Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Palin on Palin
An excerpt from an article Sarah Palin wrote back in 2006, which was posted on her gubernatorial campaign web-site. The piece was called ... ahem ... "Who's your daddy?"
Sometimes I haven’t a clue, coming from non-political Chuck Heath, why l remain passionate about wanting to change the world through Alaskan politics. But I know without a doubt that my Dad’s love for this state, his Independence, his strong work ethic and right priorities are my foundation and influence for every decision I make. He’s my most loyal supporter. Me, the media-stamped ‘bard core conservative Republican”! He’s also the number one fan of one of his best buddies and hunting partners, Dr. Curt Menard, the well known democrat. See, he’s much too smart and way too nice to base relationships on politics.
I think she meant "hard core" ... I guess the "h" is kind of near the "b" on the keyboard... Another glimpse of our first lady in waiting (mind the spelling errors. I swear this is unedited...)
I’m thankful for all my dad taught me and allowed me to do. I’m glad he dragged my butt out of bed early, early autumn mornings to hunt ducks with him before cross-country running practice. He taught me to bag a caribou, fillet a fish, dig buckets of darns, and find the plumpest blueberries. He wouldn’t put up with my wimpy reasons why I couldn’t thaw frozen fish egg bait in my mouth, like he does, when ice fishing. But he did understand when I looked up at him quizzically once upon his request to “please hold those” while he searched for something to put our freshly butchered moose’s eyeballs in so his students could observe them later that day. He graciously understood, and I didn’t have to hold those ungulate’s warm parts that morning in the alders.

My dad gave me two of the greatest gifts in my life: an upbringing in Alaska and an appreciation for all one can gain from athletics. He was Wasilla High School’s track, cross-country and freshman basketball coach. He never let me quit, no matter how bad it hurt or how the odds ware stacked against his athletes. He taught “no pain, no gain.., and you reap what you sow,.. and there ain’t no such thing as a flee lunch.., and dig deep, push hard and fully rely on your ROCK!”

(In our case, that ROCK would be God.) These are lessons I draw on everyday.
This stuff may have great appeal for so-called "middle America," but I wonder how the Clinton faithful feel, being told that Sarah the Moose Hunter is the equivalent of Hillary...


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posted by JReid @ 6:28 PM  
The Sarah Palin chronicles
John McCain may consider her a "soulmate" after only meeting her once (watch out, Cindy...) and the flat earth crowd is over the moon at the prospect of Sarah embarking on her four (?) year apprenticeship and then taking the throne, to rule over us through the mighty hand of God ... but not everyone is as high on Sarah.

Her mother-in-law, Faye Palin:
"I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she's a woman and a conservative. Well, she's a better speaker than McCain," Faye Palin said with a laugh. "People will say she hasn't been on the national scene long enough. But I believe she's a quick study."
Her hometown press:

Early this year, an op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News ripped into Gov. Sarah Palin's appearance on a morning "shock jock" radio show as "plain and simple one of the most unprofessional, childish and inexcusable performances I've ever seen from a politician."

So what happened? Palin has repeatedly feuded with the state's Senate president, Lyda Green, over a wide range of legislation. Last January, Palin appeared on "The Bob and Mark Show," whose host Bob Lester despises Green. That's when the trouble started...

And speaking of the Alaska GOP:
The legislative leadership of the Alaska Republican Party isn’t enamored with Palin’s selection, either, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
State Senate President Lyda Green said she thought it was a joke when someone called her at 6 a.m. to tell her the news.

"She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

Green, who has feuded with Palin, brought up the big oil tax increase Palin pushed through last year. She also pointed to the award of a $500 million state subsidy to a Canadian firm to pursue a natural gas pipeline that's far from guaranteed.

House Speaker John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, was also astonished at the news. He didn't want to get into the issue of her qualifications.

"She's old enough," Harris said. "She's a U.S. citizen."

For more Sarah background, a plucky Politico commentator found her old campaign website in the Wayback machine. Here it is. Enjoy the "who's your daddy" file. Fascinating.


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posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
When you pray for rain, be specific
The Focus on the Family folks who prayed for rain on the day of Barack Obama's big speech instead got clear skies, beautiful, cool weather, and 85,000 people in Mile High Stadium (yeah, yeah, Invesco Field...) and 38 million more watching on TV. God is bringing the rain though, and now we're all having to pray for New Orleans again.

The up-side, if one can be crass, for the Republicans, is that Gustav will apparently keep the unwelcome President Bush away from the convention, and the odious Dick Cheney, too. Hopefully in their absence, they'll actually pay attention to the storm this time, John McCain's birthday having already passed...

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posted by JReid @ 2:19 PM  
Palin's media cheerleaders
Be prepred, Democrats: much of the mainstream media appears to be going directly into the tank for Sarah Palin, judging by the opening remarks from "neutral" reporters including David Gregory (who today called the pick "cool" ... Andrea Mitchell and Maria Bartoromo, who spent her morning on "Meet the Press" hawking Palin as if she were a hot stock. Here's David Gregory on MTP:
MR. GREGORY: She went into labor and got on an airplane to go back to Alaska. That's pretty cool. I think there's a lot of people, men and women, who are going to look at this story and say, "This is a compelling person. I want to take a new look at this ticket."
Ironically, it fell to GOP strategist Mike Murphy to throw cold water on the MTP love fest for Palin:
MR. BROKAW: Mike, as you heard, I asked Governor Pawlenty about creationism vs. evolution. He said they ought to be taught side by side in schools, local school districts should decide. How does that cut with the independents?

MR. MURPHY: It's trouble. Again, if we get into a social issues debate with those particular swing voters, we're in big trouble. I believe that McCain cannot win in this environment without ticket splitters, people who vote for him for president but vote Democrat down the ticket. He may need as many as one out of five of his ultimate voters to be a ticket splitter. So the question is in a bad base year for Republicans, if we get caught on pure base issues--I agree, the evangelical vote loves her, but I, to the point I said earlier, I'd rather have lukewarm evangelicals and a whole lot of voters...

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. MURPHY: ...than delighted Goldwater-sized crowds and a completely delighted 45 percent of the vote. So if Sarah Palin the reformer, corruption fighter becomes who she is, she can help. If she gets trapped in the other stuff, I think she's an anchor. And we don't know yet how it's going to play.

But on the next question, Gregory went back to making the Palin sale, with a little help in the Amen chorus from Andrea Mitchell:
MR. BROKAW: "Even before McCain picked [Palin], people outside Alaska were beginning to notice the young governor with the bright smile" - the "runnerup in the 1984 Miss Alaska contest--whose good looks spawned a bumper sticker that read: `Coldest State. Hottest Governor.'"

Is that going to work in the West?

MR. GREGORY: Well, I think a lot of it does. And as you know better than anybody, you talk to people like Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who--and he will attribute his success as a Democrat in Colorado not to social issues, but to issues like the economy that began to turn more Republican-leaning independents and even some Republicans in the state his way. I think the economy is a huge part of this. A lot of the working-class voters in states like West Virginia or Ohio, where she was debuted, or Pennsylvania were Democrats primarily for economic issues if not social issues. Obama still has an advantage there, even if he hasn't grabbed the issue completely. I think Sarah Palin helps John McCain get it.

MS. MITCHELL: Yes, I agree with that.

MR. GREGORY: That's the attack line from Obama that he's out of touch. She's got some working class roots, the hockey mom thing.


MR. GREGORY: A union husband, a husband who's in the union. So I think she may help deliver that to independent voters in the West and elsewhere for whom this is going to be a big issue, the economy.


Likewise, George Will went from calling Barack Obama "the most thinly qualified presidential candidate in memory," last week, to stating this week on Stephanopoulos' show that it's not experience that matters after all, but rather judgment (where have we heard that before?) and good instincts about how to keep the federal government out of people's lives Will didn't even bring up Ms. Palin's experience on his own, and as of this morning, has completely abandoned it as an issue. George answered Stephanolpoulos' question of whether Palin was a good pick with an enthusiastic "yes." He went on to say:
"It certainly solved his enthusiasm deficit with regard to Mr. Obama. ... I suspect that now, the Republican base is more united and enthusiastic behind McCain then I suspect the Democratic base is behind Mr. Obama..."
And on the question of qualifications, Will adds:
"There is more to the qualification to high executive branch office than experience. There is understanding the constitutional principle of limited government and the culture of corruption that inevitably develops in a capitol that abandones limited government; that regulates everything and subsidizes everybody. She understands that."
Will later disclosed that his wife is an unpaid staffer helping to formulate Cindy McCain's convention speech.

Poor Sam Donaldson literally laughed out loud later in the roundtable, when Cokie Roberts actually claimed that Palin wasn't picked for women, or for the purposes of poaching female Hillary Clinton supporters, but rather to attract blue collar voters. Stunning.

If this first Palin Sunday was any indication, and judging by the equally enthusiastic reception Palin has received on CNN and MSNBC, where Chrystia Freeland (who was pushing Hillary as Obama's vice presidential pick before Biden was selected,) literally gushed about Palin on Friday, it's clear to me that much of the mainstream media, stung by the accusations of gender bias by the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primaries, is going to tread lightly when it comes to Palin, and many reporters, who at their core, are still fans of John McCain, will actually enthusiastically boost the ticket. That sounds like an incredible contrast to complaints by the right that the media is trying to help Obama, but I think it's reality. Democrats should pre-pare for a Palin love-fest, for at least a couple of weeks, as she receives her honeymoon.


