a particularly divisive role in domestic politics, Obama has become a symbol of some French voters' hopes for their own country.
“The French are looking in the mirror and reflecting on their own shortcomings when it comes to multiethnic and multiracial society,” said Georgetown professor Charles Kupchan, who is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I think it’s safe to say that it would be almost unthinkable that a minority would be a leading contender for the presidency of France.”
France has a substantial population of nonwhite immigrants, largely from former colonies in North and West Africa, that has struggled to participate in French political life. A French group that studies diversity issues released a report in March showing that minorities occupied just 2,000 out of 520,000 city council seats across France. There is only one black member of Parliament from mainland France.
“I think that in Obama, the French see a minority figure who has succeeded in making it to the top,” Kupchan said.
After Obama secured the Democratic nomination, a French civil rights group, the Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires, issued a statement decrying the absence of similar figures in French politics.
“What black candidate could stand for the French presidency with a chance of being elected that is equal to that of a white?” the statement asked.
On June 29, Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, reprinted Obama’s entire March 18 speech on race under a headline that quoted a translation of the address: “Race is a subject that our country cannot allow itself to ignore.” Obama was referring to his own nation’s troubled racial past and present — but French readers could have taken a different suggestion from the headline.
Meanwhile, some controversy arises over the release of a prayer Obama tucked into the Western Wall in Jerusalem:
The rabbi of Jerusalem's Western Wall criticised an Israeli newspaper today after it published a private prayer written by Barack Obama and taken from the sacred site after he visited the city earlier this week.
It is a tradition for the millions of visitors to the Western Wall, one of the holiest locations in Judaism, to place inside the cracks in the stone written prayers or requests to God. The rabbi in charge of the wall collects the notes periodically and buries them on the Mount of Olives.
But Obama's prayer never got there, as a yeshiva student reportedly removed the note and gave it to the Ma'ariv Hebrew newspaper, which printed a photograph of the prayer today.
"Lord, protect my family and me," Obama wrote. "Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair.
"Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."
The decision to print Obama's divine entreaty – written on stationery from the King David hotel where he stayed – was condemned by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the wall.
Ma'ariv's move "damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," the rabbi told Jerusalem's Army Radio.
"The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them."
With that, au revoir, Paris! Barack Obama has arrived in London.
Despite his spectacular week overseas, there are a few warning signs on the horizon for Sen. Barack Obama, which his team has got to pay attention to:
Warning sign 1: gassy polls
Stipulating that you have to take any poll with a bit of a grain of salt -- a lot can depend on the sample, the news of the week, etc., the Obama campaign has got to be a bit thrown off by the latest Quinnipiac poll, which shows John McCain closing in key swing states, and even taking the lead in Colorado (which since 2004 has had a Democratic State House, State Senate, governor's mansion and 1 out of 2 Senate seats.) The pollsters explain that part of the reason for McCain's rebound is the issue of offshore drilling, which is gaining acceptance among voters hard hit by high gas prices.
Arizona Sen. John McCain has inched ahead of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in Colorado; come within inches in Minnesota and narrowed the gap in Michigan and Wisconsin, according to four simultaneous Quinnipiac University polls of likely voters in these battleground states, conducted in partnership with The Wall Street Journal and washingtonpost.com and released today.
Voters in each state say energy policy is more important than the war in Iraq. And by margins of 22 to 31 percentage points, voters in each state support offshore oil drilling, and by seven to 12-point margins, drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge.
Sen. McCain has picked up support in almost every group in every state, especially among independent voters and men voters. The Republican now leads Obama among independent voters in Michigan and Minnesota. Overall results show:
Colorado: McCain is up by a nose 46 - 44 percent, compared to a 49 - 44 percent Obama lead June 26;
Michigan: Obama tops McCain 46 - 42 percent, compared to a 48 - 42 percent lead last time;
Minnesota: Obama edges ahead 46 - 44 percent, compared to a 54 - 37 percent Obama lead;
"Sen. Barack Obama's post-primary bubble hasn't burst, but it is leaking a bit. It's been a good month for Sen. John McCain. His movement in these key states, not large except for Minnesota, jibes with the tightening we are seeing in the national polls," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The other issue with the polls is that Obama's slim lead, including in the Gallup daily tracking poll, indicates that despite McCain's moribund campaign, there is something out there that's keeping some voters, particularly older voters, from siding with Obama, even if they aren't thrilled about McCain (and who is.) I think that the X factor in Obama's run is race, which many voters won't admit to, but which is behind the arbitrary suspicion of him as a potential president. The Obama team has got to factor in a 5-8% share of the vote nationally -- and higher in certain states, like Pennsylvania and even Michigan -- that will be unavailable to him, specifically because of the race factor.
Warning sign #2: media bully victim syndrome
I have this theory that most reporters were high school yearbook or newspaper club nerds who always both despised and envied the jocks, bullies and cheerleaders, and found ways to laud them in print while scorning them in private. Today, most of these guys spend their time trying to find ways to deflect the new bullies on their backs: right wingers, especially those on talk radio, by constantly interpreting their wishes and then executing them, usually while in wobbly kneed terror.
Politico is one example of this media angst. The site works hard to be "fair and balanced," but often winds up airing right wing memes. A few headlines from the site today that will make the right wing talk radio rounds:
Obama cancels troop visit Jonathan Martin on the Obama campaign's decision to cancel a visit with U.S. troops in Germany, which will be THE top story on right wing talk radio, and probably the focus of a new attack ad, going into next week.
(The Politico) So why exactly did Sen. John McCain cancel an event yesterday on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana?
According to the McCain campaign, the event was canceled over weather concerns.
However, that explanation is not sitting well with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who claims McCain canceled the event because of a nearby oil spill that dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Mississippi.
“Look up ‘irony’ in the dictionary and you will find a description of this turn of events. Having to cancel your big oil drilling photo op because of a massive oil spill is like canceling a crime safety photo op because the house next door just got robbed," said Menendez.
"In selling his absurd coastline drilling plan to the American people, Sen. McCain has time and again pointed to advanced technology that would supposedly eliminate the threat of massive oil spills. As he can now personally attest, even with the most modern technology, we can’t prevent massive oil spills like the one currently devastating the Mississippi, just as we couldn’t prevent 7.7 million gallons of oil spills after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This is the type of straight talk about oil drilling the American people deserve to hear.”
Whatchou talkin' bout Willis? I didn't hear the McCain-hating mainstream media talk about any "oil spill" ...
On Wednesday, a 600-foot tanker and a barge loaded with fuel oil collided near New Orleans, breaking the barge in half. While there were injuries, more than 419,000 gallons of thick oil spilled from the barge, forming a slick 12 miles long.
Barack Obama addresses a crowd of 100,000 200,000 Germans, many of whom were waving American flags and chanting "Obama! Obama" and "Yes we can!" Whoops and even ululation went up when he mentioned that his father was from Kenya, and his address seemed very well received. Damn, the McCain folks, and the Bushies for that matter, have got to be boiling right about now. When was the last time an American besides Bill Clinton has pulled a warm crowd ANYWHERE in Europe? Sorry George and John...
In front of a crowd that Berlin police estimated to be as large as 100,000, Obama acknowledged differences between America and Europe, adding that "no doubt there will be differences in the future.
"But the burdens of global citizenship bind us together," he said, speaking under the central Berlin landmark of the Victory Column facing towards the Brandenburg Gate. Partnership among nations was not a choice but the only way to protect the security of Europe and the US, the Democratic Party presidential hopeful said.
Obama challenged a new generation of Americans and Europeans to tear down walls between estranged allies, races, and faiths in his soaring call for global unity.
"That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another," he said in reference to the Berlin Wall that divided the city from 1961 to 1989.
... Only around 13,000 Americans live in Berlin. So what is motivating Berliners and Germans in general to treat a Democratic presidential hopeful to such a royal welcome?
He's not Bush
In comparison to US elections, German political campaigns are short, stolid and sober affairs that focus as much on party platforms as personalities. In the wake of World War II, many Germans view charismatic leadership with mistrust.
That, however, doesn't mean that ordinary Germans or the media are immune to the aura of a politician who knows how to work a crowd.
The current edition of Germany's most serious news weekly, Der Spiegel, features Obama on its cover with the only vaguely ironic headline "Germany Meets the Superstar" -- a play on the title of the German version of the TV show "American Idol."
And many German bloggers do seem to idolize the Illinois senator.
"For me he already is the American president," wrote one user of a Website about Obama's Berlin visit. "He may not be have been elected, but he's the president in people's hearts."
And so John McCain's dastardly scheme to snatch the presidency from Barack Obama's grasp using complicated reverse psychology techniques enters its final stages. First, you will recall, the Arizona senator challenged his rival to embark on a foreign fact-finding mission. Obama did so, falling straight into McCain's trap by committing several terrible gaffes such as having a really successful trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then McCain may or may not have tried to seize the spotlight by using the conservative columnist Robert Novak to plant rumours that the Republican vice-presidential candidate would shortly be revealed -- which might have worked if Novak hadn't seized the spotlight himself by hitting a guy with his Corvette in downtown Washington. McCain also plotted to upstage Obama by giving a speech on an oil rig today, but that was cancelled due to storms that had been predicted for days. So, anyway, McCain's strategy is a little hard to follow, admittedly, but the upshot is that in Berlin shortly (7pm local time, 6pm London time, 1pm Washington time) Obama will speak in front of an adoring crowd predicted to number at least 100,000, generating adulatory media coverage in the US and abroad and burnishing his foreign-policy credentials -- exactly as McCain had planned all along. Join me here in half an hour or so for minute-by-minute coverage of Obama's inevitable humiliation.
Yes, but at least afterward he found a McCain guy:
And the McCainiacks have got to hate the headlines from Der Spiegel:
Somebody please fire John McCain's entire advance team. While Barack Obama was being photographed in front of the Wailing Wall and at Yad Vashem yesterday, McCain was hangin' out in cheese aisle, making stuff up about Iraq, leading to some of the worst visuals of any presidential campaign ... ever, not to mention the inevitable "Mac and Cheese" jokes. Look for yourself, and see if you don't laugh out loud:
While the Obama advance team gives us this...
Then to make matters worse, the McNasty campaign attacks Obama on his Yad Vashem visit, actually claiming that as president Obama would have no interest in stopping future Holocausts! Real classy, fellas.
Come on, McCain! Your people have got to do better than that!
The Wall Street Journal tries to find the bad news for Obama in its new poll with NBC with this headline:
Voter unease with Obama lingers despite his lead Poll finds background, experience are advantages for McCain
But the underlying numbers look pretty good for Barack, who leads overall, by 6 points (47%-41%), and also in enthusiasm, with suburban and urban voters, in every region except the South, including by 12 points in the swing states and by a 51%-38% margin in the Midwest, with voters of all income levels, 55%-29% with moderates, and by a wide 52%-31% margin with Hispanics (black voters goes without saying -- McCain has 3 percent...) But the biggest divide appears to be generational. From one WSJ analyst:
On age, the poll found that 55% of voters aged 18 to 34 prefer the 46-year-old Sen. Obama, while 31% favored Sen. McCain. That 24-point edge is up from a 13-point advantage for Sen. Obama in last month's survey. Sen. McCain, who turns 72 next month, would be the oldest person elected to a first term as president.
At the same time, Sen. McCain's lead has ticked up among the oldest voters. He is now favored by 51% of those aged 65 and up, versus 41% for Sen. Obama. That 10-point gap is up from seven points in June.
The gap appears to be much greater than it was four years ago. In 2004, exit polls found that while younger voters favored Democrat John Kerry and older voters favored President George W. Bush, the margins were much tighter.
Beyond the age issue, the poll also found:
• A geographic divide, with voters in urban areas preferring Sen. Obama, and those in rural areas going, albeit more narrowly, for Sen. McCain. Suburban voters, a traditional swing group, narrowly lean toward Sen. Obama. • A persistent and striking enthusiasm gap between the parties. Just 14% of McCain voters -- versus 44% of Obama voters -- were excited about their candidate. Similarly, 43% of McCain supporters -- and just 22% of Obama's -- called their man the "lesser of two evils."
• Very different concerns about each candidate. The most common concern about Sen. McCain, cited by about four in 10 voters, was that he would continue President Bush's policies. For Sen. Obama, the most common concern was that he is too inexperienced for the job. One in three worry about that.
• A continued advantage for Democrats in party identification. Forty-five percent of voters told pollsters they considered themselves Democrats, versus just 35% who identified as Republicans -- another worrisome sign for the GOP.
• In looking at vice-presidential candidates, 60% of voters think Sen. McCain needs someone who is an expert on the economy. Half of voters say Sen. Obama needs someone who is an expert on foreign affairs.
That Bush number is probably the biggest worry for McCain.
One other interesting note about the poll: when third party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are factored in, Obama holds, and even bumps up, his number, while McCain takes a hit:
Without the third parties: Obama - 47% McCain - 41% Undecided/neither/other - 12%
With the thirdies: Obama - 48% McCain - 35% Nader - 5% Barr - 2% Undecided/neither/other - 10%
I get the feeling that if Barr had higher name recognition, the numbers for McCain would be even worse.
All of that said, the Journal does make a point in that the gap between Obama's theoretical numbers (his advantages on issues, in regions, etc) and his actual spread remains at a good 7-8 points, and the "discomfort" factor probably explains the spread. In my opinion, part of that "discomfort factor" is race-based, and Obama will have to live with a small but significant percentage of votes that will simply be inaccessible to him because of his race. The question will be whether that cohort is big enough in key states to keep him from pulling them into his column. Because many of the swing states are out west, where Obama's advantage with Hispanics will likely outweigh the "rejectionist" white vote, he's probably in good shape. But Team Barack should keep an eye on the rejectionist numbers in states that are likely to be very close, and here I'm thinking Ohio, even Michigan, and of course, Florida.
Michael Mukasey has proved to be only slightly less detrimental to the Constitution than his idiotic predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey's refusal to do his job, when that job would have anything to do with enforcing laws broken by the Bush administration, has so frustrated Congress, that even the Bushwhacked, spineless, impeachment-wary Democrats are ignoring him. I guess they figure that insulating the telcoms and the president from prosecution and impeachment are enough dirty work to keep the anonymous Bush staffers from mailing the contents of the wiretaps on their homes and offices to pre-jail Robert Novak and Matt Drudge...
So what is Mukasey asking for that he ain't getting? Try a declaration of war ... perpetual war ... against al-Qaida ... forever:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should explicitly declare a state of armed conflict with al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the war on terrorism lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday.
Mukasey urged Congress to make the declaration in a package of legislative proposals to establish a legal process for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo, in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month that detainees had a constitutional right to challenge their detention.
"Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
"Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations," he said.
Mukasey was not asking for a formal declaration of war, which would trigger certain emergency powers under the Constitution and international law, a Justice Department spokesman said. U.S. President George W. Bush has on numerous occasions said the United States was "at war" against terrorists and cited that as a basis for his powers.
New legislation should also prohibit courts from ordering a detainee to be released within the United States. It should protect secrets in court hearings, ensure that soldiers are not taken from the battlefield to testify and prevent challenges from delaying detainee trials, he said.
Mukasey's plea for quick passage of a significant new counterterrorism measure essentially fell on deaf ears—at least from the Democrats who control Congress. "Zero," snapped one key lawmaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, when asked the likelihood that Congress will rush to pass the kind of law Mukasey and the Bush administration are seeking. "We don't have to pass anything," said Nadler, who chairs the House subcommittee that has primary jurisdiction over the issue, in a brief hallway interview with NEWSWEEK. "Let the courts deal with it."
The derisive comments from the feisty New York liberal—just moments after Mukasey issued his strong appeal in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee—underscores the huge and poisonous gulf that now exists between the White House and Congress on virtually every issue related to the War on Terror. No Democrats on the judiciary panel endorsed Mukasey's call Wednesday for new counterterrorism legislation. None of them even bothered to ask him any questions about it. Instead, they essentially ignored what the attorney general portrayed as the Justice Department's top priority for his final six months in office.
Not that the Democrats really intend to stand up to Bush ... that's simply not done in the House that Nancy built. In fact, fellow House Diva Jane Harman proposed a law, H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," which would open up all of our Internet communications to administration scrutiny, and it sailed through the House, bringing Traitor Joe Lieberman closer to his dream of excising all Muslim traffic from Youtube. It's just that the Dems have finally figured out that it's summer: they don't have to do the White House's bidding until AFTER the Democratic convention, when the RNC ads about them being "soft on terror" start running.
Standing in the cheese aisle of an all-American supermarket, John McCain takes his surge mishap from the other day ... and makes it worse. This time, he's explaining that "the surge" -- that magical unicorn of Iraq fixology -- didn't begin in January 2007 when President Bush announced it, or in June 2007 when all of the additional troops were in country (mostly in Baghdad, by the way, not Anbar province, where the "Sunni awakening" took place in August 2006) but at, before, or sometime around the time of said awakening ... meaning ... it ... happened before even President Bush knew about it? Oh, just watch the "Countdown" clip:
Here’s the new McCain campaign rationale for his obvious screw-up: the surge, for all of you calendar-lovers, may technically have come after the launch of the Anbar Awakening, but it doesn’t matter because were it not for the surge, the Awakening would have failed miserably. The influx of U.S. troops may have come after the Awakening, but it made the success of the Awakening possible. That, in a nutshell, is the new argument.
As spin goes, that’s pretty creative. But that doesn’t make it right.
First, the McCain campaign is making a case that’s supported by practically nothing. The vast majority of the troops involved with the surge went to Baghdad, not Anbar, the latter of which saw one U.S. brigade. Did the presence of this brigade make the surge successful? It can’t be disproven, but it’s hardly the accepted consensus, either.
Second, and more importantly, the latest spin is disconnected to what McCain, you know, actually said. McCain insisted that the surge “began the Anbar awakening.” It didn’t. In fact, to hear McCain tell it, the only Awakening the surge happened — not succeeded, but happened — is the surge, which is clearly false. All the after-the-fact rationalizing won’t change this obvious mistake.
And by the way, the Colonel that McCain keeps referencing, Col. MacFarland, doesn't support his story, as even conservative media critic Howard Kurtz has figured out:
the official, Col. Sean MacFarland, has said that Sunni leaders began cooperating against al-Qaeda months before President Bush's surge began.
CBS News SVP Paul Friedman said in a statement: "The report was edited under extreme time constraints and one piece of tape was put in the wrong order. Fortunately, this did not in any way distort what Senator McCain was saying."
But did the "wrong order" mean a violation of their Standards? Crooks and Liars reports the CBS News Standards (sec. 111-5 Editing, to be exact) says, "If a question to an interview subject is used, the answer must be to that specific question."
As has been made clear over the last 24 hours, that did not happen.
It's not as if TV and cable news outlets haven't used editing to "shape" an interview to fit the prevailing narrative. Such editing hatchet jobs are actually pretty common, as General Wes Clark recently found out. But the CBS edit snaffu stands out because it isn't about omission, it's about a news organization actually rearranging a subject's answer in a way that, intentionally or not, shielded the subject from their own embarrassing words. It's no wonder that, despite the whining and carping from the McCain camp, most rational people believe that there is no political figure in America, with the possible exception of Collin Powell, who has enjoyed more loving treatment from the press than John McCain. To quote CNN's Jeffrey Toobin:
"...if there is one public figure in America who has gotten better press over the years than John McCain, I don't know who it is."
The Prince of Darkness strikes again (and drives away)
Crack CIA agent outer and crotchety old political columnist Robert Novak has had an interesting week so far. First, he reports that John McCain will try to upend Barack Obama's international media extravaganza by announcing his running mate, then he complains that the McCain campaign used him to try and trick the media into talking about their guy (kind of like the way Karl Rove used him to out Valerie Plame, hm? but without the treason?) and now, a quick thinking bicyclist and Politico.com catch him in a full-on hit and run:
The bicyclist was David Bono, a partner at Harkins Cunningham, who was on his usual bike commute to work at 1700 K St. N.W. when he witnessed the accident. As he traveled east on K Street, crossing 18th, Bono said a "black Corvette convertible with top closed plowed into the guy. The guy is sort of splayed onto the windshield.”
Bono said that the pedestrian, who was crossing the street on a "Walk" signal and was in the crosswalk, rolled off the windshield and that Novak then made a right into the service lane of K Street. “The car is speeding away. What’s going through my mind is, you just can’t hit a pedestrian and drive away,” Bono said.
He said he chased Novak half a block down K Street., finally caught up with him and then put his bike in front of the car to block it and called 911. Traffic immediately backed up, horns blared and commuters finally went into reverse to allow Novak to pull over.Bono said that throughout, Novak "keeps trying to get away. He keeps trying to go.”
He said he vaguely recognized the longtime political reporter and columnist as a Washington celebrity but could not precisely place him. Finally, Bono said, Novak put his head out the window of his car and motioned him over. Bono said he told him that you can't hit a pedestrian and just drive away. He quoted Novak as responding: “I didn’t see him there.”
Sure you didn't, not even after he was PASTED TO YOUR WINDSHIELD... Novak's 66-year-old victim was treated at a local hospital, and Novak got a ticket for failing to yield the right of way. Apparently, he's quite the speed demon, and was both "shaken" and "relieved' as he told the Politico reporter, "he's not dead. That's the main thing."
Told ya that mama business was an Eminem-ish thing. Bale and his mum apparently had a falling out over her insults to his wife. And who knew Bale's father was married to Gloria Steinem? The Globe and Mail has all the scoop on the Batman star's arrest, past and demons.
George W. Bush's presidency certainly benefited some Americans. Courtesy of ThinkProgress:
According to IRS data, “the richest 1% of Americans in 2006 garnered the highest share of the nation’s adjusted gross income for two decades” and “possibly the highest since 1929.” Meanwhile, “the average tax rate of the wealthiest 1% fell to its lowest level in at least 18 years.”
Other big winners from the Bush years: Big Oil, Iraq contractors, and of course, Dick Cheney, who kind of counts as "all of the above."
Headsprung: McCain's love-hate relationship with the media goes haywire
McCain supporters are in a full-on lather about the supposed media bias in favor of Obama. Okay, let me backtrack, the media DOES prefer the Obama story, particularly this week, not because they just like Obama better -- the Washington press corps likes John McCain plenty, and have since 2000. They're more interested in Obama at present because he is ... wait for it .. making news. By traveling overseas on his first major road trip, Obama, the neophyte in the race, is doing something visual and exciting, and that's what media gravitates towards.
The story yesterday about just one reporter and one photographer meeting poor John McCain's plane when it landed in New Hampshire made me laugh, and then seemed kind of sad, but the reality is, as much as right wingers may not like it (read the comments underneath the story, )simply landing on the tarmac in New Hampshire isn't a news event. One pool photog can easily grab the image and use it as background for a quick voiceover story about McCain arriving in the state. If McCain had held a major rally or event in New Hampshire and it got short shrift coverage, that would be different. But he didn't do that. His campaign didn't even have the good sense to have some supporters, or a prominent local pol there to greet McCain, hence, making news. If the McCain campaign can't figure out the simple logistics of media and communications, his supporters shouldn't expect the press to help him out. The MSM has spent the last eight years kissing up to Senator McCain. Now, he's his own.
Besides, I seem to remember the same right wing crowd lashing out at the media for pro-McCain bias as far back as 2000, with stuff like this April 2000 rant by Brent Bozell of all people being fairly common, though now sounding like they're coming from the looking glass:
McCain's Media Lapdogs Rip Conservative Critics
It's only natural that leftists would take the media lovefest over Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's "trash-talk express" to mean only one thing. In The Nation, Eric Alterman asked: "Can we please put the `liberal media' [insert barnyard reference here] to rest forever, now?" At the invitation of the Los Angeles Times, left-wing media critic Jeff Cohen declared: "The `Straight Talk Express' may not roll over Bush, but it already has run over and killed the myth of the liberal news media."
Nowhere in their critiques did they consider that nowhere but nowhere has the mainstream press praised the Arizonan's votes to impeach Clinton, for tax cuts, for a missile defense, against abortion, or any other conservative stance he's (sometimes) taken. That would make you wonder about the liberal media.
But these radical rogues have some strange new company: network TV pundits trotted out as representative of "conservative" thinking. Alterman took glee in quoting Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who told the New Yorker magazine, "The whole idea of the `liberal media' was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures." He noted Kristol said on CNN's Reliable Sources that "the press isn't quite as biased and liberal. They're actually conservative sometimes." Kristol didn't have an example of that alleged conservatism, nor was he asked for one, which got him neatly off the hook.