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posted by JReid @ 1:44 PM  
So how big is the Alaska National Guard, anyway?
The latest, laugh out loud justification for putting Flat Earth Society queen Sarah "the Barracuda" Palin a skin cancer attack away from the red button is that she is ... wait for it ... commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard. Poor Tim Pawlenty had to sell that turkey on "Meet the Press" this morning (an episode in which David Gregory proved himself to be absolutely SOLD on the McCain ticket ... surprise, surprise...) and it will be part of the excuse narrative the Republicans will be selling over the next 67 days. So let's take a look at how many people Sarah is commanding:

The Alaska National Guard consists of approximately 1,850 soldiers in the Alaska Army National Guard, plus the civilian and military members of the Alaska Air National Guard, including 5,400 personnel at Eielson Air Force Base.

It had a budget in 2007 of $62,145,474 for the Alaska National Guard and $167,531,600 for the Air National Guard from the federal government, and the State of Alaska has an annual budget of around $83,255,260, according to the most recent annual report from the Alaska office of Military Affairs.

By contrast, according to the U.S. Air National Guard website:
The authorized strength for the Air National Guard for the current fiscal year is 106,678 compared to active force strength of 359,300. The operating budget for this fiscal year is $2,724.5 million for personnel, $4, 724.1 million for operation and maintenance and $165.3 million for military construction for a total of $7, 613.9 million.
In case you missed it, that's $2.7 BILLION for personnel and $4.7 BILLION for operations.

By the way, if that argument doesn't work for you, Cindy McCain says Sarah's qualified to be CIC because Alaska is physically close to Russia! Peaches!


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posted by JReid @ 12:31 PM  
Saturday, August 30, 2008
From an Alaska blogger
Notes on Governor Palin.


posted by JReid @ 10:49 AM  
Memo to Obama: go after John McCain's judgment
Having laid it out so brilliantly in his nomination acceptance speech on Thursday, it's time for Barack Obama, and Joe Biden, to begin a daily conversation with the American people about judgment, and specifically, about the judgment of John McCain. In fact, McCain has made it easy for them by choosing a woman so meagerly qualified for the presidency, it would be funny (if McCain's age and health concerns weren't so serious.)

Team Obama can and should go after McCain hard on his veep choice, and they can do so without personally attacking or demonizing Ms. Palin. For example, they could run an ad like this:


It was his first major decision as the Republican nominee...

And John McCain chose to play politics ...

instead of picking the most qualified commander in chief.

He thinks women voters don't care about issues ...

Just gender ...

(SHOW PIC OF HILLARY) That's not the respect we deserve ...

Or the judgment ... we need in the next president.
Would the McCain camp try to push back on Obama's experience? Sure. That's why they felt safe in selecting Palin. But as even the AP's Ron Fournier has pointed out, Obama's 11 years in the Illinois legislature and longer tenure in the Senate compared to Palin's 600 days of legislative experience, plus the mayoralty of a tiny town in Alaska, aren't close to comparable.

I posted yesterday on TPM that McCain has, in effect, given up his "country first" theme. Republican strategist David Frum agrees:
The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me. And I increasingly doubt that it will prove good politics. The Palin choice looks cynical. The wires are showing.

John McCain wanted a woman: good.

He wanted to keep conservatives and pro-lifers happy: naturally.

He wanted someone who looked young and dynamic: smart.

And he discovered that he could not reconcile all these imperatives with the stated goal of finding a running mate qualified to assume the duties of the presidency "on day one."

... Maybe it will work. But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.

... question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?

More from Frum here, including this important closing argument:

Should John McCain lose in November, Sarah Palin has just pole-vaulted into front-runner status for 2012. Should Mr. McCain win, her grip on the next Republican nomination will become a lock.

So this is the future of the Republican party you are looking at: a future in which national security has bumped down the list of priorities behind abortion politics, gender politics, and energy politics. Ms. Palin is a bold pick, and probably a shrewd one. It's not nearly so clear that she is a responsible pick, or a wise one.

Add to the chorus of boos Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune:

The first and last question to be asked about a potential vice president is: Is he or she prepared to take over immediately as president? Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden gave that matter the priority it deserves.

The question is even more important for McCain because he's 72 years old and has had serious health problems. The chances are considerably higher than usual that his vice president would have to step into the Oval Office without notice.

Sarah Palin may be a politically brilliant choice. She may also be a fine governor. But it's going to be pretty hard for McCain to disparage Obama's experience on national security and foreign relations while running with someone who has much less.

But worse, this decision mocks McCain's seriousness on the issues that are supposed to be his strength. It tells us that he puts his own political fortunes above the safety of the nation.

And even Charles Krauthammer:

McCain had been steadily gaining on Obama (before the inevitable convention bounce) and had the race in a dead heat in a year in which the generic Democrat is running ten points ahead of the generic Republican. He had succeeded in making this a referendum on Obama. The devastating line of attack was, "Is he ready to lead?"

The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama's inexperience and readiness to lead -- on the theory that because Palin is a maverick and a corruption fighter, she bolsters McCain's claim to be the reformer in this campaign. In her rollout today, Palin spoke a lot about change. McCain is now trying to steal "change" from Obama, a contest McCain will lose in an overwhelmingly Democratic year with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent Republican administration. At the same time, he's weakening his strong suit -- readiness vs. unreadiness.

Not surprising that the neocons aren't thrilled. Anything that takes the global war on Islam off the table and puts abortion back on center stage can't be good for them. And it seems that McCain's envy over losing the attention of the media, along with his year 2000 "change", "maverick", "reformer" and celebrity labels made him throw away his best card... Now, he's got the media to talk about him the way they used to ... but he's also made the race more about him; and his judgment, than about Barack. That doesn't strike me as smart. And it will be interesting to see if Democrats begin to laugh out loud every time McCain talks about national security, given that he apparently no longer cares about it as much as he does getting anti-abortion activists to phonebank for him...

Meanwhile, suddenly on the right, experience doesn't matter!


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
John McCain's trophy wife
Four thoughts on the Palin selection:

First, how remarkable is it that with the first African-American on a major party ticket, this election turns out to be more about gender in the end, than about race? Hopefully, this election will prove that despite what the McCain team apparently thinks, women just aren't that gullible.

Second, John McCain's last-minute, hurried selection of Sarah Palin, after just one meeting and a single phone call, and without even bothering to conduct the thorough vetting he gave to more serious choices like Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman or even Tim Pawlenty, says a lot about the role of age in this election. Clearly, McCain comes from a generation (and an ideology) that dismisses women as serious people. He seems to have decided that Palin fit the bullet points ("maverick + pro-life + female,) so it doesn't matter what she actually thinks about "big things" like Iraq (which turns out to be not much); the war on terror (who knows?), Russia, Georgia, Pakistan... or whether she even understands the job being offered to her. (Sounds a lot like the way he chose Cindy McCain: rich+prettier than current wife+lives where he could win a congressional seat...) Yesterday, as the roll-out was taking place, right wing radio hack Glenn Beck was actually gushing that one of Palin's qualifications is that "she's HOT!" I can almost hear McCain, disappointed that he couldn't get Lieberman on the ticket, saying, "Ok go with that Palin broad. She's a dame, just like Hillary's a dame, and the chicks will dig that."

Third, the Republican Party can never again accuse Democrats of playing identity politics. While the Democrats held a contest, and the African-American candidate won it fair and square by getting more votes than the other candidates and conducting a better campaign, Republicans have once again thrown a scantily qualified "demographic appointment" at the wall, hoping to curry favor with the associated group . George I did it (to disastrous effect) with Clarence Thomas, and here we go again with Sarah Palin. [Ironically, the one politician who at least had the decency to appoint qualified demographic candidates was George W. Bush, who appointed Collin Powell and Condi Rice for top jobs, though both have been disappointing. (Bush later tried to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court, but that was more of a Texas buddy thing than a pander...)]

Fourth: There's no longer a question of which presidential candidate makes careful judgments that put the country before political expediency. Barack Obama passed on the chance to make headlines by choosing Hilary Clinton, instead picking a man he thought would better help him govern, and who, like Hillary, could very much step in and become president if need be. As for McCain, by making such an unserious, pandering choice, who couldn't possibly be the person he feels is most qualified to step in should anything happen to him as a septugenarian, four-time cancer survivor president, John McCain has closed the door on the notion that he's fit to be president.

The Obama team should hit that theme every day between now and November.

Meanwhile, will Karl Rove eat his words?

Update: Yup yup? That's Palin's response to whether she's ready to be president???

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posted by JReid @ 9:39 AM  
Why we fight
While you were hunting wolf pups from an airplane ... Sarah Palin ... the Bush administration was seeking to recertify the "unitary executive"...
WASHINGTON — Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “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 and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.

The proposal is also the latest step that the administration, in its waning months, has taken to make permanent important aspects of its “long war” against terrorism. From a new wiretapping law approved by Congress to a rewriting of intelligence procedures and F.B.I. investigative techniques, the administration is moving to institutionalize by law, regulation or order a wide variety of antiterrorism tactics.

“This seems like a final push by the administration before they go out the door,” said Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency and an expert on national security law. The cumulative effect of the actions, Ms. Spaulding said, is to “put the onus on the next administration” — particularly a Barack Obama administration — to justify undoing what Mr. Bush has done. ..
So what would the new language mean, precisely?
Mr. Mukasey laid out the administration’s thinking in a July 21 speech to a conservative Washington policy institute in response to yet another rebuke on presidential powers by the Supreme Court: its ruling that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay , were entitled to habeas corpus rights to contest their detentions in court.

The administration wants Congress to set out a narrow framework for those prisoner appeals. But the administration’s six-point proposal goes further. It includes not only the broad proclamation of a continued “armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” but also the desire for Congress to “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.”

That broad language hints at why Democrats, and some Republicans, worry about the consequences. It could, they say, provide the legal framework for Mr. Bush and his successor to assert once again the president’s broad interpretation of the commander in chief’s wartime powers, powers that Justice Department lawyers secretly used to justify the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans without court orders. ...

Hopefully, even Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid's accommodating Congress won't fall for it. Fool me once ...

And by the way, in case you missed this in the Times on June 8th:
WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.

And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”

Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power. ...
A question that should be put to McCain in the debates: do you believe the president of the United States has the authority to supersede the law and wiretap Americans on U.S. soil? I'd love to hear his answer to that.


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posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Friday, August 29, 2008
Palin's Israel/Florida problem
Obama Main Man Robert Wexler has called Palin a "far right, pro-life zealot," and he's hitting her hard for her past support of Pat Buchanan, which could spell trouble with Jewish voters, and that means trouble in Florida...

John McCain's decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for President in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hilter for his "great courage."

At a time when standing up for Israel's right to self-defense has never been more critical, John McCain has failed his first test of leadership and judgment by selecting a running mate who has aligned herself with a leading anti-Israel voice in American politics. It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments.

Palin has tried to clarify, saying she wasn't actually a Buchananite. But nobody told the lovable (and I mean that) Pat, who lauded Palin as a fellow traveler on "Hardball" today:

Robert Wexler just got a major shot in the arm in rallying Palm Beach Jewish voters who may have been wavering on Barack.

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posted by JReid @ 11:11 PM  
10 things the right likes about Sarah Palin
By picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has officially abandoned the Independent vote in favor of rallying George W. Bush's old base: evangelical Christians, pro-drilling oil company shills and Rush Limbaugh listeners. Ten reasons why they love her:

1. Doesn't believe in global warming.

2. Does believe in teaching creationism in schools.

3. Wants to drill, drill, DRILL!!! in ANWR.

4. Opposes federal protection for polar bears and sued the federal government to stop them from being on the endangered species list.

5. Lifetime NRA member who's into the aerial hunting of wolves, including wolf puppies.

6. Wants to ban abortion, even in cases of rape or incest (something that will energize the NARAL and Emily's List volunteers to defeat her and McCain in key states in November.)

7. Has a disabled child (downs syndrome) which is one of the ways pro-lifers sell her pro-life credentials (although there is some scuttle that it may not be her baby...)

8. She's old fashioned and traditional. As McCain's "apprentice," she'll stay in her place and not try to shine the way a Mitt Romney might have.

9. She's young, which gives the impression that there are people under age 60 still in the conservative movement, and that the movement still has the youthful vigor the Democratic Party clearly has these days. (And she allows the GOP to claim that see, they can make history, too...)

10. She is a blank slate on Iraq, which allows her to pivot to whatever message the right is selling day by day (but which is also really strange since she has a son about to be deployed there...)

From a media standpoint, Palin could also soften the media on McCain, especially female reporters. If you saw Campbell Brown take umbrage at Paul Begala's mention of Palin being a beauty queen tonight, or Andrea Mitchell's cautiously defensive coverage of her nomination, you know what I mean. And the McCain team clearly hopes Palin's female charm will prevent Joe Biden from going all out to attack her during their lone debate next month. He won't want to pull a Rick Lazio, and Team McCain hopes she's stymie him and the Obama communications team.

That said, none of the above qualities is going to help her close the gender gap, since most of her issue positions are an anathema to women. In fact, Palin looks to me like a time traveler from the 1950s, a woman so out of step with modern womanhood that I can't imagine anyone but the most wacked out PUMAs drifting to McCain because of her.


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posted by JReid @ 10:28 PM  
ABC: Palin displaced Lieberman, not Romney
ABC News has the inside story on the Palin pick, and it seems she became the default choice after John McCain finally accepted that he could not push Lieberman through. (Apparently that's what was behind those Karl Rove calls, which now seem logically to have been orchestrated by his former lieutenant, Steve Schmidt.) From ABC's Political Radar:

ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg reports: It wasn't until Sunday night that John McCain, after meeting with his four top advisers, finally decided he could not tap independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to be his running mate. One adviser, tasked with taking the temperature of the conservative base, had strongly made the case to McCain that it would be a disaster for the party and that the base would revolt. McCain concluded he could not go that route.

The next day, McCain studied the three men at the top of his shortlist: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. All had different strengths and negatives, but McCain was not satisfied. None of them had what McCain believed he needed to do -- and would have done -- with Lieberman.

McCain wanted to shake up the ticket.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's name was in the mix as an unconventional choice for months, but she had not been considered a front-runner. So, over the next few days, with McCain continuing to believe he needed someone who had more of a maverick streak than his other choices, lawyers reviewed her vetting information. They kept their activities from even some in McCain's most senior inner circle.

Apparently, Pawlenty was seen as young enough, but too "safe." And Romney appears not to have been a serious contender in the end. No wonder both men's people are miffed. So after flying Palin in for a single, secret meeting, McCain apprently decided he was comfortable, she was maverick enough, and damnit, he liked her. And there she goes.


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posted by JReid @ 10:19 PM  
'What is it exactly that the VP does every day?'

The Moderate Voice asks, who exactly vetted Sarah Palin? And uncovers some oddities in her pro-life pregnancy story that are worthy of "Desperate Housewives..."

…the oldest girl is rumored to have actually been the one who had the last baby, the one with Down’s Syndrome. She was taken out of school the last 4 or 5 months of her mother’s pregnancy.

On March 5th, 2008 Alaska’s Republican Governor, Sarah Palin, announced to the media that she was 7 months pregnant with her 5th child. She is currently 44.

Palin’s daughter Bristol is 16 and attends an Anchorage high school. Students who have attended class with her report that she has been out of school for months, claiming a prolonged case of mono.

Palin does not appear pregnant in any recent photographs. The announcement came as quite a shock to people who had worked closely with her, and have been quoted as saying that she did not appear pregnant whatsoever during the prior 7 months.

Those kinds of questions about Palin will likely be more interesting to the blogosphere than to voters, especially women voters, who won't cotton to personal attacks on the Alaska governor. But women will be interested in knowing more about Palin's beliefs, which are far to the right of most women Independents, whom McCain needs in November. Two from Tapped:

Chris Hayes has a great find:

Very quickly. Remember when Pat Buchanan ran a number of hard-right, fringe campaigns for president in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000? Well, guess who was supporting him:

From an AP report in 1999:

"Pat Buchanan brought his conservative message of a smaller government and an America First foreign policy to Fairbanks and Wasilla on Friday as he continued a campaign swing through Alaska. Buchanan's strong message championing states rights resonated with the roughly 85 people gathered for an Interior Republican luncheon in Fairbanks. … Among those sporting Buchanan buttons were Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and state Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage."

And Palin's story about rejecting the "bridge to nowhere?" Not so much:

It seems to be totally untrue that, as Sarah Palin claimed in her speech in Dayton earlier today, she opposed the "Bridge to Nowhere." Rather, after federal funding was cut off, she decided not to replace it with state funds. There's no indication that she opposed the federal earmark.

In fact, Palin supported the bridge, and pushed for Alaska's congressional delegation to get it done. From the New Republic:

Republicans have been heavily touting Sarah Palin's reformist credentials, with her supposed opposition to Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" as Exhibit A. But how hard did she really fight the project? Not very, it seems. Here's what she told the Anchorage Daily News on October 22, 2006, during the race for the governor's seat (via Nexis):

5. Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?

Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now--while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.

So she was very much for the bridge and insisted that Alaska had to act quickly—the party of Ted Stevens and Don Young might soon lose its majority, after all. By that point, the project was endangered for reasons that had nothing to do with Palin—the bridge had become a national laughingstock, Congress had stripped away the offending earmark, shifting the money back to the state's general fund, and future federal support seemed unlikely.

And as for the quote that headlines this post? Politico explains (hat tip to The Moderate Voice):

In an interview just a month ago, she dissed the job, saying it didn’t seem “productive.”

In fact, she said she didn’t know what the vice president does.

Larry Kudlow of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Co.” asked her about the possibility of becoming McCain's ticket mate. Palin replied: “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?

In this campaign? She babysits the evangelical right. That's the principal reason for the Palin pick -- she'll pump up the old evangelical Bush base to work for McCain, something they wouldn't otherwise do. And she'll make die-hard PUMAs feel comfortable voting for McCain (despite both of their views.) The question is, do those constituencies add up to 50 percent. Signs point to no, but we'll see.


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posted by JReid @ 10:01 PM  
McCain's celebrity hunt ... Sarah hearts Jesus ... and Mitt's feeling used
It strikes me that John McCain wants so badly to bask in the glow of celebrity and popularity, he went out and got himself a beauty queen.

See Sarah's childhood and beauty queen pictures! Peep her Vogue spread ... doesn't that mean Sarah is ... a celebrity...? And by proximity, I think John McCain hopes to become one, too. His jealousy of the adulation Obama receives couldn't be more evident than it is today.

But what might really be behind the McCain choice, in addition to a push for disgruntled Hillary women, is a last ditch effort to ignite the evangelical base who helped George W. Bush on the ground, and who wouldn't have warmed much to Mormon Mitt Romney. McCain currently has no ground game, and needs their help. Pro-life zealot, PTA mom, one step behind McCain Sarah fits the bill. On this front, his pick may pay off.

Meanwhile, the Pawlenty and Romney camps are feeling a lot like John McCain's first wife: used up and thrown away for a prettier girl.


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posted by JReid @ 2:48 PM  
Sarah Palin: scandal tested, Stevens approved
Here's Sarah's endorsement by indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens:

And here's a local CBS affiliate's report on her Troopergate scandal:

Meanwhile there's lots of good info on Palin over at Talking Points Memo.