Kristol's colleague David Brooks -- another "conservative" -- said in a Newsweek column: "The movement consciousness is based on the idea that we are a band of brave, beleaguered souls under perpetual assault from the liberal mainstream media. These people detest McCain because liberals don't hate him"
But the award for liberal bias denial has to go to CNN pundit Tucker Carlson, yet another Weekly Standard staffer busily promoting McCain. On Feb. 6, Carlson claimed Bush staffers "are doing this kind of Spiro Agnew thing, the liberal media loves McCain because he's liberal, or something. That's ridiculous. The press likes McCain for the same reason voters in New Hampshire like McCain, because he doesn't fear anything."
Even during this year's primary, there were constant hews and cries from the right about the press "picking the Republican nominee," as the Carpetbagger Report chronicled back in January:
Why reporters fawn over John McCain
Posted January 7th, 2008 at 2:05 pm
This morning, almost in passing, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough mentioned the national press corps covering the presidential campaign and said, “I think every last one of them would move to Massachusetts and marry John McCain if they could.”
A little crude, sure, but Scarborough’s point is not without merit. Last week, for example, McCain finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, behind a guy who barely even tried to campaign. No one has ever finished fourth in the Republican caucus and gone on to win the GOP nomination. The national media, therefore, naturally declared the fourth-place finisher the big winner of the night.
TP pulled together some of the embarrassing, ingratiating praise media personalities offered for the Arizona Republican.
MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle: “McCain’s stance on the war. They view it because of who he is and the eye contact during these town meetings. He’s the Babe Ruth of town meetings.”
Politico’s Mike Allen: “Tonight is a fantastic night for John McCain…. He’s one of the biggest winners of the night.”
Newsweek’s Jon Meacham: “To me, the great story about Sen. McCain is, when in doubt, give principle a try.”
Fox News’ Carl Cameron: “Inside Washington, he’s been a real maverick outsider.”
John McCain may very well be the first fourth-place finisher in nominating history to come out of Iowa with momentum and media adulation. It’s worth taking a moment to consider why.
Jason Zengerle, noting that there’s “no denying that the media absolutely loves McCain,” highlights a point that often goes unsaid.
The simple explanation is: McCain affords the press access like no other candidate. In the McCain campaign, there’s no barrier between candidate and reporter. If you have a question for McCain, you don’t have to bother going to his press secretary; you simply go ask him. On some days, you literally spend eight hours with the candidate, just riding with him in the back of his bus peppering him with questions on everything from Pakistan to his philosophical thoughts about suicide. Toward the end of the day, this amount of unfettered access to the candidate can actually be a bit of a problem, when you start to run out of questions for him and there are awkward silences. But, on the whole, it’s hard to overstate the sort of goodwill this access engenders among reporters.
Still, I do wonder why McCain allows this sort of access, given all the risks it entails.
Well, maybe. I explored this a bit last year in a piece for The American Prospect, and found that the risks may not be as great as they appear. In the 2000 campaign, an enamored press corps was willing to cut McCain all kinds of slack. In October 1999, for example, aboard the campaign bus, McCain referred to the Vietnamese as “gooks.” Not only did reporters not call the candidate on the use of the slur, almost none of them reported on McCain’s ugly word choice. According to one insider I talked to, there was a “gentleman’s agreement” in place — in exchange for access and freewheeling interviews, most campaign correspondents would knowingly look the other way from some of McCain’s more “candid” blunders.
And therein lies the point: McCain gets all of the benefits (media adulation) and few of the risks (carte blanche to act like an idiot without being called on it).
That of course, was back in the day -- 6 months ago -- when even the New York Times was endorsing McCain, the wingers at Newsbusters were calling him "a huge favorite among liberal editorial pages as the acceptable (or in the Times's case, the barely acceptable) Republican in the race for president," and Bozell was back, dubbing him a media darling. Back in the good old days in the media sunshine, McCain was gamely referring to the Washington press corps as his base... He could do that because in many ways, they were and are. Now, Bozell and other wingers are left spinning their heads literally around, to claim that the same media that was biased in favor of John McCain is biased against John McCain... Bozell today:
The New York Times is out of control. On a regular basis, the news department makes headlines for outrageously biased non-news, such as the incredibly scummy story in February alleging that McCain had a sexual relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman despite the paper’s utter lack of proof. Even their advertising department has gotten into the act. Recall how they made a sweetheart deal with MoveOn.org to slam Gen. David Petraeus as "General Betray Us." Now it’s the op-ed department, refusing to give McCain the opportunity to respond to Obama because they don’t like the response, period.
Meanwhile, over in TV land, the network anchors lined up for their chance to boost Obama’s adventures. In the first days of the trip, it led all the network newscasts and they praised him aggressively, down to the jump-shots he made playing basketball in Kuwait. Now compare that to their coverage of McCain when he went abroad. On a trip in March, the networks amassed four stories in the entire week. CBS gave McCain’s trip....ten seconds, 31 words.
When McCain went to Colombia and Mexico a couple of weeks ago, ABC beat him up. Five times over the course of two segments on July 2, various "Good Morning America" hosts, reporters and analysts emphasized that McCain's trip might result in voters thinking he didn’t care about the domestic economic situation. Robin Roberts began her interview: "So, why is Senator McCain abroad when Americans are focused on the economy here at home and losing jobs, more and more jobs?" McCain said the drug trade in Colombia is a serious issue for Americans. But Roberts just plowed ahead, and asked again why on Earth he would go to South America. ABC didn’t want an answer. ABC wanted people to resent McCain for leaving the country.
McCain’s campaign is now running Internet ads mocking Chris Matthews for his "thrill up the leg" comments about Obama and other assorted media goo, complete with Frankie Valli crooning "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You" in the background. It’s quite clear that the media are hypersensitive about any mockery of Obama. So mocking his pitter-patter valentines in the media may be the best hardball he can throw.
Just kidding. Really, I know how much you're hurting. So, let's get to it!
Barack Obama is in Jerusalem this morning where the Guardian reports he has promised to restart the Mideast peace process if elected U.S. president. But his day started with meeting his Bizarro World namesake:
Obama was speaking today as he began a series of meetings during his visit to Israel and the West Bank. His hectic schedule started this morning with breakfast shared with the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak.
Barack meeting Barak. Okay, moving on...
He also met the opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, before seeing President Shimon Peres.
"I will share some of my ideas. The most important idea for me to reaffirm is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel - one that cannot be broken," Obama said after landing at Ben Gurion airport last night.
If elected, he said, he would continue to regard Israel as a valued ally. "That policy is not going to change," he said. "What I think can change is the ability of the United States government and a United States president to be actively engaged with the peace process, and to be concerned with and to recognise the legitimate difficulties that the Palestinian people are experiencing."
Obama said he would work to bring the two sides together "starting from the minute I am sworn into office". But he cautioned that it was "unrealistic to expect that a US president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace".
In the afternoon he is expected to make the short drive from Jerusalem to the West Bank area of Ramallah for talks with Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad – the Palestinian president and prime minister - before returning to Jerusalem to meet Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister.
He is then scheduled to fly by helicopter to the southern Israeli town of Sderot — the target of many Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza — before returning to Jerusalem to meet Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.
Both men were in Jerusalem this week and will discuss the degree to which Obama can keep the Middle East peace process at the top of his in-tray if he becomes president, a concern that preoccupies Blair in his role as envoy for the region. Brown's reluctance to make political capital out of the Obama visit has frustrated some Labour activists who hoped the visit would prompt a debate inside the party about lessons to be learned from Obama's success in creating a mass movement of activists.
As one cabinet member admitted: "It is telling that whilst Obama is trying to tear down the traditional walls of the Democratic convention, and open it up to ordinary Americans, Labour's 200 most senior activists will be meeting in private this weekend to decide Labour's policy platform."
The issue has been taken up most strongly by David Lammy, the young black MP for Tottenham and a friend of Obama from black alumni dinners at Harvard University. Lammy has been increasingly blunt about the inability of the British political class to draw in new faces or use new methods such as open primaries. In a recent Fabian lecture, he said: "I think it's wrong to describe New Labour as a movement. I don't think that it could be described as a movement that filtered down to ordinary people on the ground."
Lammy, and other party thinkers such as Sunder Katwala, the Fabian general secretary, argue: "Obama is showing the political messages and methods of the 1990s now look very tired and out of date." Lammy warns that managerial language has alienated people and left the public disorientated. "For many people, the good things that we are doing sound more like a list of bullet points, rather than a mission to change society. So they switch off, or worse, become alienated from a party that looks like it has become part of the establishment."
Katwala claims Obama, by contrast, has led a revolution in political mobilisation. Above all, he claims Obama has set out an inspirational vision of a good, and equal society, using a language of hope Labour seems to have forgotten in the daily blizzard of micro-initiatives.
Ugh. I can just see poor Gordon in front of thousands of Brits in his prim, brown suit, sounding dribbly... don't do it, brother!
Last but not least, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland offers some helpful commentary about Obama, Israel and the Palestinians:
The less lurid reality is that Obama is a down-the-line US Democrat - and firm support for Israel comes with that territory. On that simple metric, there will be no change. But that does not leave him indistinguishable from McCain. On the contrary, clear differences are there (chiefly on talking to Iran) - and most point in a direction that should be welcomed by those who yearn for Middle East peace.
First, Obama will today show a basic respect for the Palestinians that somehow eluded his Republican opponent: the Democrat will visit Ramallah, which McCain skipped when he came to the region in March. Second, Obama is honest enough to admit that the Israel-Palestine conflict does at least contribute to instability in the region, while McCain sees no source of trouble except "radical Islamic terrorism".
Above all, Obama promises to do, once more, the work that a US administration alone can do - engaging hands-on, directly and every day, in shepherding the two sides through negotiations and towards peace. Bill Clinton toiled in this way until his last hours in office; Bush, by contrast, steered well clear of the whole messy business until last autumn, when he panicked that he might have no other legacy to point to. Obama has faulted both Clinton and Bush for getting stuck in too late. Yesterday, in Amman, he vowed to roll up his sleeves, "from the minute I'm sworn into office".
But Obama is sending a signal more powerful than mere words. Accompanying him on this trip is Dennis Ross, the veteran mediator who served both Clinton and Bush's father. Ross has his critics, but no one doubts his knowledge or experience. "I see him as the diplomatic equivalent of Michael Jordan working the Middle East," says David Makovsky, a colleague of Ross's at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is neutral in all elections. "He has the skill and the finesse."
With Ross at his side, Obama is signalling that we should forget the myth-making: an Obama presidency will be about active, engaged diplomacy, between Israelis and Palestinians, between Israel and Syria, and beyond. And if anyone doubts that this is what the world desperately needs after the past seven and a half years, then they haven't been paying attention.
The jocks of the glossy magazine world have spoofed the nerds. Conde Nast's Vanity Fair has posted a mock cover showing Sen. John McCain dapping his wife Cindy, who cradles a armful of prescription drug bottles. A portrait of George W. Bush hands in the background of their fictional "house." McCain is shown resting on a walker.
BTW, Ambinder also points out that the VF jocks apparently ripped off the New York Daily News. Compare for yourself:
How long has John McCain wanted, promoted and supported the invasion of Iraq? For ever, and ever, and ever, as the Jed Report helpfully reminds, in a video that's sure to become the basis of a Democratic campaign commercial or two (at least I hope so.) The video includes McCain statements on Iraq dating back to 2002, that the Iraqis would be grateful, that the war would be quick and easy, and that he was pleased with the Bush administration's execution of it. Watch:
My only criticism of the Jed video, which is excellent and comprehensive, by the by, is that it starts at 2002, rather than 1998, when McCain, along with Joe Lieberman, first began publicly spoiling for war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, beginning a long, slow decline into almost Nixonian intransigence on the issue of ever, ever, leaving the battlefield. As the book, "The Man Who Pushed America to War," which chronicles the history and machinations of Iraqi con man Ahmad Chalabi points out:
- One of his key backers has been John McCain, who was one of the first patrons of Chalabi’s grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991. McCain was Chalabi’s favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi’s exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, but held up by the Clinton State Department.
And hopefully, before election time, more Americans will get to know John McCain's "war cabinet," which consists of all the Iraq-Iran obsessed neocons formerly tossed onto the scrap heap of history, but scraped from the pavement by Team McCain.
CBS helpfully edits McCain interview, ABC affiliate puts Dubya on the hot mic
Who says the mainstream media doesn't love John McCain? CBS has even pulled a Soviet-style edit to help him out of a major foreign policy gaffe, just the way the print press helpfully edits George W. Bush's syntax, as Countdown reported tonight and the Jed Report clarifies:
The right wingers are so busy getting the dry heaves over the media coverage of the Barack Obama overseas junket, they've completely forgotten just how much the media remains biased IN FAVOR OF their candidate, John McCain (whom the wingers used to hate because of the media's glowing coverage of him...) judging by the extent to which the MSM still refuses to cover his screw-ups the way the hyperventilate over every Obama surrogate, and the way supposedly sober analysts continue to credit him with foreign policy and military expertise he simply doesn't have -- even when he makes major, major gaffes. If you're not totally confused, here's some of what went on today:
The media is awash in the last 24 hours with coverage of Sen. Barack Obama's trip to Iraq, and the central theme of the coverage is that the Iraqi government is on board with Obama's plan for a withdrawal of US combat forces in 16 months. ABC World News, in its lead story, said "Obama came to Baghdad and he brought his star power with him." The New York Times reports Obama "arrived in Baghdad on Monday, meeting with" Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "and other senior Iraqi politicians," along with several US officials. The Financial Times says Obama "received a red carpet welcome from the Iraqi government, which called for the withdrawal of US combat forces by the end of 2010." Ali Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, "said the 2010 goal was an 'Iraqi vision'. His comments came after Maliki this weekend appeared to support Mr Obama's timeframe in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel." Dabbagh said yesterday, "We can't give any schedules or dates, but the Iraqi government sees the suitable date for withdrawal of the US forces is by the end of 2010." The AP notes that "roughly mirrored the Illinois senator's withdrawal schedule and offered a glimpse of Iraq's growing confidence as violence drops and Iraqi security forces expand their roles."
The move by Iraq's government is seen as providing a domestic political boost to Obama. For example, NBC Nightly News said Iraq's leaders have become "Obama's unlikely allies. ... Whatever political benefit that Obama gets from this trip, his calls for more rapid withdrawal have helped Iraq's government to pressure President Bush to seek an exit strategy." On ABC World News, political analyst George Stephanopoulos said, "Halfway through the trip, it's going about as well as it can possibly go" for Obama, who has "hit all his marks." Under the headline "For Obama, A First Step Is Not A Misstep," the New York Times reports in a front-page analysis that the Iraqi move is "providing Mr. Obama with a potentially powerful political boost on a day he spent in Iraq working to fortify his credibility as a wartime leader." The Washington Post says that "as political theater, the events of the past few days have played unfailingly in the Democrat's favor." On MSNBC's Hardball, Roger Simon of The Politico.com said, "Talk about message management. The Obama campaign seems to have managed the message of the Maliki government." CNN's The Situation Room reported Obama is "6,200 miles from the nearest U.S. campaign trail, but, as he steps into the international arena, the imagery sent back home is all American, commander in chief-like, a helicopter tour of Iraq with David Petraeus, the general in charge of multinational forces, a chow-down with the troops in Afghanistan, basketball with US forces in Kuwait."
Meanwhile, poor John McCain is left to bluster on and on to an empty room that THE SURGE WORKED!!! WHY WON'T BARACK OBAMA ADMIT THAT THE SURGE WORKED!!! WHY WON'T BARACK OBAMA GIVE JOHN MCCAIN CREDIT FOR WINNING THE WAR that he isn't in charge of because he's not a commander on the ground and not the commander in chief... (huff ... whew... wheeze...)
“This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Sen. Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign,” McCain said in Rochester, New Hampshire today around the same time Sen. Obama was speaking with reporters overseas.
And he repeated the charge enough for it to be his new, super official talking point. Klein says he's shocked that McCain would say such a thing -- essentially calling a fellow U.S. Senator a war traitor -- himself, rather than having a scummy surrogate do it. The answer: John McCain is one mean, angry sonofabitch. I thought everybody knew that...
And in all the carping from Camp McCain, about the surge, about the media loving Barack Obama too much (complete with a campaign video that the New Yorker's Daily Intel blog calls awkward, and "old" since it uses an old song from around the 1950s...) about the New York Times rejecting Mac's awful op-ed and on and on and on ... McCain once again screws up a major plank of history (courtesy of Slate's Commander Guy):
Couric: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?
McCain: I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn't make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.
Uh, one problem Grandpa---the Anbar awakening began long before the surge.
Maybe we're being unfair to Grandpa by suggesting that he's senile and uninformed? Maybe he KNOWS the truth but he's just lying?
I vote for senile and uninformed, but that's just me.
The United States security coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, retired general James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel's policies in the territories and its attitude toward the Palestinian Authority's security services.
A few copies of the report's executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush's term.
Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. In this context, he assessed the PA security forces in the West Bank, whose reform is being overseen by another American general, Keith Dayton. Jones has visited the region several times and met with senior Israeli government officials and army officers.
According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy's conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be "very harsh, and make Israel look very bad."
Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.
Jones is apparently pushing for a release of the full report. I'm assuming the Bushies will squash it.
Before McCain decides to comment, his staff might want to provide him with a helpful map, so that he doesn't decry the actions of Israel's neighbors, the Iraqis, whose Iranian-based al-Qaida operatives flowing over the border with Pakistan have forced Israel's hand.
Barack Obama's press conference this morning in Amman, Jordan, was a major moment -- perhaps the major moment -- of the Illinois senator's much-ballyhooed trip abroad this week.
All eyes were on Obama to see how he would perform on a world stage with every political reporter of any consequence either on the trip with him or watching closely on television.
And, as he has done before in the course of the campaign, Obama seemed to be up to the moment -- sensing the need to convey gravitas and bipartisanship while also strongly defending his own beliefs about America's role in Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Gone were the jokes and "rah rah" language that won over many Obama partisans but left many undecided voters wondering whether there was any there when it came to the Illinois senator. Instead, we saw a serious explication of his position on removing combat troops in Iraq, a position bolstered in recent days by repeated calls by the Iraqi government to remove U.S. military forces from the country by 2010.
"Regardless of who becomes next president we are going to have to strip away ideology, strip away the politics," Obama said when asked the proper future course for Iraq. "The next president is going to have to make a series of very difficult judgments."
As for the disagreement between him and Sen. John McCain about the future of the country, Obama again took the high road, insisting he was not interested in having a "colloquy" with the Arizona senator over the next four or five days about the issue because it was not in the best interests of the country. (Well played, although does the average person have any idea what the world "colloquy" means? The Fix had to look it up.)
On another note, did you notice that most of the significant characters in this great American classic are played by Brits? Bale -- British. The late Heath Ledger -- British. Michael Caine -- British. The Americans include Maggie Gylenhall (she and her brother both did star turns with the late Ledger), the great Morgan Freeman, and "two face" himself, Aaron Eckhart, who I think is a Yankee. Just sayin...
Meanwhile, some cheeky bastard at the LA Times has an eye gouging casting suggestion for the next flick. Kick her man stealing ass, Batgirl!!!
If Prince of Darkness Robert Novak is correct, and the McCain veep announcement comes this week, to try and steal some press attention from Barack Obama, I vote that it will be Mitt Romney. Sure, there's no wow factor, but Romney has three things that John McCain can't live without:
He's younger than a fossil (unlike McCain) and has black hair.
His dad was popular in Michigan (which McCain won't win, but he can make Obama spend money there.)
He's RICH and can tap the campaign into some of that good old Mormon money.
He's Mormon, and there are lots of Mormons in Western states like COLORADO. McCain is going to need a motivated religious group behind him this year, and it ain't gonna be the evangelicals. The Mormons are the next best thing.
BTW, on the Obama side, I'm guessing the veep will either be a safe pick, in which case it will be Joe Biden, or a completely blockbuster choice, in which case it will be Chuck Hagel or perhaps even Gen. Anthony Zinni. DU weighs the pros (the commenters throw in the cons...) The full pro-con treatment of a number of Obama picks can be found on the Kos, here.
The pictures that are messing with the minds of Team McCain
... is the photo most of the cable networks are running with (it shows Sen. Barack Obama sitting beside Gen. David Petraeus in a military aircraft,) ABC's Jake Tapper points out how little pic love the senior Senator on the trip: Jack Reed of Rhode Island, is getting from the snapperati. Chuck Hagel? He's doing slightly better.
Meanwhile, the Military News Network releases video of Barack Obama greeting the troops in Kuwait. Take a look at how young these soldiers look:
And this video shows Obama shooting some hoops with the soldiers, and sinking a big corner shot.
The military is strictly neutral, at least publicly. But its clear from the videos that, especially black troops, are hyped about Obama.
Barack Obama's campaign for the US presidency received another boost today when the Iraqi government welcomed him to Baghdad by again appearing to back his timetable for withdrawing troops from the country.
The Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh expressed hopes that combat forces could leave by 2010 – in line with Obama's pledge to withdraw troops within 16 months of the US election.
"We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," Dabbagh told reporters, noting that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence rises again.
The statement comes after talks between Obama and the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and a weekend when the Iraqi government unconvincingly tried to clarify its position on troop withdrawals.
Which brings us to a lovely British turn of phrase: the scupper.
Oh, and guess who emailed the original Maliki backs timetables story around to the press? Yep. The Bush B-Team.
New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's failure to get a seat on the Obama plane to the Middle East and Europe is being read as a direct snub, and as payback for a certain cartoon cover. If that's true, it's not a good look for Team Obama. The decision probably originates at a press level below Communications Director Bill Burton, knowing how campaigns work. Still, Burton should clean this up. It's an unnecessary distraction to have a story like this appear on the homepage of the Guardian a few days before Obama lands in Britain.
NYT REJECTS MCCAIN'S EDITORIAL; SHOULD 'MIRROR' OBAMA Mon Jul 21 2008 12:00:25 ET
An editorial written by Republican presidential hopeful McCain has been rejected by the NEW YORK TIMES -- less than a week after the paper published an essay written by Obama, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
The paper's decision to refuse McCain's direct rebuttal to Obama's 'My Plan for Iraq' has ignited explosive charges of media bias in top Republican circles.
'It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece,' NYT Op-Ed editor David Shipley explained in an email late Friday to McCain's staff. 'I'm not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written.'
In McCain's submission to the TIMES, he writes of Obama: 'I am dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it... if we don't win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president.'
NYT's Shipley advised McCain to try again: 'I'd be pleased, though, to look at another draft.'
Of course, Drudge adds this:
[Shipley served in the Clinton Administration from 1995 until 1997 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Presidential Speechwriter.]
He also includes the full text of McCain's op-ed, plus Shipley's explanation:
'The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans.'
Shipley continues: 'It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.'
As for the rejected op-ed, it's essentially a hit piece on Obama, criticizing his policies and statements, without offering anything new from McCain, up to and including a plan for Iraq. That's why the op-ed was rejected. Duh.
I would post the RedState response, but ever since they stopped being Romneyites and started kissing McCain's rear end and parroting his campaign's talking points, they've become boring. I'll summarize: MSM, liberal media blah blah blah ... tell it to Judy Miller.
In a decision that clears CBS of any wrongdoing for airing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that featured Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” a federal appeals court overturned the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the station, calling the fine arbitrary and capricious.
The decision was handed down early Monday by a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the fine was unfair because the commission, in imposing it, deliberately strayed from its practice of exempting fleeting indecency in broadcast programming from punishment. The commission also erred, the judges ruled, by holding CBS responsible for the actions of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, who were characterized by the judges as “independent contractors hired for the limited purposed of the Halftime Show.”
“Like any agency, the F.C.C. may change its policies without judicial second-guessing,” the court said. “But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure.”
Whew! What a relief. Now, where can Janet Jackson go to get her career back?
Batman crushes the box office, thanks to The Joker. We saw it, and it was worth the hype. Heath Ledger is the new James Dean. You heard it here, first. His Joker was the best bad guy I've seen in a long, long time. BTW, "Kung Fu Panda" was good, too, lawsuit notwithstanding.
Happy Monday! Barack Obama is in Basra, Iraq, with the Congressional delegation, just in time to thank Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for endorsing his plan for a 16 month timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Maliki's statement, coupled with his vague non-retraction that pointedly contained the word "timeline," rather than the Bushian formulation "aspirational goal for a time horizon" was significant, and it leaves poor John McCain looking like the "odd man out" when it comes to Iraq. To backtrack, this is what Maliki told Germany's Der Spiegel this weekend:
In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
(Original interview here.) The Bush administration was quick to react:
Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman with President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said that embassy officials explained to the Iraqis how the interview in Der Spiegel was being interpreted, given that it came just a day after the two governments announced an agreement over American troops.
"The Iraqis were not aware and wanted to correct it," he said.
Yeah, really? And how would Stanzel know that?
Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Maliki's advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine's rendering of the interview.
The statement, which was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday, said Maliki's words had been "misunderstood and mistranslated," but it failed to cite specifics.
"Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate," Dabbagh said Sunday by telephone. "I have the recording of the voice of Maliki. We even listened to the translation."
But the interpreter for the interview works for Maliki's office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Maliki's interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Obama's position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.
The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Maliki's comments by The Times: "Obama's remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq."
He continued: "Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq."
"A Baghdad government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a statement that SPIEGEL had 'misunderstood and mistranslated' the Iraqi prime minister, but didn't point to where the misunderstanding or mistranslation might have occurred," the magazine said, which also noted that several media organizations, including CBS, had pointed out the confusion or tepidness of the spokesman's rebuttal.
"SPIEGEL sticks to its version of the conversation," it said.
Al-Dabbagh explained that Mr. al-Maliki confirmed the existence of an Iraqi vision stems from the reality with regard to Iraq security needs, as the positive developments of the security situation and the improvement witnessed in Iraqi cities makes the subject of U.S. forces’ withdrawal within prospects, horizons and timetables agreed upon and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground, and security that came within the Strategic Plan for Cooperation which was laid and developed by Mr. Maliki and President George Bush. The Iraqi government appreciates and values the efforts of all the friends who continue to support and supporting Iraqi security forces.
Al-Dabbagh underscored that the statements made by the head of the ministerial council (Prime Minister al-Maliki) or any of the members of the Iraqi government should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.
Certifiable filmmaking nut-job David Bossie in an undated photo.
From the man who brought you Willie Horton and "The Clinton Chronicles", and the director of the critically acclaimed cinematic tours de force "Fahrenhype 9/11", comes the film that will take down the Obama phenomenon: Hype: The Obama Effict. Here's how the website describes the film:
Citizens United Productions examines the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. HYPE: The Obama Effect examines the Junior Senator from Illinois and his record. Is he the new Kennedy or recycled Jimmy Carter? Is he the one who will finally change Washington, or will challenges like the Tony Rezko trial reveal politics as usual? Is he the uniter the country begs for, or a liberal divider? HYPE: The Obama Effect seeks the answers.
Including interviews with political leaders, media experts, and social commentators, HYPE provides the in-depth analysis that can only occur in a full-length feature documentary. HYPE goes to Illinois and interviews those who know the Senator's record as a state legislator. Go on the road with the campaign and experience the enthralled crowds as they are consumed by the HYPE. Washington insiders analyze Senator Obama's Senate record, his views on abortion, his statements on the second amendment, his plan for a troubled economy, and his foreign policy-will the US be safer or will the US become a bigger target? Will Senator Obama's actions match his eloquence in the toughest job in the world, or will his rapt and motivated crowds be left with little substance at the end of the day? HYPE: The Obama Effect lays out the truth.
"Hype" is the latest video hit job by a very disturbed guy named David Bossie, who heads the aforementioned Citizens United, and whose past credentials include creating those fake Bill Clinton-Gennifer Flowers audiotapes and getting fired as chief investigator for fellow nut-job Dan Burton's House Government Reform & Oversight Committee back in the 1990s. More about Dave:
Bossie started his political career (almost) innocently enough in 1988 when he served as the National Youth Director of Senator Bob Dole's unsuccessful presidential campaign.
In 1992, Bossie was working for the right-wing organization Citizens United (the group that "invented" Willie Horton). As executive director of Citizens United chairman Floyd Brown's "Presidential Victory Committee," he used taped conversations allegedly between then-Governor Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers as part of an advertising and "800" number scheme to smear Clinton. The tapes have since been discredited because they were edited and doctored. A direct mailing from Citizens United using this material was made to look as if it were an "official" mailing from Bush campaign -- and the Bush people alerted the FEC to the mailings in an effort to stop them!
Bossie spent a great deal of time in 1992 in Arkansas, digging dirt on Clinton. David Corn reports in the May 6, 1998 issue of Salon that "at one point, Bossie got into a fistfight in Arkansas with a private detective who claimed Bossie had welshed on a $10,000 payment for anti-Clinton material."
That same year, Bossie harassed the family of a suicide victim. "An anonymous and untraceable letter" was faxed to some 30 news organizations "claiming Clinton had had an affair with a former law student who committed suicide 15 years ago," an "emotionally distraught young woman, seven-months pregnant" named Susan Coleman. Only after the fact of the fax campaign did Bossie attempt to contact the family for "confirmation," and did so in a repetitive and unrelenting manner suggestive more of harrassment than fact-checking. Bossie, with help from former Washington DC police officer James Murphy, went so far as to follow Susan's mother to a hospital in Augusta, Georgia, where her husband was seriously ill and recovering from a stroke. They "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide." (Source: CBS News, July 13, 1992, quoted at The Allodium web site)
Not long into the Clinton Presidency, Citizens United produced the video "Clinton Chronicles," based largely on dirt Bossie had been digging in Arkansas. The video, filled with a plethora of factual errors and uncorroborated or disproven rumors, has been almost completely discredited.
By 1994, Bossie found himself working for Senator Lauch Faircloth -- and his penchant for self-promotion was already showing. Bossie claimed that Citizens United had fed Whitewater information (much of which turned out to be misleading, incomplete or untrue) to "the top fifty major publications, networks, and editorial boards... We've provided the same material on the Hill both on the House and Senate side."
So what about his erstwhile co-producer and director, Alan Peterson? He's a sometime actor/director/producer (and by "sometime," I mean he's done each of those things once.) IMDB Pro lists just three credits for him: an acting turn in the 2007 mega-hit "The Haunting of Marsten Manor," the 2004 answer to the hugely successful Michael Moore flick, "Fahrenheit 9/11," entitled ... wait for it, "Fahrenhype 9/11" which he directed, and his lone producing gig (and while Moore may have grossed about $150 million or so domestically and more than $220 million worldwide, Peterson's "Fahrenhype" was released straight to DVD...!) and 1999's memorable "Fortune Cookie," if you remember movies you've neither heard of nor seen.
One other interesting aside to Peterson's film, from a 2004 Mormon movie site (yep, they have them...)
REVIEW OF LDS-MADE DOCUMENTARY FAHRENHYPE 9/11 - NOW ON SALE NATIONALLY (DEBUNKS MOORE) - This documentary is on the shelves at my local Dallas Blockbuster. I'm assuming it is widely available.
LDSFilm.com mailing list subscriber offers the following comments and enthusiastic review of the new documentary "FAHRENHYPE 9/11":
With all the front page newspaper coverage of Michael Moore's controversial visit to a Utah campus I'm am pleased to tell you of something special that I came upon by accident that SHOULD BE FRONT PAGE NEWS -- a brand new DVD timed to be released the same day as Moore's sick FAHRENHEIT 9/11 -- a documentary (which is really a documentary) by filmmaker Alan Peterson with the title, FAHRENHYPE 9/11.
This is a Documentary that is intended to counter act the distorted images of Moore's outrageous work. The DVD says: "You knew it was a lie . . . Now you'll know why . . . Unraveling the truth about FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and Michael Moore" And that is exactly what it does. And it does so by letting many of the people who were misused in Moore's film speak for themselves. These people tell how they really feel and speak of how shocked and disgusted they were to see how they or their loved ones were used in the context of Moore's revisionist approach to truths.
Years ago, while serving in the US Army in Germany, a fellow worker, knowing I was a member of the LDS Church, handed me a paper back he had just finished reading by Irving Wallace, The Twenty-Seventh Wife, supposedly telling the true story of Ann Eliza's forced marriage to Brigham Young. As I read it I knew it was full of lies, but Wallace had carefully listed footnotes of his historical sources on each page. When I returned home to Salt Lake after my service I came upon Hugh Nibley's newly published work, Sounding Brass. Bro. Nibley took Wallace's work apart point by point, discussing every resource that he sighted. It was a joy to have someone so knowledgeable counter-act the out and out lies that were being offered as historical truths.
And so it is with FAHRENHYPE 9/11 -- it destroys Michael Moore's distortions and out-and-out lies one by one. When you get through seeing and hearing what Dick Morris (political consultant to Pres. Bill Clinton); Zell Miller (Democratic Senator who recently made the news by speaking out for Pres. Bush at the GOP convention); Ed Kock (former mayor of New York and life long Democrat); Ann Coulter (author of Treason and Slander); Peter King (New York Congressman and member of homeland security); Steven Emerson (terrorist investigator and author of American Jihad); plus people who appeared in Moore's film, such as the school teacher who was present when Pres. Bush received the news of the Twin Towers, the Oregon State Trooper who in Moore's film appeared to be blaming Pres. Bush for budget cuts, and most moving of all, the young soldier who lost his arms in Iraq and expresses his hurt at Moore's false use of him in his film -- if after hearing all of these (and many more) you still feel Moore's film is a courageous and noble thing -- then I have a bridge in New York that I will sell you cheap!
... um... I think they meant Ed Koch... PAGING MITT ROMNEY !!! and Dr. Freud...! As for other Bossie friends, try Newt Gingrich, the man who once fired him in embarrassment.
The Senator begins his trip abroad as part of a Congressional junket to the war zone (he's with Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed fo Rhode Island.)
The Illinois senator, undertaking a campaign-season tour of combat zones and foreign capitals, began his first-ever visit to Afghanistan as part of an official congressional delegation that landed in Kabul.
Obama and other members of Congress visited Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military base in the country, to meet with top U.S. military leaders and troops, according to a U.S. military statement.
The delegation also met with troops at Jalalabad Air Field, in Nangarhar province. Jalalabad lies near the Tora Bora mountains where al-Qaida leaders fled and faced a U.S. bombardment during the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden escaped U.S. troops at that time and is believed to be in the region.
Obama also visited Kuwait, met with and even played some basketball with U.S. troops. And so far, he has been careful not to sound presumptuous, or to take the media bait:
Obama advocates ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq by withdrawing troops at the rate of one to two combat brigades a month. But he supports increasing the military commitment to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been resurgent and Osama bin laden is believed to be hiding.
Obama recently chided Karzai and his government, saying it had "not gotten out of the bunker" and helped to organize the country or its political and security institutions.
Also on his itinerary later in the trip is a meeting with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi leader. On the campaign trail, Obama has said one benefit of withdrawing U.S. troops is that it would pressure al-Maliki to shore up his government as well.
Nonetheless, he said he did not plan to reiterate those messages in person.
"I'm more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking, and I think it's very important to recognize that I'm going over there as a U.S. senator," he said. "We have one president at a time."
The AP reporter also gives some hints to the local reaction in Afghanistan, which mostly is, not much. They've got a lot on their minds in that country...
Few citizens in impoverished Afghanistan were aware of Obama's unannounced visit, and few have been following the U.S. presidential race, being too busy eking out an existence amid soaring violence and with limited access to news media.
But some interviewed Saturday said they would welcome an Obama presidency if he could help their country end the fighting, corruption and poverty that have crippled it for so long.
"Obama is a good person," said Abdul Basir, 40, a former army officer. "During his campaign I heard he was saying that if I become president I will withdraw the U.S. troops from Iraq and bring them to Afghanistan and I will attack on the terror center on other side of border (in Pakistan). It is very important and I appreciated that."
***BREAKING*** In a serious security breach, John McCain has leaked details about the Iraq portion of Barack Obama's Mideast trip during a fundraiser. McCain could easily have discovered the details because that part of the trip is an official Congressional junket. (Or maybe he got a tip after an unwitting Democrat "caucused" with party traitor Joe Lieberman...) Security concerns had prompted the Obama campaign to keep the details separate, but apparently, that fact was lost on McCain... More at the Huffpo and from Josh Marshall who calls the leak a "serious lapse of judgment" by McCain, as it seriously complicates the security planning for the trip. They don't call him "McNasty" for nothing. Developing...
Barack Obama heads to Europe this weekend, and the Guardian reports on the almost unrealistic stakes, as set up by the U.S. media, and the European body politic:
It is unusual for a candidate to spend time overseas in an election year. US commentators this week have repeatedly used the phrase 'high stakes' to describe his trip saying he is running a risk taking time out from campaigning on domestic concerns, primarily job losses, collapsing house prices and rising fuel costs.
"If Obama says he represents a new politics, he's certainly smashing an old paradigm by going," presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, of Rice university in Texas, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And for 10 days, he'll own the media. It's gigantic for him."
There has never been an overseas visit by a presidential candidate as oversubscribed as this one. His campaign team has rejected hundreds of requests not only from foreign journalists but from Americans too. He is taking a pared-down media pack, made up mainly of television crews.
... The main venue in Europe is not Britain but Germany, where he is to make a major speech on Thursday on transatlantic relations. He wants to deliver it in a picturesque location surrounded by hundreds, and preferably thousands of Germans, sending back a message to Americans that the US can be popular again after President George Bush.
A German diplomat said today that Obama is extremely popular in his country. "They see him as a black JFK. Expectations are so high they would not be surprised to learn that he walked across the Atlantic rather than flew," he said.
Jesus ... I mean ... you know what I mean...
As I pointed out in an earlier post, the Obama trip is threatening to drive neocons insane. Someone will have to sedate poor Krauthammer when Barack gets to Germany.
Meanwhile, Kathleen Parker (didn't she used to write for the Washington Post?) whines about Obama being too serious (lifting that idea from Maureen Dowd...) and steals some of Krauthammer's ideas. Compare:
Parker today on NRO:
Obama’s self-deprecation was his most charming bit, but lately he is, well, less charming. He and his wife seem more like a finger-wagging principal and teacher tag team, with Michelle Obama promising that her husband will make us work harder when he becomes president. You get the feeling that should the Obamas take over, we’ll all be staying after school. They used to call that detention.
Krauthammer today for the WaPo:
His wife assures us that President Obama will be a stern taskmaster: "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism . . . that you come out of your isolation. . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."
In case you missed it, the new winger meme is: "Barack Obama is SO full of himself!" Watch for it, especially as his European crowds balloon. Oh, I'm going to enjoy this... there are going to be a lot of bald right wingers around here, and a whole lotta hair on the floor!
Most people with good sense know that Michael Wiener (Savage) is a dumbass. His latest tirade probably won't cost him, any more than his previous ones. Still, Media Matters is giving it a go. They report, you decide if anything can actually be done about it.
On July 16, the No. 3 syndicated radio talk show host in the country, Michael Savage, made the following statement on autism:
"Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism? ... A fraud, a racket."
Savage went on to say:
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.
What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, "Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."
Autism -- everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, "Don't behave like a fool." The worst thing he said -- "Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry." That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.
During the same broadcast, Savage also attacked those in "the minority community" who suffer from asthma. He stated: "[W]hy was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I'll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], 'When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], "I don't know, the dust got me." ' See, everyone had asthma from the minority community."
I find it amazing that anyone can listen to this guy. He literally screams into the microphone, and I suppose he appeals to the angriest of the Angry White Men. It's more than likely that his hyperbolic rants are part of an act, the way Rush Limbaugh's seems to be. But while I can listen to Limbaugh and laugh at him, including his glaring factual errors and stupid voice timber, Savage is literally unlistenable. Literally. Anyhoo, if you want to give complaining to your local station a go, here's the link.
Oh, and did I mention that his son's middle name is Goldencloud?
By the way, I wonder what John McCain thinks about the Wiener's commentary? (Hat tip to Political Byline, which discovered this little gem in April.)
I mean in today's political climate, you ARE judged by the company you keep...
The Post Co. already owns WPLG-ABC 10, so the two stations will operate as a so-called duopoly, merging most of their business functions and possibly some part of their news production, though nothing's been announced on that score yet. If the deal is approved by the FCC, WTVJ -- now owned by NBC, which put the station up for sale in March -- could change hands by the end of the year.
Terms have not been disclosed. Previous reports said NBC 6 could fetch between $350 million and $400 million.
NBC Universal put WTVJ up for sale in March -- to raise cash for other ventures. NBC recently said it will partner with two private equity firms to buy The Weather Channel -- for a reported $3.5 billion. And last year, the network bought Oxygen Media for $925 million.
NBC, which also owns Telemundo, has said it plans to keep that network's flagship station, WSCV-Channel 51.
WPLG vice president Dave Boylan did a walk-through of NBC 6 in late May. WSVN-Fox 7's executive VP/general manager, Bob Leider, did a walk-through, too. WSVN is owned by Ed Ansin's Sunbeam Television. Other broadcast and private-equity groups did site inspections, sources say.
Assuming the deal goes through: NBC 6 remains an NBC affiliate. It will eventually move from its Miramar studio-headquarters into WPLG's new headquarters, under construction on six acres along Hallandale Beach Boulevard in Pembroke Park. That $30 million-plus facility should be ready by March or April.
(WPLG is now in a three-story building at 3900 Biscayne Blvd. Post-Newsweek sold the 1.6-acre property last year, although WPLG has a lease through June '09.)
No word yet on how Post-Newsweek will run the two newsrooms. Up in the air is what happens to NBC 6's on-air talent. Morning anchor Bob Mayer has 39 years on the job. Other long-timers: Patricia Andreu, Nick Bogert, Kelly Craig, Pam Giganti, Diana Gonzalez, Jackie Nespral, Ari Odzer, Trina Robinson, Joe Rose, Tony Segreto, Willard Shepard, Hank Tester and Julia Yarbough.
''Every duopoly means some form of staff consolidation,'' says one local TV executive. ''Stations are looking for ways to gain efficiency of operation.'' Cost savings may also come through elimination of duplicated jobs, from producers and photographers to technical and sales staff.
In a duopoly, there is usually one general manager. WPLG's is Boylan. NBC 6's president/GM is Ardyth ''Ardy'' Diercks.
Stay positive, crew! The WTVJ reporting team are first rate, and if WaPo has any brains, they'll hang on to them all, especially Nick, Trina, Ari, Julia, Hank and the big man, Joe Rose (hope I didn't leave anybody out. Hey, I'm tired...) And they're crazy to give up the Miramar studio, which is only about eight years old, and gorgeous. Damn this Bush recession! And what's so great about the Weather Channel, anyway?
Anyhoo, the move could also affect Weather Plus, NBC's weather play in NYC. We'll see how it shakes out.
Here's the take from Local 10 online, where my former boss jumped ship once the sale was announced. The story's up at TVSPY, but not yet on the watercooler...
President Bush and Iraq's prime minister have agreed to set a "time horizon" for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq as security conditions in the war-ravaged nation continue to improve, White House officials said here Friday.
The agreement, reached during a video conference Thursday between Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, marks a dramatic shift for the Bush administration, which for years has condemned any talk of timetables for withdrawal.
But Maliki and other Iraqi leaders in recent weeks have begun demanding firm withdrawal deadlines from the United States. Bush said earlier this week that he opposes "arbitrary" timetables but was open to setting an "aspirational goal" for moving U.S. troops to a support role.
Aspirational my foot. That's a timetable! Cue the dissembling White House statement:
"In the area of security cooperation, the president and the prime minister agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals," the statement said. It said those goals include turning over more control to Iraqi security forces and "the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq."
The statement continued: "The president and prime minister agreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal."
Blah blah blah blah TIMETABLE!
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel denied that the agreement with Maliki represents a concession by the Bush administration.
"I think it's important to remember that the discussions about timeline issues previously were from Democrats in Congress who wanted to arbitrarily retreat from Iraq -- without consideration for conditions on the ground," Stanzel told reporters in Tucson.
"These are aspirational goals, not arbitrary timetables based on political expediency," Stanzel said.
Uh huh ... Just like how I've set a non-arbitrary, aspirational goal of leaving my house in 15 minutes to take my kids to a 3:30 movie, and will move depending on conditions on the ground, such as what time "Kung Fu Panda" starts, and how long it takes to get to Muvico by .... 3:30.
I literally cannot wait to hear the McCain response to this one. My god, what next? A Bush book on the audacity of hope? (It would, of course, have to be a children's book...) Perhaps we could call it, "The Audacity of Aspirational Goals"...
The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.
Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.
"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."
Ms. Rice is described in the article as a "prime mover" behind the disastrous Iraq invasion, but her change of direction has pushed her man Bush in a new direction, one in which she appears to be steering the ship:
The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.
The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.
When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.
His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.
But the piece also makes it clear who the real ship's captain in the Bush administration is:
Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal".
Scary. Read the entire article for a nice recounting of Condi's greatest hits, including her assertion that "no one could have anticipated planes flying into buildings..."
Senator Obama is blaming the news media — and especially FOX News — for Michelle Obama's high negative ratings. Just under 30 percent of those polled had an unfavorable view of Michelle Obama in our last FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll. A Rasmussen Reports poll last month put her unfavorable rating at 42 percent.
Obama tells Glamour magazine that political spouses should be off-limits. He says the "conservative press — FOX News... went fairly deliberately at her in a pretty systematic way... spouses are civilians. They didn't sign up for this."
Though Obama failed to mention it, his wife has made a number of official campaign stops with him and has even campaigned for him on her own.
Obama then added, "If you start being subjected to rants by Sean Hannity and the like, day in day out, that'll drive up your negatives."
On his upcoming overseas trip, Barack Obama will be met along the way by the anchors of the three network evening newscasts. About 200 other journalists have also asked to join Obama during his trip.
But Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post reports that John McCain has taken three foreign trips in the past four months — all unaccompanied by a single network anchor and with little fanfare. The Tyndall Report, which monitors news coverage, says that since June the nightly newscasts on the three networks spent a combined 114 minutes covering Obama while devoting just 48 minutes to McCain.
Hume and Kurtz fail to mention that the McCain camp never made the ask of the networks. Don't hate on Team Obama because they were sharp enough to do so ...
The magazine is sticking its finger in the eye of every bigot who hates the Obamas because they're African-Americans, every racist who seeks to polarize the electorate and every ignoramus who mistrusts the senator from Illinois without examining his record and background.
Something else is going on here as well. This criticism centers on conservatives' strong dislike -- "hatred" is such a nasty word, no? -- of both Obama and the New Yorker, two of the most visible and successful symbols of liberal America. While there was also carping in some liberal quarters, the most vocal anger seemed to come from the other side.
The liberals' opponents are jumping on the bandwagon partly in the hope of making the New Yorker look bad (i.e. unpatriotic). The magazine has written many stories blasting the Bush administration's policies, especially its handling of Iraq.
If Obama were to choose Powell, 42% of likely voters nationwide said it would make them more likely to support the Democratic candidate - as did 42% of Democrats and 43% of political independents. The Zogby International telephone poll of 1,039 likely voters nationwide was conducted July 9-13, 2008, and asked respondents how the selection of certain vice presidential candidates would affect their likelihood to vote for the two leading presidential candidates. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
Watch right wing heads exploding everywhere... oh God, there go some Democratic head explosions in West Virginia! Zogby provides the doubters with a helpful table:
Likelihood to vote for Barack Obama if he chooses ... as his Vice President
What? Not much help from "Bayh Bayh Bayh"? Meanqhile, the pollster says McCain's best bets are Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Now I think that Romney will ultimately be the running mate (supporting evidence here), no matter how much Mac may still secretly hate his guts, but me thinks the pollster doth miss name recognition too much. Not that name recog doesn't count in a veep selection. Just sayin. I doubt that the respondents to the poll really sat down and thought about the idea of TWO black men running together for president.
Anyway, just to be fair, here's the GOP chart:
Likelihood to vote for John McCain if he chooses ... as his Vice President
And would ya look at Miss Charlie, getting 5 percent! |
The South African statesman, who showed the world how to forgive, turns 90, and issues a clarion call to aid the world's poor. An excerpt of one Mandela bio, by Tom Lodge (pictured at left) can be found here. Access Mandela's 46664 foundation here.
When George W. Bush was an oil man (and not a very good one,) he named one of his companies Arbusto, meaning "little Bush" in Spanish. Others in the industry derisively called the company "El Busto," because it had a little meeting its prime directive: finding oil in Texas.
When El Busto's little brother was running Florida, he spent eight years exsanguinating state revenues by slashing taxes on wealthy Floridians and corporations (while cutting Medicaid and other healthcare benefits for the poor, disabled and elderly, and raising tuition at the state's colleges), and privatizing everything he could get his hands on, from state payroll services to prisons. Now that the state has a shiny new, totally not gay, Republican governor, we're supposed to be reaping the windfall of the twin Bush booms -- the national one that was supposed to be brought on by Dubya's aggressive tax cutting, and the local one that was supposed to be the "smart Bush brother's" legacy to Charlie Crist. Well ... a funny thing happened on the way to the boom: Florida, it seems, went bust. From today's Miami Herald:
TALLAHASSEE -- The top job-loss state in the nation. Shrinking wages. Collapsing population growth. Record home foreclosures.