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posted by JReid @ 2:33 PM  
Experience, shmecksperience!
A bit more about Sarah Palin, who by the way appears to have Mitt Romney's hair but Dan Quayle's qualifications. GOPers like to tag Obama as inexperienced, and "just a community organizer." But Palin was the mayor of a small city in Alaska, and she's only been governor since 2006. This is experience that belongs a heartbeat away from the red phone, when the president ... dare I say ... is close enough to death to smell it's nostril hairs?

From the in-box, the Obama camp had this to say:
"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same," said Adrianne Marsh, Obama Campaign Spokeswoman.
Then they has second thoughts and released this revised statement:
"We send our congratulations to Governor Sarah Palin and her family on her designation as the republican nominee for Vice President. It is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics. While we obviously have differences over how best to lead this country forward Governor Palin is an admirable person and will add a compelling new voice to this campaign."
While veteran political strategist Jim Jordan had this to say to Politico:
"After his attacks on Obama's readiness for the job, it'll be amusing to hear a 71-year-old with a history of health problems justify this decision."

"She's a talent, but that's the end of the experience message from John McCain."
But it's just the beginning of a long, uncomfortable story about Palin. Even the right wing Associated Press wrote the following about her earlier this month:
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin, a rising young GOP star mentioned as a possible running mate for John McCain, could see her clean-hands reputation damaged by a growing furor over whether she tried to get her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.

A legislative panel has launched a $100,000 investigation to determine if Palin dismissed Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire the trooper, Mike Wooten. Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin's sister.

Palin has denied the commissioner's dismissal had anything to do with her former brother-in-law. And she denied orchestrating the dozens of telephone calls made by her husband and members of her administration to Wooten's bosses.

Palin said she welcomes the investigation: "Hold me accountable."

Still, the allegations she abused her office could prove embarrassing for Palin, who got elected in 2006 on an ethics reform platform.

So what is it that the former beauty queen was mixed up in? Office politics run amok:

Palin's problems started a month ago when she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, saying she wanted the department to go in a new direction.

Monegan has said he does not know why he was fired. But he said pressure to get rid of Wooten had come from those around Palin, including her husband, Todd; her former chief of staff; and other top officials.

In 2005, before Palin ran for office, the Palin family accused Wooten of drinking a beer while in his patrol car, illegal hunting and firing a Taser at his 11-year-old stepson. The Palins also claimed Wooten threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father.

Wooten was suspended over the allegations for five days in 2006 but is still on the job. Monegan refused to comment on Wooten's situation, saying he could not discuss personnel matters.

More recently, Todd Palin said, he took his concerns over the governor's safety directly to Monegan. But he said he never told anyone to fire Wooten.

Wooten has refused to comment.

Attorney General Talis Colberg's conducted an investigation and found that 14 members of the Palin administration — including Colberg himself — made calls to Department of Public Safety officials about Wooten.

In one of those calls, Frank Bailey, director boards and commissions, was tape-recorded as saying: "Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, why on earth hasn't, why is this guy still representing the department?"

On Wednesday, Palin said none of the two dozen or so calls were made at her direction.

It's not exactly Ted Stevens, but it isn't the way you want to start off your bus tour.

MSNBC's political operation sums up the Palin pros and cons:
This was a bold move in this historic election, and a play for those Clinton supporters. Palin is a social conservative, and her views on abortion won't play well with most Democratic women. But this election has been a case study in identity politics. We'll see if she peels away some women.

The potential to grab some of those women voters is perhaps the best asset Palin brings to a McCain ticket. She also reinforces McCain's maverick image. She bucked her own party, launching an ethics investigation into the state party chairman with regard to his dealings with oil companies in the state. And being from Alaska, she's the ultimate outsider. She also also reinforces McCain's drilling message -- though she's for drilling in ANWR; McCain is not. She also represents the next generation of Republican leaders -- she's a fresh face.

... Although she's not linked to them, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young are facing legal/ethical troubles. In fact, Stevens' trial will start in late September, so the Alaska Republican Party is a mess. And Palin's trooper trouble could play into that.

It will be interesting to see which story line catches on: "Palin, the reformer/maverick", or "Palin, under investigation?"
Scroll down past the profile to read an interesting back and forth on the Palin pick here. It's hard to tell whether the women cheering her were going to vote for McCain regardless, though I suspect so. The challenge for Obama will be to keep women over 50 in the fold. Check it out.


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posted by JReid @ 2:02 PM  
John McCain says "damn the torpedoes!" He torpedoes the Mittster and picks this lady:

Well, who the hell is that, you say? Why, it's just hinted at for the first time this week, one-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin! Oh just call Ted Stevens. He'll explain...

Is it just me, or does it seem like the McCain team simply wandered through the halls of the Pepsi Center looking for the first PUMA who looked halfway put together to offer the veep spot to?


The right wing radio hacks are right on board. Glenn Beck got his talking points bright and early this morning and began shilling for the ticket in exhuberant fashion. He even went so far as to call Palin "hot." Now that'll close the gender gap... Rush is holding forth now, extolling Palin and daring Democrats to attack her. Ditto O'Reilly, who just had a Hillary delegate on, who first told the Factor she "leaned Obama" and then announced that she's "McCain all the way..." uh-huh...

You've got to figure that this happened because the McCain team pannicked, and decided they needed drama more than they needed Romney's 3-Ms (Money, Mormons (in swing state Colorado) and Michigan, where his father was a popular governor.) Romney would have been the expected pick, but not at all sexy. And then there's his fourth "M" -- Mansions. After McCain's 8-10 houses gaffe, that boat had a significant leak in it. Either way, the Mittster got bumped, as did the seminally dull Tim Pawlenty (sorry RedState.)

And there you go. McCain will shift his campaign theme on a dime, "Obama hates America," to "hey ladies, look over here!" The McCain camp is banking on their being literally millions of female Hillary supporters who were in it only to see a woman in the White House, not specifically Hillary. That's a risky gamble. And Palin doesn't exactly cut the profile most women voters tend to gravitate to. She's hardcore anti-choice, and she's into ... um ... the aerial hunting of wolves and bears. How to sell that to Jane America? Actually, with that voice and bun in her hair, she kind of reminds me of that supervisor in my past jobs that I just freaking hated, you know what I mean?

Bottom line: the McCain pick was made from a weak position. They were clearly spooked by the McMansions thing, and by the convention, Democratic unity, and the Obama speech. The decision to throw Mitt overboard for a woman nobody knows, who has a scandal bag to uncover, and who undercuts McCain's "experience" argument seems like a hell of a chance to take just to score some PUMAs.

Cross-posted at Diamond John McCain.


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posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
Congratulations, America
Let it not be lost in the short attention span news cycle. America just nominated a black man to lead one of its parties in the presidential election, fulfilling King's and Bobby Kennedy's dreams. As Chris Matthews so rightly said last night, damn the critics, this was a great week for America. A great week for our history, and for all of us, in both parties. It's not about Barack. It's about us.

And now for the sprint.


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posted by JReid @ 8:47 AM  
RedState foiled again?

Ben and Eric at RedState say their "sources" say Tim Pawlenty will be John McCain's new sidekick (can you be the sidekick of a sidekick...?) And they're urging the faithful to prepare to absorb the talking points.

Well not so fast...

MSNBC is reporting that Pawlenty is not the one. And Pawlenty told a radio station he won't even be in Dayton.

Chuck Todd is reporting that Mitt Romney won't be in Dayton (not even as a seat filler...) By the way, I think that if it isn't Romney, then THAT is political malpractice on McCain's part. Maybe the combined 13 houses pushed Romney into "risk" territory for McCain's message, but you've got to wonder why the GOPer would pick an unkonwn governor with no national profile and no "wow" factor (and a very recent mullet) as his veep rather than the Mittster, who brings a high profile (Olympics), executive experience (even if in Massachusetts), good debating skills, and as close as you're going to get to national star power for the moribund GOP. Romney brings the Mormon cash, and help in Michigan and Colorado. Hello? Maybe Mac was scared of the Youtubes of Mitt bashing him during the primary...

Well since I have been predicting Romney for months, why not just RedState myself into an even tighter corner, by predicting who it won't be:

It won't be Charlie Crist. He's gay, you know. Don't let the "fiancee" fool you. And how would THAT look during a convention in the land of Wide Stance?

It won't be Bobby Jindal. The GOP convention is being held on the anniversary week of Hurricane Katrina's devastating aftermath. And Jindal has other things to do, with Gustav bearing down.

It won't be Kay Bailey Hutchinson. She just about ruled herself out on MSNBC yesterday, and word on the street is that she and McCain don't get along (yeah, you and everybody else in the Senate except Joementum and Miss Lindsay...)

It won't be Sarah Palin. Like most of the women on the list, she comes off as a straight pander to Hillaryites. But here's the problem: there aren't enough PUMAs out there to make a difference. Their numbers have been inflated by the media, who love the storyline. And the ones who do exist are for the most part, already Republicans (or in New York and California, where they won't make a difference.) And Palin is that one-term governor from a state McCain is already carrying that I spoke of earlier. Her lack of experience makes Obama look like FDR in his third term...

It won't be Carly Fiorina. One word: Viagra.

That leaves Pawlenty, Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman, Meg Whitman and the Mittster. And of these, MSNBC claims they've ruled out Pawlenty and Romney.

Meg has money galore, but she's untested in debates and has zilch to offer on national security. She doesn't pass the "ready to step in and be president if the geezer croaks" test. If McCain picks her, it's a straight up pander and gamble for national attention. (And there's that Ted Stevens problem.)