Florida's economy is not just firmly and bleakly in the red ---- it will likely stay that way until next June, according to the state government's top economists who issued their most pessimistic financial forecast in years.
With few exceptions, the economists' Wednesday forecast shows that most economic indicators will do worse in this budget year when compared to a forecast they issued in February.
At the heart of the problem is the falling housing market, upon which Florida's economy has a Monopoly game-like reliance. The economists projected new housing construction will fall to about 60,000 units this year -- a decrease of 78 percent from a high of nearly 283,000 in 2005.
Total statewide construction expenditures, including public buildings, are expected to decrease by $10.6 billion, or 21.5 percent.
The most dire fact of all: Florida lost more jobs in the past 12 months -- 74,700 -- than any other state in the nation. And the economists predict that more people in construction, government, manufacturing, financial services, transportation and warehousing will be out of work soon.
''We were No. 1 in jobs created in the entire country,'' said Clyde Diao, one of Gov. Charlie Crist's economists, referring to the booming economy in 2005. ``Now, if you count the District of Columbia, we're 51.''
Frank Williams, the Department of Revenue's chief economist, agreed: ``We're No. 1 in job losses. Absolutely.''
Were it not for employment gains in the health, education and the low-paying services fields, they said, the job-loss numbers would be far higher. Construction lost 77,000 jobs and manufacturing lost 23,000 in the last year. By month's end, the experts project, Florida's job-loss rate will be higher the nation's for the first time since 2002.
Which leads us to another little problem for the Sunshine State. Smarter Bush's tax cut mania really caught on, especially with Florida homeowners, who have never missed an opportunity to lower their property taxes, at all costs. In January, Florida homeowners pushed through a constitutional amendment that slashed property taxes statewide, mostly for wealthy homeowners, by increasing the homestead exemption, while netting about $200 bucks for the average homesteader. But the pain from those cuts is now being felt statewide, as counties struggle to find places to cut. Take the Miami-Dade school system (the nation's fourth largest), which is struggling to slice $284 million from its budget to close a yawning deficit, without sending teachers to the picket lines. The county school board is considering everything from slashing its workforce to deleting school bus routes to close the gap. The county narrowly escaped cutting school police this week, when Superintendent Rudy Crew, who was apparently hoping to become Secretary of Education in a Hillary Clinton administration, according to a state official who asked not to be named, tabled a proposal to cut the force. Statewide, Floridians are seeing the real world cost of tax cuts in the parks that are having to close early, cuts to desperately needed affordable housing and economic development progams, and inevitably, future cuts to police and fire services and pension benefits.
Florida's legislature has already slashed $6 billion from the budget, which according to the state constitution, must be balanced. Most of that money has come out of the hides of schools, services for the elderly and the poor, and Florida's infrastructure. The state is busy privatizing roads everywhere it can, to pass more costs onto already burdened drivers, who are paying some of the highest gas prices in the country. Home prices in the state are cratering, and yet Miami-Dade County (the largest county in Florida) still has a glut of unbought homes and condos. Downtown Miami is dotted with silent cranes and half built high rises that are a soaring symbol of Florida's economic meltdown, which TIME Magazine recently chronicled in an article asking whether Florida has become the "Sunset State." And even with the glut of housing, Miami-Dade and other counties are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis and a foreclosure crisis (Florida is second only to California in home defaults.) Indeed, a new NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows half of Floridians struggling on multiple fronts: falling home prices, a credit crunch, and soaring fuel and food prices. (Low icome housing and worker's rights advocate Gihan Pereira, co-founder of the Miami Workers Center, this week called Florida "the canary in the coal mine," and indeed the state's troubles have been an ominous economic harbinger for the nation.)
And what can our fair governor, who has gone so far as to promise to hand over Florida's beaches to Chevron AND marry a woman in order to become John McCain's running mate, do to turn things (including his veep prospects) around?
"This time next year, we wouldn't expect to be a whole lot better than we are right now," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, who headed the economic estimating conference. "The question is, does it continue on beyond that, or does it start improving?"
And Florida's prospects are further clouded by past failures, particularly during the Bush years, to invest in education, in order to create more potential high wage job earners, rather than relying on low wage service and tourism industry jobs to fill the bill. Florida continues to languish near the bottom in high school graduation rates (we have the sixth lowest rate in the U.S.), and according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, "if the dropouts from Florida's Class of 2008 had stayed in school and earned diplomas, the economy of the Sunshine State could have enjoyed an additional $25.3 billion in wages, taxes and productivity over those former students' lifetimes." The sad news for Florida is that the state for years was one of those "high growth, high poverty" states at the greatest risk of economic decline, and now that the decline has come, the state's tax cutting leaders have few cards to play.
Governor Crist promised last year that the latest tax cuts would, produce a real estate-driven "sonic boom" that would send Florida's economy into growth overdrive. It's turned out to be more of a sonic bubble. And it has officially burst. |
The winner is: Blog de Leon, from January 18, 2005, on the curious tale of Harrold Carswell, and a cautionary tale for Charlie Crist (with interesting shout outs to Pat Buchanan, and the guy he confused John McCain with the other night, Dwight Eisenhower.) |
President Bush's latest executive privilege claim, this time over FBI interviews of Dick Cheney and his staff regarding the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, drew contempt threats directed at the derelict Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, from Henry Waxman yesterday. Not only should Waxman follow through, Congress should junk the absurd handshake deal that's keeping them from exercising their right as a co-equal branch of government, to have their subpoenas honored (not only by Cheney and Bush, but also by Karl Rove,) or to file inherent contempt of congress charges against the intransigent. Mukasey should go first, as he has refused to carry out his duty as A.G., no less than did his predecessor, the squirlish Alberto Gonzales.
Last night, GOP hack Brad Blakeman asserted on Dan Abrams' show "Verdict" that Mukasey was, by refusing to enforce congressional subpoenas, simply serving his client, the president of the United States. Read the Constitution, Brad. The attorney general's client is the American people. It's the White House counsel who serves the POTUS. I'm surprised Abrams, a lawyer, failed to call Blakeman on that one.
(The Politico) Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has introduced legislation calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle criminal contempt of Congress charges when Justice will not cooperate.
The Miller bill grows out of the dispute between House Democrats and the White House over subpoenas issued to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
The committee issued the subpoenas as part of its probe ino the 2006 firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Bolten and Miers, relying on an assertion of executive privilege by President Bush, refused to comply with the subpoenas. The House passed both criminal and civil contempt resolutions against Bolten and Miers, but the Justice Department, citing earlier legal opinions, declined to allow a federal prosecutor to bring the case before a grand jury. The Judiciary Committee has filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Dept. seeking to enforce the subpoenas.
According to Miller's office, his new bill would allow a federal judge to "appoint an independent ;Special Advocate' to investigate and prosecute alleged Contempt of Congress charges passed by the House of Representatives against current and former executive branch employees, when the Justice Department fails to do so." The special prosecutor would technically work for attorney general, but in reality, would be "largely independent from both the executive and legislative branches and not subject to undue political influences."
“The law explicitly requires the Justice Department to present Contempt of Congress charges to the grand jury, but the Bush Administration claims Congress can not compel a U.S. attorney to prosecute contempt cases where the White House claims executive privilege,” Miller said in a statement. “Other presidents have made bodacious claims about their powers, but always compromised in the end. No president, not even Nixon, has gone this far before.”
Good idea, Congressman. And while you're at it, how about proposing legislation requiring Nancy Pelosi and the other Bush cuckolds running the House of Representatives to use their constitutional authority, rather than ducking and running from the president, including -- no especially -- on the subject of impeachment, about which Miss Nancy is allowing only Potemkin hearings. As Johnathan Turley (who yesterday called such hearings little more than a "fancy dress ball") has said repeatedly (echoed by John Dean) there is more than enough reason to believe that crimes have been committed by this White House, such that impeachment is the only constitutional option. If the House won't even consider it, than divided government is dead, and the 110th Congress risks going down in ignominy, just like the 109th. |
The sharp decline in America's standing the in the world since the Bush administration came into power is bad enough, but a new study suggests that the real, and breathtaking, American decline after nearly eight years of Robber Baron era politics has been in our status as a developed nation. From the Guardian:
Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.
These are some of the startling conclusions from a major new report which attempts to explain why the world's number-one economy has slipped to 12th place - from 2nd in 1990- in terms of human development.
It gets worse. According to the The American Human Development Report, which is funded by groups like Oxfam America and the Rockefeller Foundation, countries that are beating us in things like long life and infant mortality are doing it with far lower levels of government spending.
Japanese, for example, can expect to outlive Americans, on average, by more than four years. In fact, citizens of Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, South Korea and every western European and Nordic country save one can expect to live longer than Americans.
More findings that will curl your hair:
The average Asian woman lives to be 89 years old, while the average African-American woman can expect to live until 76, a 13 year gap. For men, the gap between Asians and African-Americans is 14 years.
One in six Americans has no health coverage. That adds up to 47 million people.
The US ranks 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in terms of infants surviving to age one. "The US infant mortality rate is on a par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia and Poland. If the US could match top-ranked Sweden, about 20,000 more American babies a year would live to their first birthday."
"The US has a higher percentage of children living in poverty than any of the world's richest countries. In fact, the report shows that 15% of American children - 10.7 million - live in families with incomes of less than $1,500 per month."
14% of Americans (40 million people) - "lack the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks such as understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals."
American enrollment of three and four-year-olds in preschool is at 50%, while most of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia are at 75%.
In terms of human deveopment, "some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living. For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."
"The richest fifth of Americans earn on average $168,170 a year, almost 15 times the average of the lowest fifth, who make do with $11,352."
The U.S. is "far behind many other countries in the support given to working families, particularly in terms of family leave, sick leave and childcare" but first among the 30 richest countries in terms of the number of people in prison, both in absolute and percentage terms. The U.S. "has 5% of the world's people but 24% of its prisoners."
Hey, did you hear the one about the government-chartered mortgage giants who spent $200 million to buy influence in Washington? About 20 McCain advisers have...
Forget all that talk about "appeasement" and the "Axis of evil..." The Guardian reports the Bush administration is preparing to establish an "interests section" in Iran, similar to the one we have in Cuba. The move is a half-step away from setting up an embassy, and comes on the heels of news the U.S. will send the third in command at the State Department to silently observe European talks with Tehran. Et tu, Bushie? In other news, the neocons will be wearing black today as a sign of mourning. Dick Cheney will be wearing an ankle monitor.
There are two ways to look at this news. Either GWB has turned his foreign policy over to Condi Rice, taking the portfolio away from Dick Cheney and his band of neocon nutjobs, in order to salvage some semblance of a legacy in the final months of his administration ... or, Bush hopes to undermine Barack Obama's foreign policy stances one by one, by preempting him on engagement with Iran, troop drawdowns in Iraq, etc. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether John McCain is swift enough to pick up the ball, or whether he will keep blustering on about staying in Iraq forever and ever and blowing Iran to hell.
Also in the Guardian, a new report says the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy -- lower than any developed nation and on par with Croatia ... and Canada is taken to task for refusing to seek the repatriation of a 15-year-old kid the Bush administration has locked up in Gitmo, and who is seen pleading for help during a videotaped interrogation released this week. From the story:
Toronto-born Omar Khadr's US military lawyer called on Harper to "stand up and act like a prime minister of Canada" and demand the teenager's return.
... Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, along with his criticism of Harper, said yesterday that the military tribunals at Guantánamo "aren't designed to be fair" and designed "to produce convictions".
He said anyone who watched Khadr whimpering for his mother and still believed he had vowed to die fighting with a bunch of hardened al-Qaida terrorists is "crazy".
"The tape shows Omar Khadr not as a hardened terrorist but as a frightened boy."
"It just shows how unreliable anything that they extracted from this kid is would be at trial."
Khadr, who was shown in the video aged 16 and questioned after severe sleep deprivation, will have to remain at Guantánamo until he is prosecuted for war crimes in front of a special US military tribunal, later this year.
The liberal Canadian senator and ex-general Romeo Dallaire told Canada Television's (CTV) Newsnet programme that Khadr is a child solider and should be treated and given the same rehabilitation that Canada devotes to other child soldiers around the world.
"We're getting stabbed in the back," Dallaire told the cable channel. "We have worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant.
Canada's conservative P.M., Stephen Harper, remains unmoved, and Canadian experts are casting doubt on chances for the boy to return to his home country. [Omar Khadr photo, showing him at age 15, from the Canadian Broadcasting Co.]
Meanwhile in the Middle East, Hezbollah supporters are gleeful at the return of five of their members to Beirut, along with the bodies of some 200 fighters, who were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. In Israel, no celebration, just funerals for the two Israelis, whose capture led to Israel's disastrous 2006 war with Lebanon. In the Independent UK, Robert Fisk writes of Israel's folly, and Hezbollah's hubris. On the exchange, Hezbollah got:
Samir Kuntar – 28 years in an Israeli jail for the 1979 murder of an Israeli, his young daughter and a policeman. He arrived from Israel very much alive, clean shaven but sporting a neat moustache, overawed by the hundreds of Hizbollah supporters, a man used to solitary confinement who suddenly found himself idolised by a people he had not seen in almost three decades. His eyes moved around him, the eyes of a prisoner watching for trouble. He was Israel's longest-held Lebanese prisoner; Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, had promised his release. And he had kept his word.
... But it was also a day of humiliation. Humiliation most of all for the Israelis. After launching their 2006 war to retrieve two of their captured soldiers, they killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians, devastated Lebanon, lost 160 of their own – most of them soldiers – and ended up yesterday handing over 200 Arab corpses and five prisoners in return for the remains of the two missing soldiers and a box of body parts.
Read the whole thing. Trust me.
Back to the states, where the New York Times' Caucus blog reports Barack Obama raised $52 million in June (though Chuck Todd pooh-poohed the number this morning on "Morning Joe," saying Obama had better raise that amount since he's not taking public financing. Geez, the media is STILL sore about that?)
Meanwhile, the paper proper reports on how much Iraqis seem to like Obama, quoting one Iraqi general as saying the candidate is "very young, very active" and "we would be very happy if he was elected president." Look for the McCain camp to deride Obama as "the candidate of the Iraqi people" today ... before they have to dial back once the candidate remembers that Iraq is no longer in the Axis of Evil. The same story attempts to throw cold water on Obama's withdrawal plans, however, calling them "complicated" for Iraqis:
... mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.
“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”
... There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported.
“In no way do I favor the occupation of my country,” said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, “but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point.”
Like many Iraqis, Mr. Ibrahim sees Mr. Obama favorably, describing him as “much more humane than Bush or McCain.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama’s statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.
“It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it,” he said. “The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”
Why do I not quite trust the Times not to put neocon words into Iraqis mouths? Maybe it's just me ... and Judy Miller... Meanwhile, the paper also reports on the phalanx of media stars and actual anchor people who will chase Barack around the Middle East and Europe when he travels there, as opposed to the "in other news" treatment that McCain's overseas trip received.
The U.S. economy and financial system are more closely linked to those in other wealthy nations, particularly in Europe, where rising inflation and the weak dollar are adding to growing trouble. The United States and Europe have "similar economies and share the potential problems of industrialized nations in terms of property price fluctuations and financials," said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "And they find themselves sharing variable degrees of vulnerability."
As global wealth has shifted during the past decade, emerging markets have become not only increasingly stable but they have also been claiming a larger portion of the world's riches than ever before. If Californians are rushing to withdraw money from banks there, the situation in Kenya is just the opposite: People are flocking to banks to open accounts. The Nairobi exchange, which lists mostly Kenyan companies and a handful of multinational firms, posted 10 percent gains in the three months ended in June as local and foreign investors flocked to the initial public offering of the cellphone giant Safaricom.
The WaPo also tries to even out the mortgage crisis exposure of the two presidential candidates, attempting to make former Obama advisers and of all things, Clinton advisers, the equivalent of John McCain's bevy of current lobbyist pals and campaign shot callers who are steeped in Freddie and Fannie lobbying cash. So much for the liberal media.
And the paper reports that the Obama campaign is creating a heavy presence in Virginia, suggesting they are serious about winning the state.
The Los Angeles Times reports on newly minted FBI investigatee Indymac's latest problem: rival banks are refusing to accept its cashier's checks, adding a new headache for depositors who have been lining up to get their money.
And the paper reports that a stunning 1 in 4 California high school students -- and 1 in 3 Los Angeles high schoolers, dropped out of school since the fall of 2006. Wow. The head count was made possible by a new ID system in the state that was meant to track students leaving one school and enrolling at another. Unfortunately, the second part of that equation didn't happen 25-33% of the time.
Meanwhile, a CBS/NYT poll shows that America's racial divide is as sharp as ever, according to the paper, Obama's polling success so far notwithstanding:
In the survey, 83 percent of blacks had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 31 percent of white voters.
The poll shows that the essence of the divide is that a preponderance of white Americans believe that racial discrimination is a thing of the past, which black people make too much of, while most black Americans feel that racial discrimination is very much a thing of the present, which white people make too little of:
On the status of race relations, 59 percent of black respondents thought they were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites who thought the same way.
The nationwide telephone poll of 1,796 adults showed that 39 percent of blacks said there had been no real progress in recent years in getting rid of racial discrimination. Only 17 percent of whites said the same thing.
Twenty-seven percent of whites said too much had been made of problems facing black people, while half of blacks said not enough had been made of racial barriers faced by black people.
What's ironic, is that some of the same white folks who say too much is made of racism harbor concurrent, negative, and I dare say racist, views of black people. If you don't believe me, read any comment thread under any online story about Barack Obama, or almost any other prominent social or political figure.
Update: The Obama camp is disputing the Times reporting, saying that the full poll disagrees with the paper's headline about Obama "not closing the racial divide." (H/T to the HuffPo.) TMP Election Central reports:
The Obama campaign sent over a detailed critique of the story, which concludes from the poll that Obama isn't closing the divide on race. The story's lead reporter was the paper's top political writer, Adam Nagourney.
"The NYT story about their poll ignores multiple and significant pieces of data that actually indicate a trend much different from that which the story suggests," the critique reads. It goes on to list "some straightforward points from their data that are omitted from the story."...
a) More white voters say Obama cares about people like them, than say the same thing about McCain by 31 to 23
b) On the essential issue in this campaign - bringing about change in Washington - Among white voters, Obama is seen as the change agent by 52% to 30%
c) Obama's 31% favorable rating among white voters is virtually identical to McCain's, which is at 34%.
d) By a 2 to 1 margin over McCain, white voters are more likely to say that Obama would improve America's image in the world
e) "Racial dissension" around Mrs. Obama's 24% favorable rating among whites is an extremely odd description given that Mrs. McCain's favorable rating among white voters is 20%.
f) Enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy is roughly 2.5 times higher among white voters than is enthusiasm for McCain's.
Does it sometimes seem like we're living though a looking glass version of the 1970s? Trouble with Iran (whom the Bush administration is now not quite but sort of talking to) an economy in turmoil, and skyrocketing inflation (which in May and June saw the largest jump since 1982, two years after Ronald Reagan took over management of the country from Jimmy Carter) coupled with stagnant growth, producing the very 1970s-like phenomenon called "stagflation."
Just like the 1970s, oil and gas are at the root of the problem. High gas and diesel prices are being passed on to consumers by every company whose goods are delivered by truck, including food, furniture, hell, everything. And wages have fallen behind inflation, and Americans are being forced to drain their savings and 401K plans just to keep up. Even with rising prices, companies are struggling to stay in the black, and often failing (take the airline industry for instance. It's headed down the drain.) Consumer confidence is way down, even as the right continues to shill for the oil companies and pooh-pooh the problems of ordinary Americans.
And there's a new communal spirit growing in America. It's called borders!
Meanwhile, Congressman Dennis Kucinich uncovers thousands of military veterans who have been denied disability and pension benefits by the Bush administration.
President Bush sought to reassure shaky markets and frightened consumers about worsening economic conditions today, asserting that the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound and urging Congress to quickly pass legislation to shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac....
...The president also played down predictions that large numbers of banks may be on the verge of failure and spoke at length about the federal insurance system that guarantees deposits up to $100,000. Federal regulators last week took over IndyMac Bancorp of California amid a run on the bank's reserves.
"My hope is that people take a deep breath and realize their deposits are safe. I think the system is basically sound," Bush said.
"I'm not an economist, but I do believe we're growing," he said later, adding that the economy is "not growing the way it should."
Maybe Dubya should have bypassed the presser and given his speech directly to his Fed chairman...
The twin problems of slow growth and rising prices are making it difficult for federal policymakers to chart a course for the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said today, as he outlined a raft of problems facing the country -- including "ongoing strains" at banks and finance companies and a string of recent job losses and declining home prices.
... or to Wall Street...
Wall Street was lower again today, with major U.S. indexes initially off as much as 1.5 percent. Shares, however, rebounded to near even by midday as news came oil prices fell by more than $8 a barrel, to around $136, as investors weighed the degree to which a global slowdown will undercut demand. Asian and European markets fell overnight.
Or struggling businesses ...
Bernanke described worry about the run-up in the price of oil and other commodities, and said that it may lead businesses to raise prices for goods other than food and energy in the future.
"With businesses facing persistently higher input prices, they may attempt to pass through such costs into prices . . . more aggressively than they have so far," Bernanke said.
DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will lay off salaried workers, cut truck production, suspend its dividend and borrow $2 billion to $3 billion to weather a severe downturn in the U.S. market. GM said the moves will raise $15 billion to help cover losses and turn around its North American operations, including $10 billion from internal cost-cutting and $5 billion from selling some assets and borrowing against others. "In short, our plan is not a plan to survive. It is a plan to win," GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a broadcast to employees.
GM's shares fell as much as 6 percent to a new 54-year low of $8.81, then rebounded to $9.94 in midday trading, up 56 cents from Monday's close.
Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said GM wants to reduce its total salaried costs in the U.S. and Canada by more than 20 percent. A large chunk of the reduction, he said, would come from cutting health care benefits for salaried retirees. Those people would get a pension increase from the company's overfunded pension fund to help compensate for Medicare and supplemental insurance, the company said.
Several thousand jobs will be cut through normal attrition and retirements, and through early retirement and buyout offers, Henderson said. The company could resort to involuntary layoffs but does not want to, he said.
(Bloomberg) -- The dollar declined to a record low against the euro on speculation Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will say credit- market losses are hurting U.S. economic growth.
The currency dropped the most versus the yen since the March collapse of Bear Stearns Cos. and fell to a 25-year low versus the Australian dollar on concern confidence in the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will diminish even after the U.S. government pledged support for the firms. The pound surpassed $2 for the first time since July 1 as inflation accelerated.
The economy showed the depth of its twin problems on Tuesday, slow growth and rising inflation, as the nation wrestled with a teetering financial system, a slumping dollar and rising prices for food and fuel.
The Labor Department reported that soaring costs for gasoline and food pushed inflation at the wholesale level up by a bigger-than-expected 1.8 percent in June, leaving inflation rising over the past year at the fastest pace in more than a quarter-century.
Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices are up 9.2 percent, the largest year-over-year surge since June 1981, another period when soaring energy costs were giving the country inflation pains.
Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was better behaved in June, rising by just 0.2 percent, slightly lower than expectations.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that all the economy's problems were weighing on the consumer. Retail sales edged up by a tiny 0.1 percent in June, weaker than had been expected, as consumer spending was held back by a sharp plunge in sales at auto dealerships.
While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is keeping secret its official list of 90 troubled banks, ABC News has obtained other lists prepared by several research groups and financial analysts.
The lists use versions of the so-called "Texas ratio" which compare a bank's assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based on financial data made public by the FDIC in March.
Analysts say banks with a ratio over 100 per cent would be the most likely to fail, based on what happened to Texas savings and loans during the 1980's.
Media Matters has made much of a WorldNetDaily poll that shows that 6 in 10 WorldNetDaily.com readers believe that the New Yorker magazine cover cartoon depicting the Obama's as terrorist wannabes "isn't too far from the dangerous truth about the Obamas." (Another 12 percent said the poll is "funny, because there's some truth in it." The poll results so far, with just over 3100 votes:
The image isn't too far from the dangerous truth about the Obama family
Funny, because there's some truth in it
Hilarious, it's perfect satire
It will do what it's designed to do: sell magazines
The image will only add to the massive publicity Obama receives while McCain remains in the shadows
Tasteless and offensive
This is character assassination, literally and figuratively
It's obvious the New Yorker wants Obama to win
Everyone should boycott the New Yorker over this huge insult
There's no such thing as bad publicity
This is probably a joke and is not intended to hit newsstands
It's obvious the New Yorker wants McCain to win
That certainly confirms the fears in some media quarters that the New Yorker cover will be read as satire, only by the intelligent. And then there's that one in ten Americans who still say they believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. My guess is that they say that, or really think they believe it, because "Muslim" is their consciences' way of saying "nigger" without having to use the word out loud. Just my theory. I'd guess there's not much you can do with anyone who actually reads WorldNetDaily, and thankfully, there are more normal people, who have accepted the country's entrance into the 21st century, than there are Harriet Christian throwbacks in America.