Ridge could help in PA, and McCain would probably just as soon pick him, but I find it hard to imagine McCain being able to sell pro-choice Ridge to this particular GOP. And his ties to the Bush administration would strengthen Obama's message about McCain being more of the same.

That means Lieberman won't fly either. Can you imagine McCain trying to get Lieberman nominated at a convention that's already going to be testy and boring? We're talking bourgeois riot, here.

McCain could pull a rabbit out of his hat, if he somehow convinced David Petraeus to run with him. But somehow I doubt it. Why would he risk a sure thing at CENTCOM to roll the dice with 2008's Bob Dole?

Which brings us back to the Hair. And if not the Hair, then who? I still think there's an outside chance they're pulling subterfuge with the Romney travel schedule, and that he will still be the guy.

Whatever the answer, it's clear that McCain's team has succeeded in its real aim: turning attention abruptly away from the Obama speech last night, and from the Democratic convention generally, onto the One Who Will Not Be Ignored: John McCain.


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posted by JReid @ 8:11 AM  
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Obama delivers

This headline says it all:

GOP Considers Delaying Convention

Okay, that's mostly about the hurricane (we think.) But there was another hurricane tonight. Tonight, Barack Obama made history, accepting his party's nomination for president, and he did so in soaring fashion. He cold cocked both the Bush administration and John McCain, saying the so-called Maverick "doesn't get it" on the economy, lacks judgment given his 90 percent suppor for Bush (he said we can't take a "ten percent chance on change..." is making the election about "small things," and is all Bushian tough talk, but no substance. The killer line of the night: "John McCain says he'll chase Bin Laden to the gates of Hell but he won't even follow him to the cave he sleeps in." And he put McCain's temperament on the table, while throwing down the following gauntlet: "I've got news for you, John McCain: we ALL put our country first." (Read the speech here.)

The McCain campaign's response suggests he left them nowhere to go.
"Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama. When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be president."
Uh, okay...

The reviews on MSNBC are glowing. Keith O and Chris Matthews were effusive in their praise, which is not surprising. The real surprise is Pat Buchanan. He just called the sppech the greatest convention speech he has heard in more than 20 years. He said the speech "went right at the heart of America" and called it "deeply centrist."

I would hate to be in charge of staging the GOP convention. How to top the staging, the music, the level of interest and excitement as a pure television event ... and how in God's name does John McCain match a speech like the one we saw tonight?

Maybe he has some trick up his sleeve, but I don't see how he pulls it off.

Here's Barack's ending, with a send-up to MLK:

You know, this country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines and women to reach for the ballot.

(APPLAUSE) And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.


The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead -- people of every creed and color, from every walk of life -- is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back...


... not with so much work to be done; not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for; not with an economy to fix, and cities to rebuild, and farms to save; not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.

America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.

At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.



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posted by JReid @ 11:40 PM  
McCain's other ad
The McCain campaign cleverly grabbed some attention today with a one day, positive ad congratulating Barack Obama on getting the nomination of his party and making history. So how to explain the "HANG" ad, fellas? From RawStory:
A McCain ad aired on Fox News channel with the words "HANG" in the background along with a photograph of Barack Obama has sparked outrage after being noticed by a reporter at a local Fox television affiliate.

The words "HIGHER TAXES" are transposed on an image of Obama standing in front of a crowd. The background is blurred at the edges so that the words from Obama's signature theme -- change -- has been cut down to the word "HANG." The shot appears for about a second. ...

... Asked about the image, the McCain camp said, "We're not even validating such an outrageous and preposterous claim with a comment."

Strikingly, the image of Obama with the word hang in the background is blurred far more heavily on the side where the C would have been, suggesting the decision was intentional. The company that produced the ad refused to comment when the local Fox affiliate inquired.


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posted by JReid @ 9:47 PM  
McCain blinks
MSNBC just reported that John McCain will not leak his veep pick tonight after all... I guess they saw the overhead tracking cam ...


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posted by JReid @ 9:44 PM  
Wanted: Seat fillers for McCain rally in Dayton
In an interview with Lil' Rus (Luke Russert,) on MSNBC, Will.I.Am just battered the McCain team for their jealousy over Barack Obama's ability to pull a 75,000 strong crowd in Denver (and around the country), and he pointed out the obvious fact that "celebrity isn't a bad word." This after his and John Legend's terrific performance reprising the "Yes We Can" Youtube video. (MSNBC previews the speech here.)

Meanwhile, over in Dayton, John McCain is having a wee bit of trouble filling the 10,000 seats for his veep launch tomorrow in Ohio. From The Left:
John “9 Homes” McCain is having trouble filling a tiny 10,000 seat arena at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Fairborn, OH (a Dayton suburb.)

The Old Coot and Cindy Lou will appear at the event, dubbed the “Road to the Convention Rally.” Doors open at 9 a.m. and the event begins at 11AM. Tickets are being given away at county GOP offices in southwest Ohio and in Indiana and Kentucky.

And the Dayton Daily News says tickets are still available. As one of Tae Goddard's commenters helpfully suggests, maybe he should change his name to Barack Obama...


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posted by JReid @ 7:44 PM  
McCain to Obama: Congratulations, terrorist sympathiizing country hater!
The McCain plan pulls a switcheroo and issues a response ad that turns out to be the first positive McCain ad of the campaign, and probably the last, congratulating Obama on his achievement.

Smart politics, Rovers, although given the ads that have come before and that are sure to follow, it's tough not to read the ad cynically. By the way, the key line in the spot is "tomorrow we get back to the campaign." Meaning that, today it's all nicey-nicey, tomorrow McCain goes back to cutting Obama up.

Anyway, let's see if Bill Kristol can fake it that well tonight on Fox ... or let's not, and say we did. |

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posted by JReid @ 7:39 PM  
Shwing! Western polls favor Obama
Maybe the reason John McCain was so testy with TIME Magazine's reporters was that he'd read these polls:
An exclusive TIME/CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll reveals that Barack Obama leads John McCain by several percentage points in three crucial battleground states—Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania—while McCain tops Obama by 1% in Colorado.

Obama's widest margin is in New Mexico, where 53% of registered voters said they prefer the Democrat to 40% who favor McCain. Obama also holds a five-point advantage in Nevada (49% to 44%). Both states went narrowly to George W. Bush in the 2004 election.

In Pennsylvania, Obama leads 48% to 43, while McCain topped Obama in Colorado 47% to 46%. In all state polls, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 4%.


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posted by JReid @ 4:16 PM  
TIME discovers the real McCain
The love affair between John McCain and the suck-up press corps is hitting a rough patch. During a recent interview with TIME Magazine, Mr. POW nastily refused to define "honor," or to ask whether there's anything about his campaign he regrets...
... when TIME's James Carney and Michael Scherer were invited to the front of McCain's plane recently for an interview, they were ushered forward, past the curtain that now separates reporters from the candidate, past the sofa that was designed for his gabfests with the press and taken straight to the candidate's seat. McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:

What do you want voters to know coming out of the Republican Convention — about you, about your candidacy?
I'm prepared to be President of the United States, and I'll put my country first.

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

During another exchange, McCain uses the Keating Five scandal to once again, play the POW card:

Jumping around a bit: in your books, you've talked about what it was like to go through the Keating Five experience, and you've been quoted as saying it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Someone else quoted you as saying it was even worse than being a POW ...
That's another one of those statements made 17 or 18 years ago which was out of the context of the conversation I was having. Of course the worst, the toughest experience of my life was being imprisoned, so people can pluck phrases from 17 or 18 years ago ...

I wasn't suggesting it as a negative thing. I was just saying that ...
I'm just suggesting it was taken out of context. I understand how comments are taken out of context from time to time. But obviously, the toughest time of my life, physically and [in] every other way, would be the time that I almost died in prison camp. And I think most Americans understand that.

The reporters seem genuinely shocked at the clipped, surly attitude McCain is copping with them. I guess falling out of love is no fun at all...

Read the rest here.


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posted by JReid @ 4:06 PM  
So tacky, so desperate for attention is the McCain campaign, so needy for a constant center spot on the stage, they are dropping hints all over town, and on Drudge, that the McMansions Man will leak his veep choice this evening, to try and step on Obama's historic acceptance speech tonight. And McCain will even drop precedent by issuing a response ad to Obama's address.

(UPDATE: team Obama calls the leak talk potential "political malpractice..." and they add: "It's one more piece of evidence that the McCain campaign is a war room masquerading as a presidential campaign." Indeed...)

It strikes me that the McCain campaign is full of people who aren't even good enough Americans to acknowledge the history being made to day, and the great things it says about our country, whether individual people support Barack or not. John McCain has damaged himself so much with this juvenile, nasty campaign, that if by some miracle of voter stupidity he manages to become president, he will have so cheapened the effort, and engendered so much hatred towards him, his presidency will have no chance of uniting the country. Sadly, his campaign has also made it difficult, if not impossible for Barack to do so either.

Okay John, we'll play with you (even though you creep me out...) I still think the odds favor Mitt Romney, although given the neediness of this campaign, and their jealousy over their man's fading celebrity status, I can see them blinking, and going for the long ball: a female running mate. Kay Bailey Hutchinson kind of fits the bill, but she's not "reliably pro-life" to my knowledge, and she's from a state McCain already has (Texas.) Besides, word is they can't stand each other (join the Senate club, Kay...) The other choice would be Meg Whitman (sorry Carly, but the Viagra thing killed your shot...) who's kind of a Mitt Romney in a dress, without the governing experience. Trouble with her: she's not ready to be president by McCain's own standards. So what to do with that? Lieberman? That would be McCain's pick if he could have it his way. But he's already been RickRoved on that one.