Still, I do believe that the 8-10 percent gap between the generic Democrat performance against a generic Republican and Obama's single-digit poll lead is mostly attributable to white respondents who can't bring themselves to support a black candidate, but who aren't necessarily going to admit as much to a pollster. Obama has to hope that those voters don't become the deciders in older demographic, blue collar states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan.
Meanwhile, the cartoonist defends himself. My article about the flap, which includes interviews with Industry Ears media watchdog Paul Porter and political science guru Dr. Ronald Walters, hits newsstands on Thursday.
John McLaughlin is probably thanking his lucky stars that he's not nearly as famous as Jesse Jackson, or as well-noticed as the New Yorker... If he was, he'd be catching hell today for referring to Barack Obama as ... wait for it ... an "Oreo."
On the edition of the syndicated program The McLaughlin Group that aired the weekend of July 11-13, while discussing recent comments made by the Rev. Jesse Jackson about Sen. Barack Obama, host John McLaughlin said: "Question: Does it frost Jackson, Jesse Jackson, that someone like Obama, who fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo -- a black on the outside, a white on the inside -- that an Oreo should be the beneficiary of the long civil rights struggle which Jesse Jackson spent his lifetime fighting for?"
Responding to McLaughlin's question, panelist and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Peter Beinart said: "Who knows what Jesse Jackson is thinking? But that's a completely unfair depiction of Barack Obama." Later in the discussion, Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women's Forum, said: "I want to go back to the point you made about whether or not Obama is an Oreo, because if Barack Obama is an Oreo, then every member of this generation of African-Americans is an Oreo, because we stand on the shoulders of the people who fought for our rights, and all of us say that you cannot blame 'the man' or white racism for everything that ails the black community."
Meanwhile, Barack goes to the NAACP and restates his call for parental responsibility (transcript), in a speech where he also detailed the failures of both government and Wall Street. But here's the part that will make TV:
So yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington. And yes we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves. Now, I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch – none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives.
That’s how we’ll truly honor those who came before us. Because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. That’s not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. That’s not the America they gave so much to build. That’s not the dream they had for our children.
That’s why if we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.
And Obama's fate will be determined by one thing: turnout...
Independent voters split 44 - 44 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Sen. McCain has a slight 47 - 44 percent edge among men voters and a larger 49 - 42 percent lead among white voters.
But black voters back Sen. Obama 94 - 1 percent, while women support him 55 - 36 percent. Obama leads 63 - 31 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old and 48 - 44 percent among voters 35 to 54, while voters over 55 split with 45 percent for McCain and 44 percent for Obama.
The Democrat gets 44 percent to the Republican's 47 percent in red states, which went Republican by more than 5 percent in 2004, and leads 50 - 39 percent in purple or swing states.
"Sen. Barack Obama's national lead is solid - but it's not monolithic," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"His support in the black community is about as close to unanimous as you can get. Politicians say that the only uncertainty will be turnout. Sen. John McCain leads among white voters.
Meanwhile, Newsweek finds alarming numbers of voters who think Obama is a Muslim. Consider the responses to Question #16:
16. As I read you some statements about Barack Obama, please tell me if each one is TRUE or FALSE, to the best of your knowledge. (First/Next)... (INSERT ITEM—READ AND RANDOMIZE). (As far as you know) is this true or false?
BASED ON REGISTERED VOTERS
a. Obama used a Koran for swearing into the U.S. Senate
b. Obama attended an Islamic school in Indonesia during his youth
c. Obama was raised as a Muslim
d. Obama is a practicing Muslim today
NET—Think one or more of these statements is true 52
Again this morning, David Gregory and a parade of adoring "analysts" on MSNBC are asserting that John McCain has, of course, established his credentials and experience on foreign policy, while Barack Obama "still needs to pass the foreign policy test."
And yet, these same reporters and analysts overlook the rather inconvenient fact, that for someone who supposedly is so knowledgeable about the world, John McCain makes constant, blatant, serious mistakes about fundamental things that happen to be about ... the world.
He doesn't grasp the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, something he has demonstrated repeatedly, to the collective yawns of the mainstream press.
Just yesterday, he once again demonstrated that his knowledge of Europe comes to a screeching halt shortly after the Reagan administration. For instance, McCain still thinks there is a Czechoslovakia, a country that ceased to exist in 1993, when the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic (a/k/a Slovakia) were born. Not only does McCain think that Czechoslovakia still exits, he wants to put a missile shield there, "and he doesn't care who objects." Well who would object? There are no people in that country to object, because it doesn't exist anymore... And does this pause the media narrative? Not a bit. The MSM continue to give McCain the benefit of the doubt, for no other reason than because they find McCain so very likable, and "authentic." McCain has built his media base by giving them the one thing, besides perks like box seats at ballgames and invites to the White House Christmas party, that they crave more than anything else: access, and even that, he has begun to retract, by forcing brown nosing reporters to "earn" their way into the good seats on the Straight Talk Air Express...) I'm guessing Gregory and his colleagues are only too happy to oblige.
For more on the media's determination to give McCain a free ride, see Media Matters. Learn more about the real John McCain here. |
Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, is set to get a huge payout from the sale of Anheuser-Busch Cos., brewer of Budweiser and hundreds of other brands, to Belgian beverage giant InBev NV.
McCain, the heiress to the third-largest Anheuser distributor, owns at a minimum $1 million in the American company, according to John McCain’s Senate financial disclosure forms, which don’t offer any more information for large assets held by his spouse. Under the deal, she and other stockholders will get a cash payout for the stock, which is owned through her company, Hensley and Co.
According to the update, Cindy's holdings are even fluffier:
UPDATE: Mrs. McCain’s company owns between $2.5 million to $5 million in Anheuser stock, meaning it will earn $800,000 to $1.6 million premium on the pre-deal stock price. Although Senate personal financial disclosure forms only say that Mrs. McCain’s firm owns at least $1 million, a Democratic Party aide points out that it also reports $50,000-$100,000 in dividends in 2007. With $1.25 dividend per share last year, that means the McCains own between 40,000 and 80,000 shares.
Drink up, Cindy! And remember to pay your taxes (this time)...
... Cashing out could leave the McCains with hefty capital gains, which would be taxed at a rate of 15% under the Bush tax cuts that John McCain opposed and now supports. (Barack Obama has proposed raising the capital gains tax.)
Hensley and Co., founded by Cindy McCain’s father, has an exclusive distribution deal for Budweiser and other products in the Phoenix area. The merger is unlikely to affect that arrangement, and the company already sells InBev brands, including Stella Artois and Beck’s, through an existing agreement with Anheuser.
You've got to feel sorry for South Caroline Gov. Mark Sanford. I mean, it really is kinda hard to figure out the difference between John McCain's economic policy, and George W. Bush's. Hell, I'd be speechless too...
An escalating number of voters registering as Democrats is providing evidence that the 2008 election could produce a wave of support for Barack Obama — and trigger a decades-long shift of party allegiance that could affect elections for a generation.
The numbers are ominous for Republicans: Through May, Democratic voter registration in Broward County was up 6.7 percent. Republican registrations grew just 3 percent while independents rose 2.8 percent.
Democrats have posted even greater gains statewide, up 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the Republicans.
"It's a huge swing," says Marian Johnson, political director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "I looked at that and said, 'Wow.'"
And here's why it matters: party "brand loyalty" tends to be strongest among new voters:
Michael Martinez, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, said there aren't many people shifting from the Republicans to the Democrats. But the allegiance of first-time voters is significant.
"New voters tend to identify with the hot party at the time. In the 1980s, a lot of new voters were identifying with Reagan, because he was sort of the hot commodity," Martinez said.
I first heard this on Stephanie Miller's show this morning, and it's a doozy, courtesy of the Times of London:
The images on the tiny screen of Stephen Payne’s personal organiser told a clear story: this was a man with connections at the highest level.
One showed Payne uprooting dead trees side by side with George W Bush on the US president’s Texas ranch. Another depicted him skeet shooting next to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and a third grinning for the camera alongside Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.
The man on the other side of the table from Payne at the Lanesborough hotel in central London last week appeared impressed by the contents of the BlackBerry. He was a familiar figure, a Kazakh politician Payne knew as Eric Dos.
Dos, whose full name is Yerzhan Dosmukhamedov, told Payne that he was representing another foreign political figure who was looking to meet the top people in the US government.
Dos had good reason for believing that Payne could make it happen. Payne has accompanied Bush and Cheney on foreign trips to the Middle East and Asia, and he sits on the influential advisory council to the Department of Homeland Security. Payne is also president of a lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP), which specialises in connecting business and political interests with the US government.
Dos told Payne that the politician needing help was Askar Akayev, the former president of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan.
Akayev, who is in exile in Moscow after being ousted from power three years ago in a people’s revolt, was seeking an endorsement from senior US figures in order to help rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world, Dos told Payne.
“Who does he want to meet with in Washington?” asked the American. Dos replied: “Well of course, maybe the president of the United States, vice-president Cheney, to speak maybe directly to explain the situation in central Asia . . . To give his side of the story. These kind of things.”
“I think that some things could be done,” said Payne, adding that seeing Bush himself might be more difficult. With barely a pause, he continued:
“I think that the family, children, whatever [of Akayev], should probably look at making a contribution to the Bush library.
“It would be like, maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, not a huge amount but enough to show that they’re serious.”
... What Payne did not know was that the third person at the Lanesborough meeting last Monday was an undercover Sunday Times reporter. Nor did he know that the meeting was being recorded.
How to say ... "uh-oh..." Payne then went on to offer confabs with Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, or maybe Condi Rice.
So who is Dos? He's an exile from Khazakhstan! Yes, Khazhakstan... (is nice!) He had run afoul of that country's government when he deigned to set up his own political party. ... (is not nice...) The Times goes on:
Before that happened, however, he acted as an adviser to Timur Kulibayev, the billionaire son-in-law of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh president, and a man of considerable influence within the country.
Dos said that in the autumn of 2005 he had been asked by the Kazakh government, via Kulibayev, to arrange a visit by Cheney. The intention was to improve the country’s international standing.
Dos had spent several days negotiating with Payne. A deal was eventually agreed, he said, and he understood that a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.
The following May, Cheney made a brief trip to Kazakhstan. His visit was remarked upon in the media at the time, both for the lavish praise which he publicly heaped on Nazarbayev and for the stark contrast between this and a speech he had made just a day earlier at a conference in Lithuania in which he had lambasted Russia for being insufficiently democratic. Now he was lauding Nazarbayev, who has effectively made himself president for life and in whose country it is an offence to criticise him.
“Why did Cheney castigate Russia’s imperfect democracy while saying not a word about Kazakhstan’s shameless travesty of the democratic system?” said one newspaper following the visit. “Cheney’s flattery of the Kazakh regime was sickening,” said another.
Dos believes some of the money paid to WSP may have found its way to “entities” connected to the Bush administration.
In order to test which channels might be available to foreigners seeking influence within the US, Dos agreed to approach Payne, at The Sunday Times’s request, with a fabricated story about Akayev wanting to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the world. Akayev was not aware of the approach to Payne.
And that's "uh-oh" number two. So just what is the going price of the "honor and integrity" of the Bush White House? Which leads us to a very telling quote by Mr. Payne:
Following e-mail questioning from Dos about how Payne might pass on money paid to him by foreigners, Payne became increasingly cagey.
He said: “Anyone that tells you ‘I can deliver a US government action in exchange for specific funds’ is someone you will soon visit in prison . . . as that would be bribery in this country.”
Clink-clink. The Democrats in Congress, as is their wont to do, are "investigating." Add it to the list.
Entertainment industry watchdog IndustryEars joins the firefight over the New Yorker's Obama cartoon cover. The following statement hit the email this morning:
The July 21st, cover of "The New Yorker Magazine" featuring Barack and Michelle Obama is both tasteless and insensitive. Plans will be announced for a national boycott of the New Yorker Magazine. Advertisers, newsstands and stores that carry the New Yorker Magazine are being notified of our nationwide boycott.
Democrats, Republicans and American's find this so called 'satire"as divisive an inflammatory.
The group, which is led by former BET host turned anti-defamation crusader Paul Porter, along with an organization called Project Islamic H.O.P.E, run by activist Najee Ali, will hold a press conference to announce their plans on Wednesday at noon.
WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.
“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution.
Some of “The Dark Side” seems right out of “The Final Days,” minus Nixon’s operatic boozing and weeping. We learn, for instance, that in 2004 two conservative Republican Justice Department officials had become “so paranoid” that “they actually thought they might be in physical danger.” The fear of being wiretapped by their own peers drove them to speak in code.
The men were John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, James Comey, and an assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith. Their sin was to challenge the White House’s don, Dick Cheney, and his consigliere, his chief of staff David Addington, when they circumvented the Geneva Conventions to make torture the covert law of the land. Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith failed to stop the “torture memos” and are long gone from the White House. But Vice President Cheney and Mr. Addington remain enabled by a president, attorney general (Michael Mukasey) and C.I.A. director (Michael Hayden) who won’t shut the door firmly on torture even now.
Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.
Meanwhile, members of the administration appear not to be completely oblivious to the perils they find themselves in. Former U.N. ambassadorial temp John Bolton got a nice scare in Europe this spring, when a citizen attempted to arrest him for war crimes. Baron von Rumsfeld has had to be fleet footed in France after narrowly escaping a war crimes indictment (Bush has even sought to immunize his defense team from indictment in the International Criminal Court. No consciousness of guilt there... and failing to get blanket immunity, has forced bilateral agreements on about 100 countries to ensure that U.S. officials won't be handed over.) And no less an insider than retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, who probed the infamous abuses at abu-Ghraib, has definitively stated that key members of the Bush administration committed war crimes by ordering and devising the torture of detainees
The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
(The Red Cross, the lead organization in such matters, concurs.) And ccording to Rich:
Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military’s barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore.
No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, “Torture Team.” After Mr. Sands previewed his findings in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Mr. Feith protested he had been misquoted — apparently forgetting that Mr. Sands had taped the interview. Mr. Feith and Mr. Sands are scheduled to square off in a House hearing this Tuesday.
So hot is the speculation that war-crimes trials will eventually follow in foreign or international courts that Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has publicly advised Mr. Feith, Mr. Addington and Alberto Gonzales, among others, to “never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel.” But while we wait for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, there are immediate fears to tend. Ms. Mayer’s book helps cement the case that America’s use of torture has betrayed not just American values but our national security, right to the present day.
Worse, the Mayer book makes it clear that for all the descent into Communist Chinese military tactics, the Cheney-led torture mania hasn't helped U.S. national security. Instead, the lies that torture has elicited have been principle causes leading us into the Iraq quagmire:
In her telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was “all preventable.” By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, “50 or 60 individuals” in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director that summer, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, “I don’t want to hear about that anymore!”
After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.
The biggest torture-fueled wild-goose chase, of course, is the war in Iraq. Exhibit A, revisited in “The Dark Side,” is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an accused Qaeda commander whose torture was outsourced by the C.I.A. to Egypt. His fabricated tales of Saddam’s biological and chemical W.M.D. — and of nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — were cited by President Bush in his fateful Oct. 7, 2002, Cincinnati speech ginning up the war and by Mr. Powell in his subsequent United Nations presentation on Iraqi weaponry. Two F.B.I. officials told Ms. Mayer that Mr. al-Libi later explained his lies by saying: “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”
That “something” was crucial in sending us into the quagmire that, five years later, has empowered Iran and compromised our ability to counter the very terrorists that torture was supposed to thwart. As The Times reported two weeks ago, Iraq has monopolized our military and intelligence resources to the point where we don’t have enough predator drones or expert C.I.A. field agents to survey the tribal areas where terrorists are amassing in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the threat to America from Al Qaeda is “comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a RAND Corporation terrorism expert and Pentagon consultant. The difference between now and then is simply that the base of operations has moved, “roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”
Meanwhile, in Rich's telling, we're back where we were in the summer before 9/11. Hell, even Chandra Levy is making a comeback, courtesy of a 12-part "investigative" series by the Washington Post... (BTW that summer, Chandra consumed about 90 percent of my time as editor of an NBC News website. Here we go again...)
... Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.
But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.
As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.
In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.
Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.
As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.
It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.
Obama also makes the point that the general the Bush administration put in charge of training Iraq security forces says they'll be ready to assume responsibility for security their country by 2009. If that's true, then why would we remain in Iraq beyond that time, John McCain? Also, the example of Basra is telling: once the Brits withdrew, violence in southern Iraq declined to one-tenth of what it was. |
When Indymac collapsed, 1929 style, last week, it wasn't a sign of things to come, it was a loud, clanging alarm bell that should even alert the Marie Antoinette's on the right (like Phil Gramm,) that the U.S., and indeed the world, economy is in trouble. The bank is being taken over by the feds after pannicky account holders withdrew $1 billion in a run on the bank on Friday.
Depending on which international headline you believe, Indymac FSB is either the second, or the third largest bank collapse in U.S. history. Britain's Sky News had one other interesting tidbit:
IndyMac was founded in 1985 by David Loeb and Angelo Mozilo, who also founded Countrywide, another big mortgage lender whose loans helped fuel the housing boom.
Countrywide was taken over last week by Bank of America Corp.
That says volumes, doesn't it? The bank reopens this morning as Indymac Federal Bank, under control of the FDIC. So what was the largest U.S. bank collapse? For that we go to the Times of London:
NetBank is the largest US bank to fail since the savings-and-loans crisis in the early 1990s. The bank, based in Geor-gia and launched in the late 1990s, had $2.5 billion in assets and was seen as a leading inter-net-only savings bank. The Office of Thrift Supervision, which regulates American lenders, blamed the bank’s demise on thumping loan losses and poor underwriting standards.
NetBank’s problems were made worse by its decision to expand into sub-prime mortgages, leaving it exposed to the meltdown in the US housing market.
ING, the Dutch bank, is taking over NetBank’s customers and $1.5 billion in insured savings deposits. It paid just $15m for the savings book.
And just for Phil Gramm, the Carpe Diem blog helpfully chronicles the history of big, bad, bank failures in the U.S. of A, and concludes that unlike the high water mark for bank failures in the 1980s, today's market really isn't all that bad.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warns of $300 a barrel oil if three U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobile succeeds in pushing through a freeze on that country's assets in a dispute over a nationalized oil project.
Meanwhile, this bud's pour vous: Annheuser-Busch has been sold to Belgium's InBev. The company's St. Louis, MO hometown will become the headquarters for the company's North American division. A-B has about a 50 percent share of the U.S. beer market. The company has said it will retain "key management" and distribution personnel, but has made no representation about other U.S. jobs.
The New Yorker wades into satirical cartoonland and comes up with one hell of a dud. The magazine's latest cover is meant to be satirical. Too bad satire is almost always wasted. Most people aren't going to get the joke. The Guardian writes:
In a satirical swipe at the crazy rumours about the presidential candidate and his wife, Michelle, the liberal magazine depicts them as terrorists in the oval office. Obama is in Muslim clothing; Michelle, in an Afro and military garb, has an AK-47 slung over he shoulder.
Naturally, the fist bumping is there, along with a portrait of Osama Bin Laden and an American flag roasting in the fireplace.
Asked about the image, Obama shrugged his shoulders. But his (and McCain's) spokespeople have made clear their disapproval, claiming most readers would judge the image "tasteless and offensive".
They may be right. Readers have declared they will abandon their subscriptions amid declarations that the cartoon, by Barry Blitt, was "gross, sick and pathetic".
The magazine's editor, David Remnick, believes the image "holds up a mirror" to the absurd and often malicious rumours that have stuck to his [Obama's] campaign. And he believes his readers are intelligent enough to get the joke.
A caption? What would it have said? 'The New Yorker would like to inform readers that the above depiction is supposed to be funny. We don't really think Obama is a terrorist and we like Michelle's hairstyle as it is. Just in case any of you should think us unpatriotic, we remind readers that the Stars and the Stripes should be kept away from fire at all times.'
For anyone who needs a caption to get the joke, Remnick's most extensive explanation of the cover can be found in this question and answer session.
Inside, the magazine reports that ... surprise! ... Barack Obama turns out to be a politician.
Meanwhile, despite the candidate's typically laid back reaction, the Obama campaign is not amused. Alternet's Don Hazen asks why left leaning media are working so hard to do the right's dirty work on Obama. Writes Hazen:
Unfortunately the impact of this image will extend far beyond the reading audience of the New Yorker; cable news and the right-wing media noise machine will amplify the derogatory image to millions more. And the New Yorker of course will reap enormous publicity, clearly translating to increased sales and notoriety for the brand, and for corporate owner Conde Nast -- one of the largest and most powerful media companies in America.
But the publicity could very well backfire. Editor David Remnick and artist Barry Blitt's attempt at satire seems so arrogant and indulgent in its insensitive and out of touch with political and media dynamics of tabloid TV and blogs, that it just might make a lot of people angry, including some subscribers. The cover turns the magazine into a potential Molotov cocktail, to be gleefully tossed by Fox News and the conservative blogs, into the already combustible tinderbox of race and muslim stereotypes just below the surface of America's public discourse.
Brangelina's twins are here! (And they WILL take your man...)
Jen's nemesis gives birth to the French, and the media goes wild. If Anniston and her new beaux, John Mayer, follow suit, those little tykes had better hold onto their spouses, partners or significant others ... The latest Pitt-Jolie offspring include both a boy and a girl Sacre bleu!
Meanwhile, before they've even made it into the tabloids for dumping their spouses for a globe-trotting, do-gooder trollup, the twins have already snagged their first $20 million! Holy pimperation! |
I got more response to this "Face Off" column about the Second Amendment and the Roberts Court's D.C. v. Heller decision than any column I've written for the South Florida Times. Gun lovers are filling my email with long, long, long soliloquies about how wonderful guns are, how they shouldn't be "taken away" or "denied" to "law abiding gun owners" and even a couple of emails inviting me to grab a pistol and come to the shooting range so that I, too, can fall in love with the handgun. I wouldn't have enough time to respond to them all. Too much to do. So let me respond to all the Second Amendment enthusiasts collectively.
First: the Supreme Court in the Heller case sided with you. The individual right to bear arms is now the law of the land, and not in dispute, including by me.
Second: Nowhere in my column did I argue that the men in the black helicopters (or anyone for that matter) should come and confiscate your guns. Even the D.C. gun ban included no such confiscation order. No men in black. No helicopters rousting District residents and snatching away their beloved pistolas. One more time, just to close this matter out: no one from the government is coming to take your guns away, and I can't think of anyone who has ever argued that they should. I certainly haven't. What I have argued is that after Heller, the NRA can no longer use the specter of confiscation to scare up votes for the GOP.
Third: the SUPCO ruling also affirmed the constitutionality of common sense gun laws enacted by the people, through their local and state governments. Indeed, liberal carry laws are appropriate for some states (low crime, rural states like Vermont and Oregon have liberal carry laws, and few homicides) but not for others, where violent crime is making life a living hell for citizens and law enforcement alike. The D.C. handgun sales ban, whether you agreed with it or not, was passed by representatives of the people of the District. It was an attempt to deal with soaring violent crime. If Washington D.C. wants to have different gun laws than Vermont or Colorado, where I grew up, and where hunting is a major, popular pastime (and where hunters are some of the best proponents of environmental protection) I say more power to them. States should have the right to do what's best for them. If you want to walk around with a gun on your hip because that makes you happy, move to a state where you can do so.
It's time for America to come to grips with the violence in our society, with a combination of addressing the social ills and economic deprivation that feed criminality, and well enforced laws, including gun laws. The Heller ruling clears the way for us to do just that.
So please, no more emails warning me not to try and take your guns away. Believe me, I'm not coming anywhere near you or your guns. You can trust me on that.
UPDATE: One thing I have noticed from the responses I've received from gun enthusiasts, is that there is a kind of obsessive vibe to the love of guns. People who consider themselves to be Second Amendment guardians are really, really into their firearms, and rather paranoid about a fictional, imminent government attack that they seem to believe will lead to the confiscation of their guns. It's actually kind of creepy...
Whatever happened to... John McCain's first family?
The Los Angeles Times digs into the break-up of John McCain's first marriage (he allegedly dumped his first wife because after a car accident, she lost five inches of height and got fat) his quickie marriage to beer heiress Cindy, and the toll the marital drama took on his relationship with the Reagans. (Ironically, Nancy in particular was miffed at the break-up, though she inherited Ronnie from Jane Wyman... hm... I guess it's a Republican thing.)