So it's back to Romney. (Pawlenty recently had a mullet. What would be the point?)


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posted by JReid @ 3:41 PM  
August 29, 1963

Barack Obama will make his historic acceptance speech tonight against the backdrop of history: it was 45 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King publicly dreamed of a day when someone like Barack could stand at the precipice of becoming president of the United States. It's a heavy burden for Obama to bear, and he's doing it not just in front of 75,000 people at Mile High Stadium (sorry, like any true Bronco fan, I just can't call it Invesco Field...) but before the world.

Best of luck tonight, Barack.

The WaPo has advance info on the speech:

Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, is scheduled to address as many as 80,000 people in Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High football stadium and millions of television viewers starting at about 8 p.m. Mountain time (10 p.m. EST).

In the speech, which caps the four-day Democratic National Convention and opens Obama's campaign for the White House as his party's nominee, Obama will offer "a fundamentally new direction to get America back on track, both here and around the world," said David Plouffe, his campaign manager. Appearing on morning television talk shows, Plouffe said Obama would explain his plans for dealing with the economy, health care and education, as well as international challenges such as threats to the United States and strained relations with other countries.

Politico on the significance for African-Americans (by the way, my pal Sonja ran into Al Sharpton at the Pepsi Center yesterday. Needless to say, he has no role this year...)

In 1961, Robert F. Kennedy predicted that the country could elect a black president in the next 40 years. That’s how fast race relations were changing in America, said the attorney general at the time.

Now, 47 years later, Barack Obama stands at the precipice of fulfilling Kennedy’s forecast. On Thursday, he’ll become the first minority to win the presidential nomination, achieving what many thought was impossible given our national obsession with race.

To call this a historic moment feels like understatement. Obama’s nomination represents a sea change, a psychological shift in a country that still struggles with the painful and complicated legacy of slavery.

Fifty-five years ago, whites and blacks learned in separate schools, ate at separate lunch counters and sat in different parts of the bus. Forty-one years ago, Massachusetts elected the first black man to the Senate. Just 18 years ago, Virginia welcomed the first black governor.

And on Thursday, a black man will step up to the podium and accept the nomination of a party that only 44 years ago debated whether to seat black delegates from Mississippi at the 1964 convention.

... and the reactions of black officials:

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

“A few days ago, I was speaking to a group, and one young lady asked me, ‘What do you think Dr. King would say about Barack Obama’s nomination?’ I said, ‘Young lady, I don’t know, but I have a feeling he would look down and say, ‘Hallelujah.’”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)

“I think my most emotional moment came the night of South Dakota and Montana. ... I was thinking about all those times I was telling people, ‘Be what you want to be when you grow up’ and, hell, I didn’t believe it. ... It’s a big moment and, with these sorts of things, you usually don’t expect to see the day.”

Meanwhile, damn the TV pundits, Biden's getting great reviews for his speech yesterday (including from me.) His everyman thing is real, and people are talking.


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posted by JReid @ 12:53 PM  
Edited to death?
Critics of the relatively soft touch of the Democratic convention (at least until tonight) have been asking, "where's the red meat?" As I posited to my husband tonight, it could be that the Obama communications team is dampening the speeches, so as not to savage McCain. Call it the Obama influence, or a fool's errand, but that's what's going on.


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posted by JReid @ 12:46 AM  
McCain's auspicious day
Over to the other bloghouse for a look at John McCain's veepinations... (and Karl Rove's role in them...)


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posted by JReid @ 12:44 AM  
He's still got it
After about a five minute ovation, which he practically had to beg to a close, Bill Clinton put on a clinic tonight on how you break down the opposition, and lay out the issues at stake in an election. He went way off the reservation, delivering a "foreign policy" speech that was about two-thirds about the economy. But he did it damned well. Coupled with Hillary's performance yesterday, it's safe to say that the Clintons are in fine political form. Great job. (And did you peep the Kendrick Meek star turn, introducing Big Bill? I see a big job at the Clinton Foundation in somebody's future...)

Meanwhile, I disagree with the pundits who are saying that Joe Biden's less than soaring delivery of a solid speech is a problem. Biden is the regular guy in this equation. He's not supposed to deliver soaring rhetoric. He's supposed to deliver punches.

Other than that, I could have done without the excessive references to what a great guy John McCain is, from many of the speakers last night and tonight (including both Clintons, Biden and John Kerry, who otherwise delivered the reddest meat of the night, complete with calling Republican attacks "desperate" and "pathetic." He also introduced Barack's white uncle. Take it in, Pat Buchanan, it's not too late to get on board...) Apparently, the Obama communications team still believes they can win this election without going nuclear on John McCain. They shouldn't expect the same courtesy next week, when the Republicans hold their Wide Stance convention in Minneapolis.

Also, I get the feeling that Barack Obama will bring change... the talking points were in full effect.

Best line of the night: "Wrap him up!" Keith Olbermann chasing GOP hack Mike Murphy off the panel. (Par for the snipy course, MSNBC? Or Olbermann's revenge...)

Most inspiring moment: the roll call that made Obama the nominee by acclamation earlier in the evening. My pal Sonja was in the convention hall tonight. I await the pics in my camera phone...



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posted by JReid @ 12:11 AM  
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Great at the end
I was troubled by the first several minutes of Hillary's speech, but the second half was great. She was uplifting, uptempo, and forceful, and at long last, she made the central point: that if her supporters were in this for more than just her, they should vote for Barack. She also characterized John McCain and GWB well, stating that "nothing less than the fate of our country hangs in the balance." Best lines: the "keep going" riffs via Harriet Tubman. Nice. Overall, best speech performance Hillary has ever given, and in the end, she did what she needed to do.

My main caveat would be that Hillary's entire presentation tonight may do more to make her supporters -- particulalry older women -- long for her than not. Not that she should have phoned it in, but the video, the rockstar entrance, the whole thing ... it was like a mini-convention of her own. Perhaps that was the point.

I'd like to see an interview with a PUMA now. That would be interesting...


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posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
But enough about you...
So far, Hillary Clinton's speech is all about her campaign. But for a sole, tangential reference to her support for Barack, it sounds for all the world like a reprise of her campaign exit speech. WTF???


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posted by JReid @ 10:53 PM  
Bill Clinton's AA BFFs
Bill Clinton just sucked up considerable oxygen in the Pepsi Center, it seems. Just caught him on CNN walking in to take his seat for HRC's speech, warmly greeting several African-American supporters. And guess who's sitting with the prez? Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Miami's own Kendrick Meek, two of Hil's strongest supporters during the primary (along with the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Philly mayor Michael Nutter.) Kendrick traveled the country with Bill, and Jackson Lee was a frequent Hillary surrogate. Also in the FOB box: one of my former bosses, Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List, who also was in charge of America Coming Together. Bill and Kendrick and another black guy are yucking it up and apparently having a great time. Clinton even held up a "unity" sign for a hot minute before getting into a really close, close discussion with a redhead... Interesting...

UPDATE: 10:40 - They just played the Hillary tribute video, which raised her to rockstar levels. The video is so good, it's sure to make her supporters even more depressed.

UPDATE: 1045 - Chelsea, who narrated the video, just introduced her mom, to a rollicking rock track and thunderous cheers. Jeez, it's almost as if SHE is the nominee... Bill is crying. Oh my god, this is so weird, I almost feel like I'm watching a convention in the Twilight Zone...

UPDATE 10:46 - one minute of sollid cheers and counting...

UPDATE (final, August 28) - the guy sitting between Meek and Big Bill was Stephanie Tubbs Jones' son.


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posted by JReid @ 10:22 PM  
The most important news you haven't heard today
Amid all the sturm und drang about the Clintons and whether or not they really, really support Barack Obama (and whether or not substantial numbers of Hillary's supporters are insane...) you probably missed this interesting piece of news. I know I did:

Gen. David Petraeus, top commander of coalition military forces in Iraq, recently sat down with Newsweek to do a “valedictory” interview before he takes up his new post as CENTCOM commander next month.

Newsweek reported that while Petraeus recognized that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly diminished, he refused to say the terror group had been “defeated.” Moreover, Petraeus acknowledged that the recent successes in Iraq may have been possible without the surge:

Petraeus is careful not to credit all the progress to the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The sea change came last year from a series of movements now known as the Awakening. […] So would the Sunni Awakening have succeeded without the surge? Possibly, he concedes.

That's going to be news to John McCain. I sure hope he doesn't start calling the general a traitor. He does that sort of thing, you know...

Petraeus' uncharacteristic demonstration of a hint of independence would be huge news, were it not for the fact that his actual boss -- President Bush, as to opposed to the guy who THINKS he's president ... and who ownes seven houses, some of them probably white -- has been taking increasing steps to inch slowly out of Iraq on his way out the door.


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posted by JReid @ 8:24 PM  
Hillary's up to bat tonight
Let the amateur psychology begin...


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posted by JReid @ 8:03 PM  
Team Obama calls for criminal probe of Ayers ad
The Obama campaign fights back against the lowest smear ad yet, from an "independent" organization tooooootally unrelated to the McCain campaign ... totally... demanding a criminal probe of the group, which is ostensibly a 501(C)4, and thus not legally allowed to call for the election or defeat of federal candidates. They've also issued a response ad.


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posted by JReid @ 11:53 AM  
Marlon in Denver
Follow the action in Denver with my friend Marlon Hill, a key Barack supporter in Miami.