I taped a segment for "Issues" on WPBT Channel 2 in Miami. The topic is the Seminole gaming compact that Charlie Crist signed, but that was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court. The show airs tonight at 7:30 on Channel 2 (if you're local. If not, I suppose it is available on their website?) and repeats on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
John McCain's chief economic adviser is not only the author of the Enron loophole, he's also an idiot. Let's go to the Moonies for more on that:
In an interview with the Washington Times, Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator who is now vice chairman of UBS, the giant Swiss bank, said he expects Mr. McCain to inherit a sluggish economy if he wins the presidency, weighed down above all by the conviction of many Americans that economic conditions are the worst in two or three decades and that America is in decline.
"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.
"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.
Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.
"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."
Yeah, those 1 million homes in foreclosure? The millions of Americans who are out of work, out of gas money, and behind on their bills? An optical illusion!
Questioned whether Gramm, who has been rumored as a potential Treasury secretary for McCain, would still have a position in his administration, the GOP candidate underscored his unhappiness with his former colleague's comments without directly answering the question.
"I think Sen. Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus," McCain said with a broad smile. "Though I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."
But in comments clearly prepared for the anticipated Gramm question that would open the press conference, McCain underlined his disagreement.
"I believe that the person here in Michigan who just lost his job isn't suffering from a 'mental recession,'" McCain said, citing Gramm's remarks published in the Washington Times. "I believe that the mother here in Michigan, around the country trying to get enough money to educate her children isn’t 'whining.'"
America, McCain made sure to note, "is in great difficulty."
Former senator Phil Gramm -- under fire for saying the United States has "become a nation of whiners" -- said in an interview today that he meant the nation's leaders were whiners, not its citizens.
But the top adviser to Sen. John McCain repeated his assertion that the economy is not in recession, and he declined to retract the comments quoted yesterday in the Washington Times.
"I'm not going to retract any of it. Every word I said was true," Gramm said.
Yeah, boy! Way to not help out your candidate by backing down!
The real trouble for Mr. Straight Talk is that Gramm's remarks aren't just reflective of his own evil inner core, they're also revelatory of his candidate. Marc Ambinder explains:
McCain has baggage. Begin with his own statements about not undering economics; add to that a few reversals on policy, a very odd phrase about Social Security, a party linkage to President Bush, and pressure from professional conservatives to adopt an approach to economic problems that is more tough-love than lovey-dovey. Phil Gramm is not just an adviser; he's been a close adviser for years, and has influenced McCain's economic policies. Go back to the fundamental paradox of conservatives and economic crises: in many instances, the proscribed solution is to do nothing; the political imperative is exactly the opposite. Usually, a compromise takes the form of half-measures that will pacify the public and not weaken the fundamental architecture of the economy.
Today, Gramm has given voice to an idea that is not uncommon among ideologically conservative economists: the recession is as much a creation of our anxiety about the future as it is a reflection of economic fundamentals.
"Look, the economy is bad. It is far below what we Americans have a right to expect, but we are not in a recession," he said. "We may or may not have one in the future, but based on the data we are not in a recession. But that does not mean all this talk does not have a psychological impact."
Gramm represents one distinct force that is pulling at McCain: orthodox, academics who experience the world through graphs, charts and data. The other is represented on the campaign by policy chief Doug Holtz-Eakin, who experiences the economic world through the language of politics. Holtz-Eakin is more of an Eisenhower Republican than a Kemp Republican, although Gramm has always been a big proponent of a balanced budget. Gramm generally wants government to get out of the way and lets crises work their way out through the market, believing that interventions distort the market. Holtz-Eakin's economic bent is more applied; politics demands that leaders offer solutions, even if solutions are more about quelling anxiety than they are about fixing a problem.
These two approaches have ranked McCain before; Gramm's fingerprints were all over McCain's first attempt to explain the housing crisis: measured, incremental and market-oriented. Didn't work. McCain looked like an ogre, although professional conservatives cheered. Two weeks later, Gramm had little to do with McCain's second swing of the bat, a specific set of proposals designed to help families hit hardest by the crisis. There were echoes of the Grammar, if you will, in the second speech, but the tone was softer and less academic, the proposals were more generous, and the message was unambiguous: McCain understands the pain.
Once again, Congress blinked and succumbed to the president’s fear-mongering. With today’s vote, the government has been given a green light to expand its power to spy on Americans and run roughshod over the Constitution,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This legislation will give the government unfettered and unchecked access to innocent Americans’ international communications without a warrant. This is not only unconstitutional, but absolutely un-American.”
The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful role for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The bill further trivializes court review by authorizing the government to continue a surveillance program even after the government’s general spying procedures are found insufficient or unconstitutional by the FISC. The government has the authority to wiretap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use whatever information was gathered in the meantime. A provision touted as a major “concession” by proponents of the bill calls for investigations by the inspectors general of four agencies overseeing spying activities. But members of Congress who do not sit on the Judiciary or Intelligence committees will not be guaranteed access to the agencies’ reports.
The bill essentially grants absolute retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that facilitated the president’s warrantless wiretapping program over the last seven years by ensuring the dismissal of court cases pending against those companies. The test for the companies’ right to immunity is not whether the government certifications they acted on were actually legal – only whether they were issued. Because it is public knowledge that certifications were issued, all of the pending cases will be summarily dismissed. This means Americans may never learn the truth about what the companies and the government did with our private communications.
“With one vote, Congress has strengthened the executive branch, weakened the judiciary and rendered itself irrelevant,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This bill – soon to be law – is a constitutional nightmare. Americans should know that if this legislation is enacted and upheld, what they say on international phone calls or emails is no longer private. The government can listen in without having a specific reason to do so. Our rights as Americans have been curtailed and our privacy can no longer be assumed.”
And the ACLU says it plans to do something about it:
“This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “
The bill signing is scheduled for today.
If you're still not concerned about this bill, you'll want to read the statement from Senator Russ Feingold yesterday. Feingold tried in vain, with Chris Dodd, to stop the bill, and in his statement on the floor he hits the Congress and White House square in the face on the illegality of the program in which the White House claimed for itself, the right to wiretap Americans without a warrant:
Here is the part of the story that some seem to have forgotten. In January 2005, eleven months before the New York Times broke the story of the illegal wiretapping program, I asked then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing to be Attorney General whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. Neither I nor the vast majority of my colleagues knew it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, and Mr. Gonzales was directly involved in that issue as White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, he first tried to dismiss my question as “hypothetical.” He then testified that “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.”
Well, Mr. President, the President’s wiretapping program was in direct contravention of our criminal statutes. Mr. Gonzales knew that, but he wanted the Senate and the American people to think that the President had not acted on the extreme legal theory that the President has the power as Commander in Chief to disobey the criminal laws of this country.
The President, too, misled Congress and the American public. In 2004 and 2005, when Congress was considering the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, the President went out of his way to assure us that his administration was getting court orders for wiretaps, all the while knowing full well that his warrantless wiretapping program was ongoing.
Here’s what the President said on April 20, 2004: “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”
And again, on July 14, 2004: “The government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”
And listen to what the President said on June 9, 2005: “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, a federal judge’s permission to track his calls, or a federal judge’s permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”
So please, let’s not pretend that the highly classified notification to the Gang of Eight, delivered while the President himself was repeatedly presenting a completely different picture to the public, suggests that Congress somehow acquiesced to this program. As the members of this body well know, several members of the Gang of Eight at the time raised concerns when they were told about this, and several have since said they were not told the full story. And of course all of them were instructed not to share what they had learned with a single other person.
Feingold points out that no court, even the most right wing courts in the country, have ever affirmed a presidential right to violate the Fourth Amendment by wiretapping Americans, under color of "commander in chief" authority or any other provision. He then outlines a number of problems with the bill that's about to become law:
First, the FISA Amendments Act would authorize the government to collect all communications between the U.S. and the rest of the world. That could mean millions upon millions of communications between innocent Americans and their friends, families, or business associates overseas could legally be collected. Parents calling their kids studying abroad, emails to friends serving in Iraq – all of these communications could be collected, with absolutely no suspicion of any wrongdoing, under this legislation.
Second, like the earlier Senate version, this bill fails to effectively prohibit the practice of reverse targeting – namely, wiretapping a person overseas when what the government is really interested in is listening to an American here at home with whom the foreigner is communicating. The bill does have a provision that purports to address this issue. It prohibits intentionally targeting a person outside the U.S. without an individualized court order if, quote, “the purpose” is to target someone reasonably believed to be in the U.S. At best, this prevents the government from targeting a person overseas as a complete pretext for getting information on someone in the U.S. But this language would permit intentional and possibly unconstitutional warrantless surveillance of an American so long as the government has any interest, no matter how small, in the person overseas with whom the American is communicating. The bill does not include language that had the support of the House and the vast majority of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, to require the government to obtain a court order whenever a significant purpose of the surveillance is to acquire the communications of an American in the U.S. The administration’s refusal to accept that reasonable restriction on its power is telling.
Third, the bill before us imposes no meaningful consequences if the government initiates surveillance using procedures that have not been approved by the FISA Court, and the FISA Court later finds that those procedures were unlawful. Say, for example, the FISA Court determines that the procedures were not even reasonably designed to wiretap foreigners outside the U.S., rather than Americans here at home. Under the bill, all that illegally obtained information on Americans can be retained and used. Once again, there are no consequences for illegal behavior.
... Fourth, this bill doesn’t protect the privacy of Americans whose communications will be collected in vast new quantities. The Administration’s mantra has been: “don’t worry, we have minimization procedures.” But, Mr. President, minimization procedures are nothing more than unchecked executive branch decisions about what information on Americans constitutes “foreign intelligence.” That is why on the Senate floor, I joined with Senator Webb and Senator Tester earlier this year to offer an amendment to provide real protections for the privacy of Americans, while also giving the government the flexibility it needs to wiretap terrorists overseas. This bill relies solely on inadequate minimization procedures to protect innocent Americans. They are simply not enough.
The 110th Congress has already disgraced itself in any number of ways, by bowing and scraping to a lame duck president who nobody but them takes seriously anymore (the latest instance being the FISA bill.) If the Judiciary Committee, led by the incredibly underwhelming John Conyers (who talked tough on impeachment until he got the gavel,) fails to respond to the naked affront to its authority by Karl Rove, who blew off the committee today by refusing to respond to a lawful subpoena regarding his role in the politicization of the Justice Department and the political prosecution of the former governor of Alabama, then they aren't worthy of holding their offices. Either the Judiciary Committee enforces that subpoena, or they admit that, just like Dick Cheney planned it, the Congress is no longer a co-equal branch of the U.S. government, confirming that we are indeed living in a post-Constitutional age.
The outrageous behavior of the arrogant Bushies, including Rove, is made worse by the new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, who replaced the boob from Texas, Alberto Gonzales. Back in May, Joseph Palermo wrote the following about the timid Mr. Mukasey:
Not since the time of Richard Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell, who was the only Attorney General in American history to go to prison, has the head of the Justice Department behaved so abominably. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has chosen to obstruct Congress's subpoenas of executive branch employees despite evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Senators Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein were the deciding votes that confirmed Mukasey. What were they thinking? Now Mukasey bucks normal procedure and refuses to begin grand jury investigations of Karl Rove's role in transforming the Justice Department into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee.
Karl Rove is free to "analyze" American politics for us on Fox News, and in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek; he appears on discussion panels and charges $40,000 a pop for speaking gigs; he signed a book deal estimated to be worth $8 to $12 million; and now he thumbs his nose at the Congress, defying its subpoenas. It's as if he thinks he's above the law and above his fellow citizens. And to top it off Rove's enabler and co-conspirator is the Attorney General himself.
Mukasey's refusal to do his job shows he is a willing accomplice in undermining the Constitutional powers of the House of Representatives as a co-equal branch of government. Can anyone think of an action more "un-American" than dismantling the "checks and balances" that James Madison and other founders so carefully put in place in 1787?
Palermo added that:
It is fitting that our current Constitutional crisis finds Karl Rove as its centerpiece. No human being has done more damage to our republic in the last hundred years than Karl Rove. He masterminded three of the slimiest, rottenest, most dishonest and divisive elections in American history; elections that brought to power a craven gang of white collar criminals who proceeded to destroy the ability of the government to function (except as a conveyor belt of cash for cronies), lied us into an illegal war in Iraq, collapsed the economy, and made torture and the suspension of habeas corpus synonymous with American "ideals." Karl Rove thinks he can tell Congress to go fuck itself. He must not be allowed to walk away Scot free from his crimes and misdeeds.
... he then went on to suggest Congress hire Dog the Bounty Hunter. Um ... yeah...
Dog aside, the committee can do a number of things, and should probably do them all, sooner rather than later.
They can file a lawsuit against Rove, as was done with Harriet Myers
They can find him in contempt of Congress
And having found him in contempt, they can have the Sergeant at Amrs arrest his roly-poly behind.
If lawmakers fail to do so promptly, the law itself will lose its meaning and Congress will lose what little respect the public has for it. ...
...Rove is now a private citizen. In his role as a political wag, he has said that he never discussed the Siegelman matter with the White House. That makes his assertion of executive privilege all the more ludicrous. Rove has offered to testify by e-mail, or if he can do so not under oath and with no recorded transcript. But it is Congress that makes the rules, not Rove, his lawyer or the president.
Many Americans choose which laws to obey and which to flout. When caught, they can claim all they want that the law doesn't apply to them or plead that their boss told them not to talk. Those people generally wind up behind bars. If he continues to thumb his nose at Congress and the rule of law, that's what should happen to Rove.
Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been reeeeeal quiet during this presidential campaign, possibly not wanting to throw Barack Obama off of his message of newness. Well, this morning, thanks to Jesse's verbal slip-up, they're back! Both men were on MSNBC this morning attempting to explain, mitigage and distance themselves from, Jesse's "cut of his nuts" gaffe on Fox. (FNC must just be killing themselves with laughs, watching MSNBC, their arch nemesis, forced to play video credited to "The O'Reilly Factor" over, and over, and over again...) Jackson is obviously worried about his legacy, and scrambling to associate himself with a candidate who so far, has had few dealings with him (though Jackson's son is a different story.)
Obviously, this fight is helpful for Obama among white voters who have never been comfortable with how Jackson practices identity politics. Also, the news helped bury the FISA story, which was creating some minor headaches for Obama. A few other things we’ve learned from this episode. One, Jesse's nervous about his own standing in the black political community, which is why he worked so hard to get ahead of this story. (After all, if Bill Clinton can become persona non grata with blacks for attacking Obama, so too can Jesse.) Two, there's a generational divide inside the black community on this debate over the government’s role in lifting up blacks vs. personal responsibility. Here's a booking challenge to folks: Go ask Bill Cosby to pick sides in this debate.
Yeah, good luck with that.
Meanwhile, it was only a matter of time before Jackson, who apparently was miffed at Barack for challenging black fathers, got tagged for his 'baby mama drama..."
...Obama's recent comments about Black fathers not abandoning their children and accepting moral responsibility in our lives is a lesson you apparently needed to learn when you were younger. If you had, it may not have caused you to cheat on your wife and father a child out of wedlock with a former staffer.
Maybe that's what really bothered you about Obama's message to the church that Black fathers should be responsible for their children; you certainly haven't been.
Living in Los Angeles I have watched your ten year old daughter Ashley Laverne Jackson grow up. Over the years I have had the pleasure to spend several holidays with your daughter including Christmas, her birthday parties and other milestones in her life. I will never turn my back on Ashley her mom and their family. It's about providing friendship, support and love to them while you have been missing in action.
Your daughter has never traveled or taken a trip with you, you have an annual birthday party in Beverly Hills every year where your entire family is welcome but your youngest child has only attended it once. She has had very little contact with her siblings and has never even met her big brother Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, who apparently doesn't want anything to do with her. And allegedly (I believe it to be true ), he was the one to leak the scandal to the media concerning your affair. Now don't get me wrong, Obama is not above reproach. He is a politician and is fair game to be fairly criticized by you or anyone else. But to personally attack Obama is crossing the line. Obama is not talking down to Black people; he wants you and other dead beat dads to spend time and care for your children properly. The destruction of the Black family and absentee fathers is a major problem in our community.
It's a problem that King spoke out and fought against. 40 years after King's murder I can see why King didn't trust you.
Yikes! And yes, the writer of that broadside, Najee Ali, hit Jackson on the King's blood smeared on his shirt 40 years ago, too. It's not going to be fun being Jesse for the next little while... Al, meanwhile, seems really starved for stuff to do.
After failing to pass amendments that at least would have taken immunity for the telecoms off the table, or suspended the pending lawsuits against them for a year, rather than dismissing them, the 110th Congress, controlled by the Democratic Party, sold the Constitution down the river, voting to give the lame duck president, who illegally turned the instruments of foreign surveillance on the American people -- just like Richard Nixon did -- but who unlike Nixon was balanced by a belly-crawling, puerile, flaccid Congress that chose to drive the getaway car, rather than stand up for the Constitution they all took a sworn oath to uphold. To be fair, the Act does add some oversight provisions to the spying activities of the federal government, bringing certain aspects of surveillance under review. And there is this paragraph:
(2) PROBABLE CAUSE- In determining whether or not probable cause exists for purposes of paragraph (1)(B), a judge having jurisdiction under subsection (a)(1) may consider past activities of the target and facts and circumstances relating to current or future activities of the target. No United States person may be considered a foreign power, agent of a foreign power, or officer or employee of a foreign power solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
And yet, civil libertarians are very worried about our democracy tonight, myself included.
Barack Obama voted for the amendments, to his credit, but for a lot of reasons, most of them political, he ultimately supported the bill. I've always said that anyone seeking the presidency will never vote to weaken the authority of the office while they have a chance at getting it. Obama lived up to that today (or down to it.) I disagree with him, though I respect his reasons for doing what he did, and more than that, his willingness to take the criticism from his supporters (myself included), and from the left wing of his base, rather than ejecting them from the building a-la Bush and McCain. I think at the end of the day, most Americans, sadly, won't care about this vote. Americans are breathtakingly cavalier about their constitutional rights (except the right to carry guns. That one they care about...) and most assume the government is spying anyway, so they don't quite care. That saddens me, because I don't think most people in this country realize just how fragile our rights are, and how easily a president, with the help of a weak-willed Congress, can take on dictatorial, autocratic powers.
Just under a third of the Senate, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, supported an amendment proposed by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., that would have stripped immunity from the bill. It was defeated on a 32-66 vote. Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain did not vote.
Specter proposed an amendment to require a district court judge to assess the legality of warrantless wiretapping before granting immunity. It failed on a 37-61 vote.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., proposed that immunity be delayed until after a yearlong government investigation into warrantless wiretapping is completed. His amendment failed on a vote of 42-56.
The final roll call on the bill, which retroactively legalizes the warrantless surveillance of perhaps millions of Americans, was 69-28. So where are we now?
Forty-six lawsuits now stand to be dismissed because of the new law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. All are pending before a single U.S. District Court in California. But the fight has not ended. Civil rights groups are already preparing lawsuits challenging the bill's constitutionality, and four suits, filed against government officials, will not be dismissed.
Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.
The lawsuits center on allegations that the White House circumvented U.S. law by going around the FISA court, which was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.
"This president broke the law," declared Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.
The Bush administration brought the wiretapping back under the FISA court's authority only after The New York Times revealed the existence of the secret program. A handful of members of Congress knew about the program from top secret briefings. Most members are still forbidden to know the details of the classified effort, and some objected that they were being asked to grant immunity to the telecoms without first knowing what they did.
The bill is H.R. 6304. The full roll call is here. I think the "no" votes deserve applause by name. Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd heroically tried to filibuster the bill, but their colleagues let them down. Here are the "Nays":
Note that Hillary Clinton got herself right with the base on this vote, a shrewd move on her part.
As for John McCain? He played the real hero today. He didn't even show up to vote.
Perhaps the worst thing Obama did today was to vote against cloture (in other words, he did not support the fillibuster.) As Glenn Greenwald points out, THAT is a contradiction of his stance during the primaries. Greenwald goes on to say what many of us are scratching our heads and thinking tonight:
What is most striking is that when the Congress was controlled by the GOP -- when the Senate was run by Bill Frist and the House by Denny Hastert -- the Bush administration attempted to have a bill passed very similar to the one that just passed today. But they were unable to do so. The administration had to wait until Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress before being able to put a corrupt end to the scandal that began when, in December of 2005, the New York Times revealed that the President had been breaking the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law.
Yet again, the Democratic Congress ignored the views of their own supporters in order to comply with the orders and wishes of the Bush administration. It is therefore hardly a surprise that, yesterday, Rasmussen Reports revealed this rather humiliating finding:
Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever
Jesse Jackson jumps all in Barack Obama's pants, and for Obama supporters, it feels so good.
First the story: apparently, Jackson, after an interview on Fox News (always a mistake if you don't want to risk looking foolish,) made a crass comment decrying Obama's penchant for demanding personal responsibility from black fathers. Let's start the story with the inevitable apology:
The reverend said Wednesday that he had said Obama's speeches "can come off as speaking down to black people" and that there were other important issues to be addressed in the black community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.
"And then I said something I thought regretfully crude but it was very private and very much a sound bite and a live mic," Jackson told CNN.
The remarks apparently include a reference to male genitalia.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, who has been booked on the Fox program "The O'Reilly Factor" to respond to Jackson's comments, reported that Jackson recalled his remark as, "The senator is cutting off his you-know-what with black people."
Well... that's not exactly correct. What Jackson apparently whispered to fellow guest Alvin Poussaint, was that "Barack (has) been talking down to Black people ... I want to cut his nuts off..." Fox is taking full advantage, having aired the comments this evening (MSNBC just aired the tape, too. I have to say it's a bit anti-climactic, what passes for "so outrageous we can't even speak the words" these days...) Oh, and since this is a story involving black people, cue the idiot racist commenters! Jesus, they're everywhere...
Of course now, Jackson is falling all over himself with apology, and he's touched off a non-transcript transcript war that spans two cable networks:
... Jackson gave an interview to rival network CNN expressing regret for his comments, which he said he made as part of a discussion about Obama's calls for more personal responsibility during appearances before black churches.
"I said it can come off as speaking down to black people," Jackson said on CNN's "The Situation Room."
"And then I said something I felt regret for -- it was crude," he added. "It was very private, and very much a sound bite -- and a live mike. And so I feel -- I find no comfort in it, I find no joy in it. So I immediately called the senator's campaign to send my statement of apology to repair the harm or hurt that this may have caused his campaign because I support it unequivocally."
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the Democratic presidential contender accepted Jackson's apology.
"As someone who grew up without a father in the home, Sen. Obama has spoken and written for many years about the issue of parental responsibility, including the importance of fathers participating in their children's lives," Burton said in a statement. "He also discusses our responsibility as a society to provide jobs, justice and opportunity for all. He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Rev. Jackson's apology."
CNN did not report the exact words Jackson used during the Fox interview. Anchor Wolf Blitzer said the language was "so crude" that the network could not air it.
Jackson said he hoped his remarks would not be taken out of context or construed as a lack of support for Obama's campaign.
"Any hurt or harm I caused his campaign, I apologize, because I have such high regard for him," he said. "I cherish his role -- the role he's played in making the nation better and making the world rejoice."
And while the Obama campaign is being kind (privately, they've got to be doing high-fives, with Jackson having provided them with their "Sista Souljah" moment by becoming Sista Souljah...) Jackson's own son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois (an Obama national co-chair, at that,) blasted him with both barrels today:
In a statement released by his office, Jackson Jr. said he was "deeply outraged and disappointed in Rev. Jackson's reckless statements about Sen. Barack Obama."
"His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee -- and I believe the next president of the United States -- contradict his inspiring and courageous career," the congressman said.
"Rev. Jackson is my dad and I'll always love him," he said. "He should know how hard that I've worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. So I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself."
Bottom line on this one: anything that puts distance between Obama and figures like Jackson (or Al Sharpton, with whom Jackson is inexorably linked in the minds of paranoid white people,) is good for Barack. And it never hurts to take shots for demanding too much personal accountability. The contretemps shows Obama to be a man of the center, a stalwart for moral rectitude, and a leader with whom the "old guard" of the civil rights movement doesn't necessarily find common cause. Whatever your views of the civil rights old guard, politically, score this one a big win for Obama.
Iranian television shows the test firing of a Shahab 3 missile. Source: New York Times
Iran tests new long range missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, not to mention U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn't that the kind of thing that got the Bushies to the table with North Korea? Just sayin...
(BBC) Iran has test-fired nine missiles, including a new version of the Shahab-3, which is capable of reaching its main regional enemy Israel.
The Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles), was armed with a conventional warhead, state media said. Iran has tested the missile before, but the latest launch comes amid rising tensions with the US and Israel over the country's nuclear programme.
The early morning launch at a remote desert site sent oil prices climbing. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe called on Iran to "refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world".
Two other types of missile with shorter ranges were also fired as part of the Great Prophet III war games being staged by Iran's military.
PARIS — One day after threatening to strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if attacked, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were reported on Wednesday to have test-fired nine missiles, including one which the government in Tehran says has the range to reach Israel.
State-run media said the missiles were long- and medium-range weapons, among them a new version of the Shahab-3, which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Tel Aviv.
The reported tests coincide with increasingly tense negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes but which many Western governments suspect is aimed at building nuclear weapons. At the same time, United States and British warships have been conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf — apparently within range of the launching site of the missiles tested on Wednesday. Israel insisted it did not want war with Iran.
“Israel has no desire for conflict or hostilities with Iran,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said. “But the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community.”
The missile tests drew a sharp response from the United States. Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity,” Mr. Johndroe said.
He urged Iran to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world. The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”
The tests appear to be a reaction to Israel's "dress rehearsals" last month for an attack on ... somebody ... which coincide with increased diplomacy by Israel with enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas, which some Mideast analysts see as a way to soften the blow in the Arab world should the Jewish state attack Iran.
The news drew quick reactions from the U.S. presidential candidates:
... "Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy," McCain said in a statement.
Obama has been criticized by Republicans for being too eager to engage enemies of the U.S. in talks. Asked how he would respond to the missile tests if he were president, Obama said he would confer with his national security team to find out whether "this indicates any new capabilities on Iran's part."
"At this point, the report is unclear, it's still early," Obama said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "What this underscores is the need for ... a clear policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behavior. And frankly, we just have not been able to do that the last several years, partly because we're not engaged in direct diplomacy."
Obama said he continued to favor an incentive package that is aimed at getting Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
McCain said Iran's missile tests "demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel."
"Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran's continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran's dangerous ambitions," McCain said.
Obama, while calling Iran a threat, criticized the Bush administration for using bellicose language against the Iranian government while increasing exports to the country.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold under President Bush in spite of his criticism of its government as a sponsor of terrorism and warnings against any efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
"It's that kind of mixed signal that has led to the kind of situation that we're in right now," Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
More on Bush's checkbook diplomacy, from Newsweek:
(WASHINGTON) Nuclear weapons? No way. But there are plenty of items on Iran's shopping list the United States is more than happy to supply: cigarettes, brassieres, bull semen and more.
U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold during President Bush's years in office even as he accused it of nuclear ambitions and sponsoring terrorists. America sent more cigarettes to Iran — at least $158 million worth under Bush — than any other product.
Other surprising shipments during the Bush administration: fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and military apparel. Top states shipping goods to Iran include California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of seven years of U.S. governmenttrade data.
Despite increasingly tough rhetoric toward Iran, which Bush has called part of an "axis of evil," U.S. trade in a range of goods survives on-again, off-again sanctions originally imposed nearly three decades ago. The rules allow sales of agricultural commodities, medicine and a few other categories of goods. The exemptions are designed to help Iranian families even as the United States pressures Iran's leaders.
"I understand that these exports have increased. However, we believe that they are increasing to a segment of the population that we want to reach out to, we want to know and understand that the U.S. government, the U.S. people want to be friends with them, want to work with them to integrate them into the world economy and become partners in the future," Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said Tuesday when asked by reporters about AP's findings.
So ... we want them to get hooked on our cigarettes and be our friends before we ... blow them away...? And remember, while we're increasing exports to Iran (and don't think Dick Cheney's Halliburton isn't still doing business there, too...) we're also conducting covert operations which may be designed to provoke Iran into a war...
The Guardian drills deeper into the candidate reactions, and finds Barack Obama talking tough diplomacy (he also gets the headline, while Mac gets the mid-article crumbs...) and McCain sealing himself into the Bush glass coffin once again with a call for a halo of missile defense over Europe:
"Iran is a great threat. We have to make sure we are working with our allies to apply tightened pressure on Iran," the Illinois senator said.
Iran demonstrated its military force with the test-flight of nine long and medium-range missiles in the strategic Strait of Hormouz, through which 40% of the world's oil passes.
Tehran said the exercise was in retaliation to threats from the US and Israel over its disputed nuclear projects, which it claims are civilian.
Obama said if he were to be elected president, he would combine more direct diplomacy with the threat of much tougher economic sanctions.
"I think what this underscores is the need for us to create a kind of policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behaviour, and frankly we just have not been able to do that over the last several years," Obama said.
He cited reports that US exports to Iran have increased under George Bush, even as the administration has toughened its rhetoric.
Earlier, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said the "war games" justified America's defence plans with bases in eastern Europe. She said the tests were "evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one."
"Those who say there is no Iranian missile threat against which we should build a missile defence system perhaps ought to talk to the Iranians about their claims."
Her comments were backed by the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. He said the tests "demonstrate the need for effective missile defence now and in the future, and this includes missile defence in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland". These plans are strongly opposed by Russia.
Gunmen attacked a police guard post this morning outside the heavily fortified U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, killing three Turkish police officers in what Ambassador Ross Wilson called "an obvious act of terrorism."
Three of the assailants were shot to death during the gun battle, authorities said, and a fourth person was taken into custody a short time later, according to Turkey's Dogan News Agency.
No Americans or consular employees were injured.
"This was an attack on the American diplomatic establishment here," Wilson said in an appearance before reporters in Ankara, the Turkish capital. " . . . Our countries will stand together and confront this, as we have in the past."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler also labeled the incident a terrorist attack. Gul referred to the slain police officers as martyrs and said Turkey "will fight against those who masterminded such acts and the mentality behind it till the end."
If you don't believe that there is racism in the world, read this article
Or rather, scroll down to the comments. Trust me, you will be aghast... The article is about Radio One sibling TV One's decision to cover this year's Democratic convention, but not the GOP's. There are commenters in the thread who are literally erupting with rage, with some accusing black Americans of being racist, and then calling all blacks "niggers" in the same paragraph... unbefreakinglievable. Here's a small sampling:
WELL FIRST OF ALL NOT ALL BLACKS ARE DEM. AS STATED MANY TIMES BELOW....JUST THE ONES THAT WANT THE GOVERMENT TO SUPPORT THEM. ALSO THIS IS NOT A BLACK NET WORK ITS A NIGGER ONE...YEA I SAID IT AND I AM NOT GOING TO KISS JESSIE JACKSONS ASS FOR IT EITHER.
It strikes me tonight that most Americans don't know one another very well. If you live in the suburbs, or in certain very "blue state" environments, it's easy to forget just how much abject, naked racism still exists in this country. I suppose sometimes it's good to be reminded. My kids and I had breakfast in a bagel diner in a very white area north of Fort Lauderdale this morning, and though my kids were thankfully oblivious to it, I was very much aware of how "uncomfortable" many of the people in that diner were with our presence. Even the waitress was stiff as a board, until we spoke up, and proved to be quite pleasant and well spoken ... you know ... "not those kind ..." By the end, she was very relievedly complimenting me on my children's impeccable manners. And so it goes. I guess it's a good thing they didn't pull an O'Reilly and scream "m-en-effer, I wan't some m-en-effin' iced tea!" These little junkets, not all that far from home, are always an interesting experience, and one that most white people cannot understand, just as black people (myself included), fail to appreciate the rage many whites feel at what they consider to be blacks' special place in America. (We don't think it's so special, by the way...)
By the way, permit me to testify that TV On'e decision has nothing to do with "reverse racism" or some special love for Barack Obama. The folks who own and run Radio One/TV One are Republicans (I know this first-hand ... I used to work for them) and those at the very top ... if you know what I mean ... have no love for the Senator from Illinois.
This is about ratings, and about business. The foundering former media giant sold off its talk radio assets literally a couple of months before the Obama phenomenon took off, including both stations and national (as well as local) talent. They don't even have Joe Madison anymore. Meanwhile, they've got this cable TV network with very little programming on offer, and BAM! Along comes an easy ratings opportunity. Ask yourself: what would you do if you were the CEO, catering to an audience that is 93% black in a year that features the first black man to become the nominee of a major political party? Conversely, what would covering the GOP convention merit TV One, besides a few nights of abysmal ratings (more abysmal than usual...)
Let's try it another way.... Would Bravo, which is also an entertainment network, cover either political convention? Nope. But if Charlie Crist were to become the vice presidential nominee, Bravo might think twice... You see? It's called "narrowcasting."
First it was icky Dick Morris, then Lanny Davis, and now ... Mr. Mean himself, Howard Wolfson will join his counterpart in evildom, Karl Rove, as a Fox News analyst. Well, Hillary did say Fox was the fairest of them all ... |
Don't know if you caught Family Research Council fellow Pete Hegseth of the GOP/McCain surrogate organization Vets for Freedom talk-o-babbling his way through a 'Hardball' interview today opposite John Soltz of VoteVets.org, but he apparently cannot accept the rather plain fact that the prime minister of the supposedly sovereign country of Iraq wants a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces -- that means us -- from their country. Chris Matthews repeatedly tried, and repeatedly failed, to get the V4F guy to explain how we can propose to stay in Iraq for 100 years if they want us out, like, now. To review:
BAGHDAD, July 8 -- Iraq's national security adviser said Tuesday that his government would not sign an agreement governing the future role of U.S. troops in Iraq unless it includes a timetable for their withdrawal.
The statement was the strongest yet by an Iraqi official regarding the politically controversial negotiations between Iraq and the United States over the U.S. military role in Iraq. A United Nations mandate that sanctions the presence of U.S. troops in the country expires in December.
Speaking to reporters in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie declined to provide specific dates, but said his government is "impatiently waiting" for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"There should not be any permanent bases in Iraq unless these bases are under Iraqi control," Rubaie said. "We would not accept any memorandum of understanding with [the U.S.] side that has no obvious and specific dates for the foreign troops' withdrawal from Iraq."
On Monday Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement saying his government was inclined to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United States that included a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Rubaie spoke to reporters after briefing Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite religious leader.
That last bit is important, because Iraq is now a Shiite-dominated country, much like ... um ... Iran. And Sistani is it's Ayatollah. Sistani is also the guy who has basically kept Shiites from an all-out uprising against American troops, even staying the hand of young firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. I think his "briefing" with Maliki pretty much makes it a done deal. They want us to go.
Meanwhile, in Washington, President Bush and the neocons are pretending they didn't hear a thing:
Asked about the prime minister’s comments today, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman hedged on whether the administration would follow the Iraqi government’s request, criticizing timelines as “artificial“:
WHITMAN: [I]t is dependent on conditions on the ground. … But timelines tend to be artificial in nature. In a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would just tell you, it’s usually best to look at these things based on conditions on the ground.
The State Department also hedged on whether the Bush administration would listen to Maliki. In a briefing today, spokesperson Sean McCormack said the remark may have been a transcription error:
McCORMACK: Well, that’s really the part — the point at which I would seek greater clarification in terms of remarks. I’ve seen the same press reports that you have, but I haven’t yet had an opportunity to get greater clarify as to exactly to what Mr. Maliki was referring or if, in fact, that’s an accurate reporting of what he said.
Apparently, it all depends on what the meaning of "withdrawal" is.
McCain was silent on the comments Monday. But today, his top foreign policy adviser declined to criticize Maliki or distance McCain from him. And they sought to portray Maliki's comments as consistent with the Republican nominee's long-standing position.
"Senator McCain has always said that conditions on the ground -- including the security threats posed by extremists and terrorists, and the ability of Iraqi forces to meet those threats -- would be key determinants in U.S. force levels," said adviser Randy Scheunemann, who criticized Sen. Barack Obama's "constantly shifting positions" on Iraq.
WaPo's The Swamp and other analysts have pointed out that McCain has had many, many positions on a timetable for withdrawal, and on whether the Iraqi government has some say in the matter. He has been against timetables, slamming Mitt Romney during the campaign and calling even the notion of a timeline "the ultimate act of betrayal" of our troops. But he has also said that he would have all the troops home by the very timetable-esque 2013, and that they would remain in Iraq for 100 years. Poor McCain is becoming the Sybill of foreign policy:
... In speeches, town hall meetings, interviews and campaign commercials, McCain has said a timetable would provide terrorists the knowledge of how long they have to wait until American troops are gone. He has repeatedly said that setting a date for withdrawal would lead to "chaos, genocide and we will be back with greater sacrifice."
His rhetoric has been withering and aimed at both Democrats and Republicans. During the waning days of the GOP primary, he eviscerated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for a comment that McCain said amounted to support for a timetable.
Romney disputed that, but the damage to his candidacy was unmistakable. Later, McCain turned his fire on Democrats, including Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, accusing them of endangering Americans by advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal.
"It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal," he said in a California speech.
In that speech, McCain offered his "vision" for 2013, by which time he said most of the troops would be gone from Iraq. That was quickly seen by many observers as a timetable for withdrawal by that date.
But immediately after the speech, McCain disputed the idea that he was setting a firm date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, telling reporters that he is "promising that we will succeed in Iraq" but not promising that troops will come home if that success has not materialized.
"I'm not putting a date on it. It could be next month. It could be next year," he told reporters on the Straight Talk Express bus. "I said by the end of my first term we will have succeeded in Iraq.... This is what I want to achieve. This is what I believe is achievable."
Four years ago, McCain even said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we ought to do just that (during an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations)....
Question: "What would or should we do if, in the post-June 30th period, a so-called sovereign Iraqi government asks us to leave, even if we are unhappy about the security situation there?"
McCain's Answer: "Well, if that scenario evolves than I think it's obvious that we would have to leave because -- if it was an elected government of Iraq, and we've been asked to leave other places in the world. If it were an extremist government then I think we would have other challenges, but I don't see how we could stay when our whole emphasis and policy has been based on turning the Iraqi government over to the Iraqi people."
Is your head spinning yet?
By the way, a quick check of the winger blogs finds no appetite on that side of the aisle to address the issue of the Iraq government's desire for timelines. Their fingers are firmly in their ears, and they've dissolved into an echo-chamber about last week's pretend story about Obama changing his tune on Iraq. I literally could not find a single post on the subject, including on the neocon sites like NRO. Interesting...
Members of Vice President Cheney's staff censored congressional testimony by a top federal official on the health threats posed by global warming, a former Environmental Protection Agency official said today.
In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett said an official from Cheney's office edited out six pages from the testimony of Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last October.
Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, reported at the time that Gerberding had planned to say that "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern," among other passages.
Boxer said the administration feared that Gerberding's testimony would force it to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. The White House has opposed mandatory limits and insisted that voluntary measures and increased research are the best way to address the problem.
By the way, the Post went out of its way to point out that the whistleblower is a Democrat. And that's important, because...? The Post did not, however, point out Cheney's ongoing ties to a company with major oil interests, but I guess that's not germain ... By the way, was there anything going on in the White House that Cheney wasn't the boss of?
An AP/Yahoo survey released yesterday asks repondents to play word association with the presidential candidates. Here are the results:
1. Old, 19 percent
2. Military service, 9 percent
3. Record, qualifications, 8 percent
4. Bush, 7 percent
5. Strength, 7 percent
6. Insider, politician, 7 percent
7. Iraq, terrorism, 6 percent
8. Honest, 5 percent
9. Republican, 5 percent
10. (tie) Moral/good and dishonest, 4 percent
1. Outsider, change, 20 percent
2. Lack of experience, 13 percent
3. Dishonest, 9 percent
4. Inspiring, 8 percent
5. Liberal, 6 percent
6, 7 (tie). Obama's race, young, 6 percent
8. Not likable, 5 percent
9. Intelligent, 4 percent
10. Muslim, 3 percent
Ouch. So it's "change" vs. "old" by the numbers. And as many people cited "Bush" and "insider/politician" as cited "strength" for McCain. Meanwhile for Barack, the 6 percent who cited "race" might be an undercount, the 13 percent who said "inexperienced" is a clear red flag, and the 3 percent who said "Muslim" is proof that some people believe only what they want to, and that there is a small but impenetrable set of voters out there he will not be able to reach.
As the race for President passes the Independence Day holiday and heads toward the dog days of summer, Sen. Barack Obama holds a 44% to 38% lead over Sen. John McCain in the horserace contest, but also leads by a substantial margin in a state-by-state Electoral College tally, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.
The extensive national poll of of 46,274 likely voters also shows Libertarian candidate and former Congressman Bob Barr wins 6% support, eating into McCain’s needed conservative base of support.
And in table form:
Zogby’s Electoral College Count
As for Barr, and the demographics:
Bob Barr receives the support of 7% of voters who identify themselves as conservative or very conservative voters. Barr gets 43% of libertarians and 11% of independents. McCain’s support among conservatives is 74%. On the left, Ralph Nader gets less than 2% nationally.
Obama has the support of 83% of Democrats, while McCain gets 75% of Republicans.
Independents break 39% for Obama, compared with 31% who support McCain.
For white voters, race doesn’t appear to be playing a significant factor. McCain leads Obama, 43%-39%, with Barr at 6%. Among black voters, Obama wins the vast majority of support.
The Iraq war soldier made famous by a photograph, and by his compassion for an Iraqi child, dies back home:
The March 2003 image became one of the most iconic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq: that of a bespectacled American soldier carrying an Iraqi child to safety. The photograph of Army Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, who was raised in Mount Sinai, was used by news outlets around the world.
After being lionized by many as the human face of the U.S. effort to rebuild a troubled Iraq, Dwyer brought the battlefield home with him, often grappling violently with delusions that he was being hunted by Iraqi killers.
His internal terror got so bad that, in 2005, he shot up his El Paso, Texas, apartment and held police at bay for three hours with a 9-mm handgun, believing Iraqis were trying to get in.
Last month, on June 28, police in Pinehurst, N.C., who responded to Dwyer's home, said the 31-year-old collapsed and died after abusing a computer cleaner aerosol. Dwyer had moved to North Carolina after living in Texas.
Dwyer, who joined the Army two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and who was assigned to a unit of the 3rd Infantry Division that one officer called "the tip of the tip of the spear" in the first days of the U.S. invasion, had since then battled depression, sleeplessness and other anxieties that military doctors eventually attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The war that made him a hero at 26 haunted him to the last moments of his life.
"He loved the picture, don't get me wrong, but he just couldn't get over the war," his mother, Maureen Dwyer, said by telephone from her home in Sunset Beach, N.C. "He wasn't Joseph anymore. Joseph never came home."
Dwyer's parents said they tried to get help for their son, appealing to Army and Veterans Affairs officials. Although he was treated off and on in VA facilities, he was never able to shake his anxieties.
Dwyer can only be described as the victim of the indifference of the U.S. system to the men and women that we send into harm's way. Once they've been used up in Mr. Bush's war, they are, to coin a Bushian term, on their own. The Newsday story continues:
An April report by the Rand Corp. said serious gaps in treatment exist for the 1 in 5 U.S. troops who exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression following service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Half of those troops who experience the disorder sought help in the past year, the report said, and those who did often got "minimally adequate treatment."
"He went away to inpatient treatments, none of it worked," his father, Patrick Dennis Dwyer, said. "And the problem is there are not adequate resources for post-traumatic stress syndrome."
After a PTSD program in Durham, N.C., turned Dwyer away because of a lack of space, Maureen Dwyer said her son received inpatient care for six months at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, beginning last August. After doctors discharged him in March, she said, his anxieties returned with such intensity that Dwyer's wife, Matina, 30, took their daughter Meagan, 2, and moved out five days later.
Dwyer had taken to sleeping in a closet, arming himself with guns and knives, and inhaling aerosol to help him sleep. The most chilling quote in the piece comes from Dwyer's mom:
"Talking to him, he knew he was going to die," Maureen Dwyer said.
Read the entire piece. Every American should.
BTW, Dwyer is not alone. A 2004 Army study found that 1 in 8 returning troops suffered from PTSD. By 2007 the estimate spiked to 1 in 2.
Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.
"I don't think right now we ... have good numbers," Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said...
And not only has the VA failed to provide adequate numbers, and adequate treatment, for vets suffering from PTSD, it appears they've also fudged the numbers, to undercount the number of post-deployment suicides taking place among our returning troops.
(May 6) At a hearing held by the House Veterans' Committee today, chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif., said he thought there was "criminal negligence" and "clear evidence of a bureaucratic coverup" in the VA's handling of mental health findings.
"If you have a thousand, and you said it could be more, of suicide attempts per month, we've got some real difficult issues," Filner said to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James Peake.
But most of the committee's time was spent on a report aired by CBS News last year that said the VA was under-reporting the magnitude of suicides among veterans by manipulating the data.
The Army is facing particular burdens, since it is mostly Army, Army National Guard and Reserve troops who are pulling the 2, 3 and 4 rotations to fight this war (not to leave out the Marines, but the Army is currently the more broken force.) And all of the signs point to the homefront being unequal to the task of handling hundreds of thousands of psychologically (and physically) wounded warriors coming home. Hell, Democratic vets in Congress had to fight the "commander in chief" AND fellow veterans like John McCain just to get a G.I. Bill with decent educational benefits for the troops last month, while the GOP simply fought for more incentives to keep soldiers in, and deployed, indefinitely in Iraq. (Of course, now that it has passed, members of the GOP who opposed the bill, up to and including Bush and McCain, are trying to jump on the GI Bill bandwagon...)
Shame on us for not taking better care of our soldiers when they come home, starting with the Bush administration, but ultimately, including us all.
Writing in the Times of London, Andrew Sullivan has an interesting take on Obama's supposed adjustments to his positions on Iraq and other things. The subhead:
Slowly and subtly, Barack Obama is wiping out every reason to vote for McCain
The bottom line:
... there’s a point to the successive shifts: Obama is slowly undermining every conceivable reason to vote for Republican candidate John McCain. If you want to withdraw from Iraq – as prudently as possible – Obama is still your man. You now know though that he won’t risk chaos in a precipitous withdrawal regardless of the strategic and tactical situation. He will not, in other words, be susceptible to snatching defeat from the jaws of progress. Unlike McCain he is also unafraid of real diplomacy with Iran and Syria; and unlike McCain he does not threaten a hundred years of occupation in Iraq and the suspicion that he’d like the US to stay there for ever.
What can McCain say now in response? All he can say, I think, is that Obama is cynical. However, it is a little difficult to have spent the entire year portraying Obama as a radical, soft-on-terror leftist and now pivot to accuse him of being like the Clintons.
BAGHDAD, July 6 -- A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism.
"Gimme back that Social Security money, I need it to fund my war!" -- Things John McCain might say on the campaign trail this week (to be read in the voice of Homer Simpson's father...)
Drudge blares, and the Politico reports, that John McCain will unveil the new centerpiece to his economic agenda tomorrow/Monday (and you thought it was that $300 million CASH PRIZE!!!) and it's a mish-mash of old policies, repackaged with an old people poison pill. Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin say McCain:
... plans to promise on Monday that he will balance the federal budget by the end of his first term by curbing wasteful spending and overhauling entitlement programs, including Social Security, his advisers told Politico.
The vow to take on Social Security puts McCain in a political danger zone that thwarted President Bush after he named it the top domestic priority of his second term.
Ya think? Perhaps this would be a good time to bring back the highlights of John McCain's oft-denied, but very much "on the record" support for privatizing Social Security.
McCain is making his big "announce" in a week when both he and Barack Obama will be focusing on the economy. Says Old Man River:
“In the long-term, the only way to keep the budget balanced is successful reform of the large spending pressures in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” the McCain campaign says in a policy paper to be released Monday.
And now for the head scratcher:
“The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.”
What the hell is he talking about? The "savings from victory in Iraq and Afghanistan?" Huh??? That sounds like something Baghdad Bob would say, or Kim Jong Il. That must have come from the old advisers, not the brand new, Karl Rove team... Of course, it wouldn't be a John McCain story without a flip-flop:
The pledge is a return to an earlier position he'd later backed away from. On April 15, McCain backed off a February pledge to balance the budget in his first term when asked about it by Michael Cooper of The New York Times, who reported that McCain said “at a news conference … that ‘economic conditions are reversed’ and that he would have a balanced budget within eight years.”
... without something really, really old:
McCain advisers admit that the document is a repackaging of previous policies, without dramatic new initiatives. Some Democratic officials had thought McCain might try to make a splash by proposing a bold middle-class tax cut.
Team Obama, what's your take?
Jason Furman, Obama's economic policy director, called McCain's pledge “preposterous." Furman pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office now estimates a 2013 deficit of $443 billion, assuming the Bush tax cuts are extended. And he estimated that McCain would have to cut discretionary spending—including defense—by roughly one-third to bring the budget into the black by then.