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posted by JReid @ 11:51 AM  
Monday, August 25, 2008
Miss America
Michelle Obama's speech at the convention was lovely, as was she. Is it just me, or does Michelle look kind of like a Miss America contestant? Maybe it's the hair... or maybe its the steeped in the goodness of America lyricism of the speech. (Hey, even Pat Buchanan liked it, and he and other MSNBCers are giving Malia and Sasha rave reviews for their precocious moments ... which as a parent myself, made me hold my breath in horror... other parents will know what I mean.) For black America, and black women, this was a "Huxtable" moment -- or the first time a black woman did win Miss America. Michelle Obama is walking through a milestone, and it's a beautiful thing.

And it sure was fun watching the Fox News anchors, including the nebbishy Bil Kristol and the utterly empty Chris Wallace, find things to pan all the way through the convention. The only thing Wallace found praiseworthy was Michelle's green dress. I await next week's love-fest in Minneapolis. The dramatic shift in coverage should give everybody at Fox whiplash...

More on the speech from the WaPo.

From the TV... Wallace, Chuck Todd and David Gergen said the night was largely wasted because there were no kitchen table promises. Some on the left, apparently included James Carville, are unhappy that nobody went after John McCain. Many Dems are expecting red meat, and starting tomorrow, I suspect they will be fed...


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posted by JReid @ 11:30 PM  
Threat against Obama reported in Denver
Meanwhile, there was reportedly an incident in Denver involving white supremacists driving erratically, with guns and meth in the car, and possible threats against Barack.

After pulling over two men for allegedly driving erratically early Sunday morning, Aurora Police said they discovered two rifles, a bulletproof vest and the drug methamphetamine in the car. When authorities questioned the men about the findings, they pointed to another member of their alleged drug ring whom they say made a threat against Obama.

A witness interviewed in the case said one of suspects allegedly said the guns were to be used to kill the Illinois senator, but authorities do not believe the alleged threat put Obama in immediate danger.

When police when to a hotel to question the third individual, officers said he jumped from a window on one of the upper floors of the building in an attempt to evade police. Medical personnel have treated him for a broken ankle.

Authorities told ABC News the men had tattoos of white supremacist images.

One of the men has been identified as Tharin Robert Gartrell, but police have not named the other two men.

More on the threat from the CBS affiliate in Denver:
CBS4 has now learned at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver. All are being held on either drug or weapons charges.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass reported one of the suspects told authorities they were "going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a ... rifle … sighted at 750 yards."

Law enforcement sources tell Maass that one of the suspects "was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative."

The story began emerging Sunday morning when Aurora police arrested 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell. He was driving a rented pickup truck in an erratic manner according to sources.

Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and methamphetamine. One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas.

Subsequently authorities went to the Cherry Creek Hotel to contact an associate of Gartrell's. But that man, who was wanted on numerous warrants, jumped out of a sixth floor hotel window. Law enforcement sources say the man broke an ankle in the fall and was captured moments later. Sources say he was wearing a ring with a swastika, and is thought to have ties to white supremacist organizations.

A third man -- an associate of Gartrell and the hotel jumper was also arrested. He told authorities that the two men "planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech."

That man, along with a woman, are also under arrest.
Jeez, I grew up near Aurora and not far from Cherry Creek. Spooky...


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posted by JReid @ 11:27 PM  
Kennedy being feted now

Senator Edward Kennedy, the only Kennedy brother to experience old age, is receiving his tribute at the Dem convention, in a film by the great Kevin Burns. I can't imagine anything more moving, or more deserved. Hopefully the video will be online soon.

UPDATE: I'm almost afraid to put up the AP link, for fear it's full of Fournier's GOP talking points. Click if you dare.


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posted by JReid @ 9:25 PM  
The Turncoat Diaries: Debra Bartoshevich
So who is Debra, the former Hillary supporter starring in John McCain's new ad, saying "it's okay!" and she's now voting for him?

For starters, Debra is he real first name; full name, Debra Bartoshevich. And she started eating up her 15 minutes well before now:
Local Democratic delegate: I'm voting for McCain
Journal Times
Sunday, June 15, 2008 10:52 PM CDT

A local Democratic delegate is standing by her announcement that she will vote for Sen. John McCain in November.

Deb Bartoshevich of Waterford, Racine County’s lone Clinton delegate to the national convention, said she was surprised by the huge reaction given to her comment, which was reported on a newspaper Web site Friday.

“I just didn’t expect it to be like this,” Bartoshevich said. “It’s been nonstop.”

A dramatic response came from the Wisconsin Democratic Party on Friday night, when state party members voted at their convention to challenge her status as a delegate to the Denver convention in late August, when Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is expected to get the party’s presidential nomination.

The resolution said Bartoshevich violated a Democratic National Committee rule requiring delegates to support the party’s nominee and not any other candidate, and asked the national party’s credentials committee to refuse to seat her at the convention.

If the move is approved, Democratic aides said she would be replaced by an alternate who already had been elected.

“It’s extremely important that we send a message that Democrats in the state of Wisconsin will never support somebody who supports John McCain for president,” state party chairman Joe Wineke said to cheers among the hundreds of party activists.

Bartoshevich, who was unable to attend the state convention, read that party members had voted to strip her of her status. She has been contacted by attorneys specializing in political law looking into whether that could happen, she said.

“Understandably, there are people that are upset with me,” Bartoshevich said. “I had thought that Hillary was the better candidate, but everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”

Bartoshevich said she continues to support Clinton, who she will vote for at the convention.
By the end of July, Debra was taking advantage of her new public profile to snag a meeting with McCain:

RACINE, Wis. (AP) — Republican John McCain had coffee Thursday with a former Wisconsin Democratic Party delegate who wanted to vote for him at her party's national convention instead of Barack Obama.

McCain met Debra Bartoshevich, her 16-year-old daughter and Bartoshevich's father at a Racine coffee shop before heading to the city's civic center where about 1,000 people attended a town hall meeting. Bartoshevich and her family rode to the meeting on McCain's bus and were introduced by the candidate.

McCain thanked Bartoshevich for her support, calling her a "dye-in-the-wool Democrat."

"And perhaps your reward will be in heaven, but not here on earth but I'd like to thank you," he joked.

Bartoshevich, an emergency room nurse, had pledged to support Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. But after Clinton lost the Democratic Party primary to Obama, Bartoshevich said she intended to vote for McCain instead.

The state Democratic Party dumped her as a delegate last week.

Now, she's come full circle, with her very own TV spot. And on Sunday, Debra kicked her status up another notch, hob-nobbing with people on McCain's veep short-list:

DENVER, Aug. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- RNC Victory Chairman Carly
, Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Penny (MN-01), Wisconsin Hillary
Clinton delegate Debra Bartoshevich, and Women for Fair Politics organizer
Cynthia Ruccia will host a "Citizens for McCain" press conference tomorrow
during the Democratic National Convention to discuss why many Independent
and Democratic voters are supporting John McCain's positive vision for America.

...Not that she's a social climber or anything...


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posted by JReid @ 3:17 PM  
Mining the turncoats
You knew this was coming, and it's one of the reasons so many people hated the scorched earth campaign Hillary waged during the primaries:

The question is, will Hillary Clinton supporters be the Naderites of 2008? And will they soon be hated by Democrats as much as Joe Lieberman?

UPDATE: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, herself a Hillary die-hard, responds:
“This ad does not reflect the sentiment of the thousands of former Clinton supporters from my Congressional District who have embraced Barack Obama’s message of uniting Americans and getting the country back on track.

“Cheap political stunts like this ad show that John McCain is offering more of the same: four more years of failed Bush policies and a record of supporting George Bush 95% of the time and losing track of how many houses he owns.

“Hillary Clinton supporters are embracing Barack Obama and Joe Biden because they know they will bring a tax code that gives real relief to working families, a serious plan to tackle the energy crisis and help you cope with rising prices, and an end to the kind of political game too often on display at McCain headquarters.

“The Democrats I talk to are supporting Barack Obama and Joe Biden because they’ll end the political games of Washington and provide real tax relief for working families, address the energy crisis and restore America’s respect abroad.”

More turncoatery here, and here (et tu, Rodham...?)


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posted by JReid @ 12:28 PM  
Griff Jenkins in the sauce
A Fox News reporter gets the business in Denver:


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posted by JReid @ 12:26 PM  
Convention live-blogging by FPC
The Florida Progressive Bloggers Coalition has continual updates from Denver. It seems the Florida delegation has seats right up front, to go along with their shiny new full voting rights...

Meanwhile, Fla Politics has today's sunshiny must-reads.

More good stuff at TPM Election Central, and of course, at Politico.


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posted by JReid @ 11:53 AM  
Defede out, too ... Radio One in the crapper
If you still don't believe that radio is on the ropes, with syndication sucking the wind out of local content, and bad management killing what should be solid niche radio companies, peep these two headlines (written by me, by the way, don't blame the media outlets...)

Headline number one:

Jim Defede dealt same fate as his former producer (only he gets requests a parachute)

Just days after we learned that former "Jim Defede Show" producer Nicole Sandler was out as the morning show bench warmer at Miami's 940 WINZ (Sandler, who is not, to my knowledge, a talk radio host, inherited the mic after P.D. Ken Charles bumped Defede last year,) and Don Imus was IN (listened to him this morning. He's still in rare form...) her former boss is given heave-ho number two, this time by struggling -- and I mean STRUGGLING, radio outfit 850 AM, owned by the fiscally challenged James Crystal Radio Group. AllAccess reporteth:
JAMES CRYSTAL RADIO Talk WFTL-A/FORT LAUDERDALE-WEST PALM BEACH afternoon host JIM DEFEDE has disappeared from the station's website and appears to have exited the station.