Which he will do, with the savings wrought from ending the conflict on the Korean peninsula, securing victory in Europe and Japan, and wringing every last penny of savings by calling on all Americans to cash in their Bush war bonds! Yeesh...
Despite all of the kudos from the TV punditocracy, George W. Bush's massive capitulation on North Korea -- which included walking back from demands that Pyongyang detail just what nuclear weapons it has, and to whom it has sold its weapons technology, in exchange for a generalized accounting of NK's uranium, and additional details to be provided later (whenever that is,) was a pretty shocking turn-back from the cowboy diplomacy that brought us the Iraq War. (That the Bush administration's soft shoe was a punk move actually brings parts of the left, myself included, into agreement with, of all people, John Bolton...)
But it may not be as out of character as it seemed. Bush has shown a surprising willingness to bend to the wishes of China, and to accommodate the Communist government, on trade, on Taiwan, on China's mad scramble for often blood-soaked African oil, including in the Sudan, on the North Korea deal (which is really China's deal, which Russia co-piloted and the other four parties simply gave in to,) and on Tibet, which China continues to oppress, a fact that has given rise to several world leaders' principled decision to skip the opening ceremonies of the poorly placed 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Bush's give-and-go on China has shined an unpleasant spotlight on his dogged determination to show up at the opening ceremonies, something he was forced to defend at a G8 summit press conference today in Tokyo (standing alongside Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda (who also capitulated on NK, without getting something his country dearly wanted -- answers on abducted Japanese soldiers thought to have been taken by the North Koreans during the 1970s and '80s. Fukuda plans to go to the opening ceremonies, too.) (Photo at left by Reuters)
At a news conference with Fukuda, Bush defended his decision to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies Aug. 8. Among the leaders who plan to skip that event are British Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.
China's role as host has focused attention on its human rights record and the security crackdown in Tibet; some U.S. conservatives have criticized Bush for planning to go to the opening ceremonies.
"The Chinese people are watching very carefully about the decisions by world leaders and I happen to believe that not going to the opening ceremony for the games would be an affront to the Chinese people, which may make it more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership," the president said.
It's tempting, since Dubya is such a sports buff, to figure he's just going because it's a chance to get out of the White House, where schedulers mostly are booking him at children's parties these days, and go see some sports! But I suspect there's more to it than that, and that sucking up to China, for reasons perhaps to be explained later, is at least part of the calculation.
Bush's tendency to back down where China is concerned has been in evidence from the day he took office. Remember in the days before 9/11 spun the wheels of the constitutional spokes? What was Bush's first presidential crisis? It happened in April 2001:
A U.S. reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing in China on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese fighter sent to intercept it.
U.S. officials said the EP-3 Aries II, a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance aircraft, was on a routine mission over international waters off China when the collision occurred about 9:15 a.m. (8:15 p.m. Saturday EST). The damaged spy plane landed on the Chinese island of Hainan, about 400 miles (640 kilometers) southwest of Hong Kong, and none of its crew of 24 was injured.
Chinese state television said the F-8 fighter jet involved in the collision crashed into the South China Sea off Hainan, and its pilot was missing. The collision appeared accidental, said Air Force Lt. Col. Dewey Ford, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.
... The incident comes at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing are strained over issues such as human rights and U.S. support for Taiwan.
The EP-3 is a sensitive surveillance aircraft that aviation experts say is capable of monitoring electronic communications and aircraft movements inside the Chinese mainland from points offshore.
Bush wound up kowtowing to Beijing, which had demanded an apology, by instead issuing a face-saving, but still contrite, statement of regret, which was greeted by Beijing with a "thanks, but not enough," as they continued to refuse to release the American crew. Meanwhile, Chinese editorials (in papers that are official organs of the government) blasted away at the U.S. human rights record, and at America in general, while Americans waited for resolution. One piece, in the Hong Kong Economic Times, dated April 5, 2001, stands out:
"Beijing Waits At Ease For An Exhausted Enemy"
"This incident gives China a great opportunity, turning the nation from a passive position to an active one. China's leaders can take this opportunity to test how strong the new Bush administration is.... China can clearly see whether its rival is strong and powerful, or externally strong but internally weak. Then China can lay down its strategy of how to deal with the Bush administration in the next four years. In conclusion, it can be seen from how China is handling this incident that it does not intend to let tensions escalate, nor does it want to damage Sino-U.S. relations. Since it has the bargaining chip, China can test the ability of the Bush administration to resolve this crisis. China is therefore not anxious to settle the incident."
Indeed, the Bush administration was tested, and China has pretty much known how to deal with Dubya ever since. The American pilots were released after an 11-day stand-off.
Fast-forward to September 2006, when Bush was again faced with a China problem:
China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory in what experts see as a test of Chinese ability to blind the spacecraft, according to sources.
It remains unclear how many times the ground-based laser was tested against U.S. spacecraft or whether it was successful. But the combination of China's efforts and advances in Russian satellite jamming capabilities illustrate vulnerabilities to the U.S. space network are at the core of U.S. Air Force plans to develop new space architectures and highly classified systems, according to sources.
The blogger who "snipped" that clip, Afarensis, adds a bit more from Defense News:
Pentagon officials, however, have kept quiet regarding China's efforts as part of a Bush administration policy to keep from angering Beijing, which is a leading U.S. trading partnerand seen as key to dealing with onerous states like North Korea and Iran. Even the Pentagon's recent China report failed to mention Beijing's efforts to blind U.S. reconnaissance satellites. Rather, after a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line. In that one line, the report merely acknowledges China has the ability to blind U.S. satellites, thanks to a powerful ground-based laser capable of firing a beam of light at an optical reconnaissance satellite to keep it from taking pictures as it passes overhead. According to top officials, however, China not only has the capability, but has exercised it. It is not clear when China first used lasers to attack American satellites. Sources would only say that there have been several tests over the past several years.
... Wynne stressed that what's at stake isn't merely U.S. military superiority, but the fate of global commerce because signals from Air Force GPS satellites are critical to everything from airline and maritime commerce to car navigation systems.
It does beg the question, what is it with Bush and China?
Newly minted civil libertarian, former moral crusader, impeachment manager and champion of "family values" ... ahem ... and most importantly, current third party presidential candidate Bob Barr took his turn on "This Week," and the news out of that exchange wasn't what Barr said, it came from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who apparently believes Barr can not only make a difference in Georgia, but also in Alaska and Colorado. All I can say is "run Barr, run!" (Donate to him here.) Besides, Barr is helping to make history as the first black-but-in-denial nominee of the Libertarian Party... hopefully the right won't be too hard on him...
Separated at birth? Jeremiah Wright (L) and Bob Barr (R), courtesy of Wonkette
No MTP this week, and no Matthews, due to Wimbledon. But on CNN, Fareed Zakaria has hands down, the best talk program on Sundays, with "GPS" (for "Global Public Square.") This week, he had on the foreign minister of Iran, followed by a stellar panel of reporters including both badass Michael Ware and Christiane Amanpour. Fantastic show, and since last Sunday, is officially on the TiVo Season Pass list.
Gallup has Obama up 47%-43% over John McCain. And Politico offers a helpful retrospective on Fourth of July polls and the candidates they favored.
Meanwhile, the National Journal has its own poll, of political insiders, which includes explanatory snippets from poltiical operatives. The best take: from one of the 30% of Democratic strategists who said "age" is one of John McCain's two biggest vulnerabilities:
"Every time McCain gets off the airplane, he hikes his pants up like a grandpa. That does not speak to voters' hopes for the future."
One more number to watch that will no doubt prove to be much more important: the number of jobs the U.S. economy has shed in the first half of this year? 438,000:
"Over the past year the number of unemployed has increased by 1.5 million to 8.5 million and the unemployment rate has increased by 1 percentage points to 5.5%," says Steven Wood, chief economist of Insight Economics. "In the post World War II period, every time the unemployment rate has jumped by a full percentage point in the course of a year, the economy has slipped into recession."
So far this year, the economy has lost a total of 438,00 jobs, an average of 73,000 a month.
'Senator No' heads for the big cotton wagon in the sky
Helms celebrates victry in 1972. From a March 9 story in the Washington Post
Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms is dead at age 86. Says the WaPo:
He supported prayer in the public schools, free enterprise in business, a strong military, a balanced budget and "decency, honor and spiritual and moral cleanliness in America." In 1989, he drew national attention for an attack on the National Endowment for the Arts after it funded works he considered homoerotic and anti-Christian.
To his opponents, Helms was divisive, mean-spirited, race-baiting and manipulative. He was a pioneer of negative television attack ads, which he used frequently and effectively in his political campaigns.
When Helms announced in 2001 that he was retiring from the Senate, Washington Post columnist David S. Broder described him as "the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country."
Helms's opposition to social change and what he considered legislative overstepping led to his nickname of "Senator No," a title he wore he came to relish. In 1977, he angrily denounced a treaty advanced by President Jimmy Carter to turn over the Panama Canal to the country of Panama. He blocked nominations for federal office, withheld funding for the United Nations, opposed gun control and threatened to cancel federal support for arts groups and school busing. A staunch opponent of Communism, he sought to isolate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and refused to relent on strict U.S. trade embargoes of Cuba.
And the Raleigh News & Observer serves up some memorable Helms quotes, courtesy of the Associated Press. Take this one, for instance:
"Well, there is no joy in Mudville tonight. The mighty ultraliberal establishment, and the liberal politicians and editors and commentators and columnists, have struck out again." — Helms after defeating black Democrat Harvey Gantt for Senate in 1990.
Lovely. Here's one to bring a tear to your eye on this Independence Day:
"I shall always remember the shady streets, the quiet Sundays, the cotton wagons, the Fourth of July parades, the New Year's Eve firecrackers. I shall never forget the stream of school kids marching uptown to place flowers on the Courthouse Square monument on Confederate Memorial Day." — Helms writing in 1956 on life in his hometown of Monroe, N.C.
Gotta love those cotton wagons ... Oh, and who can forget this classic:
"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing." — Helms responding in 1956 to criticism that a fictional black character in his newspaper column was offensive.
Early, late notes: Crist finds his 'Grace,' Obama unplugged, and a Williams Wimbledon
Three quick things before I go to sleep:
What wouldn't Charlie Crist do to become John McCain's running mate? Cross "marry an actual woman" off the list! One question though: who's Jack in this scenario ... Jeff Kotkamp?
Meanwhile, if Barack Obama moves his nomination acceptance speech to the Broncos' stadium (which I will always call Mile High Stadium. Invesco Field ... ha!) it will be a P.R. coup, and a big win for the candidate. An outdoor acceptance speech in front of 72,000 people, rather than indoors before 22,000 bigwigs, would create a powerful parallel symmetry between Martin Luther King's momentous, outdoor, "I have a dream" speech and his own historic address, 45 years to the day later. I say 'just do it.'
It's midnight on July 4th, and if John McCain knows what's good for him (politically), he and Cindy had better not miss that plane back to Arizona. My advice? Tell "Cind" to stowe the American Express Red Card for a day, because Mac needs to find his backside on THIS side of the border by sun-up. The "Top Gun" in Colombia gambit didn't quite get him the hot press he was looking for (though it did provide an excellent backdrop for some new advertising,) and being in Mexico on the Fourth will be about as good a look as that lime green background. Picture Lou Dobbs' head ... now picture it exploding...
With the new management in place, I'm guessing McCain will be stateside in time for the BBQ. And for god's sakes, please ... please ... don't invite "You Know Who..."
John and George on the day the levees broke in New Orleans, August 29, 2005. The two were celebrating McCain's birthday. Good times... good times...
And whatever you do, John, old boy, try not to look out of touch during the inevitable photo-ops. No need for Cindy to pretend to be cooking the steaks, we all get that she's rich and has "people" to do that. And don't spend too much time hanging out at the kids table yucking it up. It makes you look like you don't know there's a recession on. Just ask your buddy George. He'll know what I mean. When in doubt, look sober, serious and grim ... you know ... the way you usually look.
Last but not least, for the love of god, for just one day -- America's day -- don't mention anything else about free trade. Trust me, once you bring the Mittster on board as your running-mate, you can let him talk about all the unpopular stuff. After all, that's what vice president's you can't really stand but whose money and completely theoretical strength in the Rocky Mountain states and Michigan you desperately need.
Well, that's about it! Happy Independence Day, John McCain!!! And remember: you're only as old as you feel, so don't eat anything with too many nitrates -- makes you gassy, and we've got enough fireworks to look forward to today eh? EH?
Rush Limbaugh signs an eight year, $400 million deal to continue his top-rated radio show. Premiere Radio Networks: Palm Beach County's property tax rolls (and the underground pill trade), thank you.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the pay scale: U.S. employers cut another 62,000 jobs in June, making it six months in a row of job cuts for the Bush economy. And, says the New York Times:
... as job losses mount, even those still on payrolls have felt the pain: employers are cutting hours for their full-time employees and shrinking salaries, just as workers face record-high prices for gasoline and food.
The unemployment rate stayed steady in June at 5.5 percent, the highest level in four years. The elevated figure dispelled speculation among some economists that last month’s half-percentage point jump, the biggest monthly spike in 22 years, was a statistical anomaly.
...In the last 12 months, the economy had seen a net gain of only 15,000 jobs, the lowest net increase since November 2003.
The Hill reports that both the Obama and McCain campaigns are touting plans to turn the bleak employment picture around.
The Democratic presidential candidate promised that he would “restore broad-based, bottom-up growth that benefits all Americans.”
“I will provide working families with a middle-class tax cut; fight for affordable health care and college tuition; work to help raise workers' wages, and invest in infrastructure, education and a clean energy future to create millions of new jobs,” he said.
Sen. John McCain also noted that Americans are feeling the pain of a struggling economy and said that “Washington can no longer abdicate its responsibility to act.”
“To get our economy back on track, we must enact a jobs-first economic plan that supports job creation, provide immediate tax relief for families, enact a plan to help those facing foreclosure, lower healthcare costs, invest in innovation, move toward strategic energy independence and open more foreign markets to our goods,” the Arizona Republican said.
Both sought to paint the other party as responsible for the woes.
“Last night, President Uribe and the defense minister did brief us that the operation was going to take place today,” said McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, who was visiting Colombia Wednesday to promote a free trade agreement and to discuss drug trafficking.
“Today, I spoke by phone to President Uribe. He told me some of the details of the dramatic rescue of the people who were held hostage. Three Americans are now free and Ingrid Betancourt is now in good condition,” said McCain. “I’m pleased with the success of this very high-risk operation.”
No word on whether he got wind of the raid from the Bush administration before he planned his trip...
The WaPo, meanwhile, has a story on the Bush administration's shocking and entirely unexpected foreknowledge of a U.S. oil company's plans to do an end-run around the new Iraqi government, by cutting an oil deal with the Kurds:
Bush administration officials told Hunt Oil last summer that they did not object to its efforts to reach an oil deal with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, even while the State Department was publicly expressing concern that such contracts could undermine a national Iraqi petroleum law, according to documents obtained by a House committee.
Last fall, after the deal was announced, the State Department said that it had tried to dissuade Hunt Oil from signing the contract with Kurdish regional authorities but that the company had proceeded "regardless of our advice." Although Hunt Oil's chief executive has been a major fundraiser for President Bush, the president said he knew nothing about the deal.
Yesterday, however, Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released documents and e-mails showing that for nearly four months, State and Commerce department officials knew about Hunt Oil's negotiations and had told company officials that there were no objections. In one note, a Commerce Department official even wished them "a fruitful visit to Kurdistan" and invited them to contact him "in case you need any support."
That guidance contradicted the administration's public posture. The Bush administration made an Iraqi national petroleum law, which has still not been adopted, a top priority last year in the hope it would more tightly bind the country's regions together and open the way for international oil companies to invest in much larger oil fields south of Iraq's Kurdish region. The State Department said, and continues to assert, that it opposes any contract with a regional Iraqi authority in the absence of a national petroleum law.
The Bush administration dabbling in secret oil deals? Say it isn't so!
The Miami Herald has the update on former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt's reunion with her family, after the Colombian government puts one over on the FARC guerrillas and frees several people who were held by them for more than five years, including the former presidential candidate, Betancourt, and three Florida contractors. The New York Times also offers its take on Betancourt's ordeal. [Betancourt is pictured at left after her rescue- AP]
BOGOTA -- The rescuers came wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and logos declaring them delegates of some obscure organization. They didn't look much like an international humanitarian brigade. And they weren't.
They were the Colombian intelligence agents who pulled off ''Operation Checkmate,'' one of the greatest military capers in Colombia's history -- a mission that would finally liberate the world's most famous hostage from the hands of leftist rebels in the jungle.
Without firing a single shot.
''Who are these people? What kind of international commission is this?'' former hostage and once-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt remembered thinking. ``Are we clowns in another circus? I didn't want any part of it.''
In a military operation described as ''unprecedented'' and ''perfect,'' the Colombian armed forces Wednesday infiltrated the top command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- Latin America's oldest insurgency -- and tricked rebels into handing over Betancourt, held hostage for six years, and three American defense contractors, held for five years.
It was an effort the White House says it knew about and helped support.
The hostages, the rebel group's most-prized possessions, were held in chains in jungle camps in the hopes the government would swap them for guerrilla prisoners. The three Americans -- Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves -- were scuttled out of the Andean nation and were set to arrive Wednesday night in San Antonio. ... Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the ruse that also freed 11 Colombian soldiers and police officers was straight out of an action flick, and added that the mission garnered even more spoils: ''César,'' Betancourt's guerrilla warden all these years, was captured and placed under arrest. More details of the raid:
More details from the defense minister
He said the military infiltrated the FARC's top hierarchy and arranged for a transfer of hostages on the ruse that they were going to be handed over to Alfonso Cano, the rebel group's maximum leader.
... The government mole arranged for the hostages to be brought together from three different locations to one camp, and then taken in a helicopter the FARC believed belonged to a friendly aid group that would transport the hostages to Cano.
... The chopper was piloted by intelligence officers dressed as leftist sympathizers. Betancourt said the hostages thought they were being picked up by some kind of international humanitarian organization to be taken to the FARC high command.
''Our hearts broke. More captivity. Another transfer,'' Betancourt said in a dramatic press conference minutes after embracing her mother. ``Every time we heard helicopters my pulse would race. Run, hide, gather your things. But this helicopter was white. It was exciting.
''It was surreal,'' Betancourt said, describing the bizarre white helicopter and the strangely dressed men who came for her. ``They had logos that certified they were a delegation of who-knows-what.''
She and the others were handcuffed as they boarded the chopper, which she described as ''humiliating.'' Once aboard, something happened so fast Betancourt missed it.
But then she saw ''César'' -- the ''cruel despot'' who guarded her -- subdued on the floor of the helicopter. The pilots turned and said the words she and the others had waited so long for:
``We are from the army. You are free.''
''The helicopter almost crashed; we jumped, we screamed and we cried,'' she said, lavishing praise on the military, the defense minister and President Alvaro Uribe.
Betancourt was kidnapped in 2002, the contractors in 2003. OK, now for the conspiracy theories...
The raid was more than a year in the making, as the Colombian "mole" ingratiated himself with the rebels. And the Bush administration says it knew about the planning. And there was John McCain, just happening to be in town to dress up in his Navy cap and meet the victorious president of Colombia, Alvaro Urive, who has had his troubles lately, but who along with the Colombian Army was hailed by his countrymen yesterday. Too convenient? Maybe.
In Colombia, John McCain shows off his "Top Gun" look
The co-host of a recent top-dollar fundraiser for Sen. John McCain oversaw the payment of roughly $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary group that is today designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
Carl H. Lindner Jr., the billionaire Cincinnati businessman, was CEO of Chiquita Brands International from 1984 to 2001, and remained on the company's board of directors until May 2002. Beginning under his tenure, Chiquita executives paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym AUC), which is described by George Washington University's National Security Archive as an "illegal right-wing anti-guerrilla group tied to many of the country's most notorious civilian massacres."
Following a Justice Department indictment last year, Chiquita admitted to illegally funding the paramilitaries and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. Chiquita's payments to the AUC began in 1997 and lasted seven years; roughly half of the funds came after the group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 2001.
But so far, there's not much more to the suspicion that McCain's trip was more than luckily timed, besides suspicion.
The New York Times is calling McCain's FARC convergence a "happy coincidence," but not everyone is so sure. The skeptics are lining up online, with many awaiting the gauzy photo-ops of McCain with Colombian president Uribe, and with the rescued hostages. Even many media types were scratching their heads this week over the McCain trip, just before the Fourth of July, to do what, push unpopular free trade? It's definitely a head scratcher, and given what we've witnessed over the last four years, one could easily see the Bush administration briefing their candidate on this being a great week to go to Colombia...
They're just your average American family. No country clubs, good looking dates and cigarettes here, folks! In fact, John and Cindy McCain are just ... like ... us.
Item one: There's never a recession at Cindy's house!
No, my friends, there's only shoes, shoes, SHOES! Cindy shops til she drops, and in that devil-may-care that only a beer heiress can muster, she kicks up her heels while the little people scrounge for gas money (and bake nasty, "homemade" cookies):
Cindy McCain and the McCain children are the beneficiaries of a beer distributing fortune amassed by her parents and estimated to be worth $100 million or more. Though the McCains maintain separate finances, Cindy McCain’s family fortune has boosted her husband’s political career at critical junctures, helping to fund his inaugural 1982 run for Congress and helping to subsidize his current presidential campaign when it all but went broke last year. ...
... While Cindy McCain, her dependent children and the trusts and companies they control made as much as $29 million — and likely substantially more — from her family’s business interests from 2004 through last year, data from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the Center for Responsive Politics also reveals that they spent $11 million purchasing five condominiums for the family, hired additional household help and racked up progressively larger credit card bills almost every year.
Their credit card bills peaked between January 2007 and May 2008, during which time Cindy McCain charged as much as $500,000 in a single month on one American Express card and $250,000 on another, while one of their two dependent children had an AmEx card with a monthly balance as large as $50,000.
A campaign aide who did not want to be identified discussing the McCains’ personal finances stressed that the credit card balances are “not ongoing debt.”
But Cochran said he observed McCain engage in a physical confrontation with a Sandinista while participating in a diplomatic mission led by Sen. Bob Dole and others in the fall of 1987. Cochran, McCain — who had won election to the Senate the year before after serving in the House — and other members of a bipartisan committee of lawmakers called the Central American Negotiations Observer Group met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, head of the left wing political party known as "Sandinistas," about tensions in the region.
The atmosphere was tense, as the U.S. was pressing the countries involved "pretty hard." Cochran noticed a disturbance at the meeting table in a room lined with armed personnel.
"McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerilla group here at this end of the table and I don't know what attracted my attention," Cochran said. "But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don't know what he was telling him but I thought, 'Good grief, everybody around here has got guns,' and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don't know what had happened to provoke John but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him."
There were no punches thrown and the two sat back down. The man, who appeared to be ruffled after the confrontation with McCain, was an associate of Ortega's, possibly a lieutenant, but Cochran said he was unsure of his identity.
Right to bear arms, Thad ... right to bear frikkin' arms...
By the way, the next time a scrawny little runt reporter dares to ask about John's service in Vietnam, and why it by itself qualifies him to be president? Someone's going to get hurt. You got that, ABC's David Wright?
McCain became visibly angry when I asked him to explain how his Vietnam experience prepared him for the Presidency.
"Please," he said, recoiling back in his seat in distaste at the very question.
McCain allies Sen. Lindsey Graham stepped in to rescue him. Graham expressed admiration for McCain’s stance on the treatment of detainees in US custody.
"That to me is a classic example of how his military experience helped him shape public policy in a way no other senator could have done,’’ Graham said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, also traveling on the trip, expressed admiration for McCain’s wartime service as well.
McCain then collected himself and apologized for his initial reaction.
"I kind of reacted the way I did because I have a reluctance to talk about my experiences," he said, noting that he has huge admiration for the "heroes" who served with him in the POW camp and said the experience taught him to love the U.S. because he missed it so much.
"I am always reluctant to talk about these things," McCain said.
Good thing John's appointment secretary, Lindsey, was there to help. Boy, that gal sure helps a fella keep a level head!
Well folks, that's all for now! The McCain's sure do appreciate your dropping by! Oh, and wipe your feet on the way out. Poor people are sooooo, grimey!
Joint Chiefs Chair: the forgotten war needs more troops
The latest in the "Iraq stole our war" saga, courtesy of the Washington Post:
The nation's top military officer said today that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency but does not have sufficient forces to send because of the war in Iraq.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem" that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border region with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, and June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 28 combat fatalities.
"I am and have been deeply troubled by the increasing violence there," Mullen said, adding th