DEFEDE, a former columnist for the MIAMI HERALD who continues as a commentator for CBS O&O WFOR-TV (CBS 4)/MIAMI, joined WFTL for 4-7p weekdays in 2007 after being let go at CLEAR CHANNEL Talk WINZ-A/MIAMI; his bio has been erased from the WFTL website and the station's programming lineup dhows 4-7p as "To Be Announced."

In an e-mail to blog RANDOM PIXELS, DEFEDE said that "Unfortunately I never meshed with the rest of the station so rather than continue working there, I asked them to buy me out of the remaining 14 months of my contract. We were able to reach a deal this week and my time at WFTL is now over. Leaving WFTL will free me up to do even more with CBS4 News. I wish the folks at WFTL all the best."
Fourteen months pay??? I've really got to get an agent...

***UPDATE: A source close to the Defede situation stresses that when it comes to parachutes, asking and receiving are two very different things, and only confirmable once you pull the rip cord, seen? ... Developing...

Headline number two!

Radio One's balance sheet sucks ... but it isn't the only one

The real AllAccess headline is about Spanish Broadcasting System become the third radio group to receive a warning from NASDAQ that they could soon be de-listed, because their stock has fallen below a buck. Well ... hellooooo, Mr. Schadenfreude:
RADIO ONE received the same notice. The LANHAM, MD-based media company has also not maintained a minimum market value of publicly held shares as required for continued inclusion by NASDAQ. RADIO ONE has not traded above $1 per share recently, and closed on THURSDAY (8/14) 7 cents below a dollar, at 93 cents a share.
You do realize that Radio One had, and fired, Steve Harvey from their L.A. station just before he blew up nationwide (then they sold the LA station at a major loss...) they turned down the HIT Michael Baisden Show ... and they scrapped their national black talk radio network just two months before Barack Obama, the first African-American major party nominee, won the Iowa caucuses ... right? (ahem...) Oh, and the board recently voted to give owner Kathy Hughes a raise...

You've got to love radio!


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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Surprise, surprise...
Bill Kristol endorses his fellow neocon traveler, Joe Lieberman, for McCain's v.p.


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posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Sunday, August 24, 2008
You knew this was coming...

It's not unexpected, but I still have yet to see a single ad telling voters why they should vote FOR John McCain...


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posted by JReid @ 12:41 PM  
This year's swing states: Colorado, Ohio and Florida
Looking at the electoral map, which is always less satisfying, but more realistic, than looking at national polls, and eliminating the political white whales (state each party always says they can win, but probably can't,) I get down to three truly "swing" states: Florida, Colorado and Ohio.


Because based on the following assumptions, Barack Obama must win one of these three in order to be the next president.


1. New Jersey is NOT a swing state, it's a GOP "white whale." Ignore what Republicans say about the New York neighbor. It's going Democrat, until some cosmic event changes the demographics and drives all those New York suburb seekers elsewhere.

2. Pennsylvania will go Dem. Another white whale. Philly is just too large, and now with Scranton boy Joe Biden on the ticket (his nickname is the "third Senator from Pennsylvania,) this state is going Democrat, too.

3. Iowa is lost to the GOP. Obama's... well ... pandering ... on the ethanol issue combined with his super-organization there, which helped him defeat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, along with the consistent polling in his favor, means Iowa will very likely go blue.

4. Michigan is yet another "white whale." Kwame Kilpatrick will probably be driven out of office by November, easing racial tensions in Detroit. And at the end of the day, the huge black population in that state, combined with scads of college aged residents, and the economic issues (trade being issue number one, and McCain being on the wrong side of it,) means Michigan will go blue, even if Mitt Romney is on the McCain ticket.

5. New Hampshire will likely go blue. New Hampshire has been a blue state as far as the presidential race is concerned, since 1992, with 2000 being the anomoly (that year, John McCain excited enough Republican-leaning independents during the primary that he probably helped Bush in the general.) I don't see this state going back to its GOP trend. Not given what's gone on in Washington over the last eight years.

6. Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia are probably Democratic "white whales." Although I wouldn't count out the Obama ground game, these states are going to be tough to win. The South always is. This is the assumption I'm probably the least confident in, since there is a chance the Obama operation could put at least one of these states in his column. But if he can't, we're back to my big three.

7. Nevada is going to be tough. Yes, it's a heavy union state, but Nevada is also the neighbor of Arizona, which McCain should be able to win. These states share a media market, and Dems will have to pull off a miracle to win.

8. New Mexico will go blue. It was almost by accident (or cheating) that GWB won New Mexico last time, and he did so by just over 5,000 votes. This state is so winnable that if Obama can't grab it, he should punch Bill Richardson in the face.

If all of those assumptions hold, and full disclosure, I hope that some of them don't, namely 6 and 7,) then Barack Obama has three solid scenarios to get over 270: he must win either Colorado, or grab one of the tried and true decider states, Florida or Ohio. If he loses the other two and wins one, he wins. Applying all of my assumptions, and putting the remaining states in their perspective columns, here's my math:

With Florida (but without CO and OH):
Obama - 291
McCain - 247

With Ohio (but without CO and FL):
Obama - 284
McCain - 254

With Colorado (but without OH and FL)
Obama - 273
McCain - 265

I tend to have low confidence in Florida, but the 2000 race showed that there are enough votes here to elect a Democrat. Ditto Ohio, which Kerry lost by only 100,000 or so votes (and Obama's ground team should be able to scare up at least that many.) And as for Colorado, it should be winnable for Barack, as it has been trending blue in recent cycles (the legislature and a brand new Senator included.)

I guess I'm in a pessimistic mood today, but that's what I see. Let's see if the convention changes the game at all.

Play the electoral math game yourself at, or head over to for more state by state analysis.

By the way, 270towin gives Democrats 281 winning combinations and a 77 percent chance of winning the White House versus 228 winning combinations and a 20 percent chance of our being stuck with a President McCain. I pray they're correct. 270 puts Missouri in the toss-up category, which it probably should be since Dems just won a longshot Senate race there. In fact, any state where Democrats won statewide in 2006 is being counted as a toss-up, which is why Virginia (which is as proximal to Democratic Washington and Maryland as New Jersey is to New York) is also considered "in play." The question for Democrats is whether white voters pour out for McCain in the end, spooked by the relentless negative ads from the McCain side.

We shall see...

Oh, and by the way, if Barack loses all three of my swing states but wins Nevada? We've got ourselves a 269-269 tie. How's that for heartburn?


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posted by JReid @ 11:40 AM  
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Things that aren't going to happen: Collin Powell as McCain v.p.
How desperate for attention is the McCain campaign? So desperate, they're floating their own black guy (take that, liberal media...! Can somebody get Fournier on the line...? We've got fresh talking points for him...)
(Politico) Retired Gen. Colin Powell is among the potential running mates who have been considered by John McCain, campaign advisers told Politico.

Powell was among the possible vice presidential choices the Arizona Republican senator was thinking of when he said he would not rule out a supporter of abortion rights, a key adviser said.

Campaign officials say McCain has told them not to discuss the process.

Powell, who was President Bush's first secretary of state, would add celebrity to the ticket, as well as reinforce McCain's strength as a potential commander in chief, which his campaign considers to be one of his chief assets.
Nice of you to play along, Politico's Mike Allen, but you've got to know that this is a non-starter. Let me count the ways:

1. Colin Powell is from the Bush administration. You remember the Bush administration, right? The one that John McCain is trying his damnedest to run away from?

2. Colin Powell is pro-choice. We've seen this movie before. It's called "Rush Limbaugh and the Christian Taliban Shoot Down Ridge and Lieberman." The idea of nominating Powell, given the rabidness of the right on the abortion issue, is so preposterous, it makes me question the sanity of the McCain campaign if they are indeed floating this trial balloon. (Powell is also pro-affirmative action. See above, and insert "affirmative action" everywhere I typed "abortion.")

3. It's not even clear that Colin Powell supports John McCain. In fact, many in Washington believe he will either remain neutral, or endorse Barack Obama.

4. Collin Powell has lost his religion on Iraq. Powell, who has the dubious distinction in history of having sold the bogus Bush administration intel on Iraq to the world, has called his U.N. testimony "a lasting blot on his record." You really think McCain wants clips of either Powell's phony-baloney testimony, or his retractions and regrets aired repeatedly between now and November? I think not. And with Joe Lieberman and Randy Scheunemann hanging around, there is clearly no room for dissenters on the Neocon Express. Besides, it's now a known fact that Powell hates the neocons who dragged his reputation into the ditch to get their Iraq war. Why would he even think about serving with the same crowd again?

This strikes me as pure media manipulation, which Allen sadly fell for. Collin Powell will no more be on McCain's short list than Phil Gramm. Besides, McCain doesn't need to double down on the Iraq war. He's running on an all-war, all the time platform as it is. Powell would be surperfluous, not to mention unacceptable to the GOP Taliban, not to mention very likely not interested.


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posted by JReid @ 11:39 PM  
The Associated Press: the Fox News of wire services?
The Washington Monthly has the latest on the adventures of would-be McCain campaign staffer Ron Fournier, who happens to be the Washington Bureau chief for the Associated Press...
The latest piece from Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief and the man responsible for directing the wire service's coverage of the presidential campaign, on Joe Biden joining the Democratic ticket, is drawing a fair amount of attention this morning. More importantly, McCain campaign staffers are pushing it fairly aggressively to other reporters, in large part because it mirrors the Republican line with minimal variation.

By choosing Biden, Fournier argues, Barack Obama is showing a "lack of confidence," and is siding with "the status quo."

There are two ways to consider Fournier's piece: substantively and in the broader context.

First, on the substance, Fournier's analysis seems a little lazy. By his logic, any potential running mate shows a "lack of confidence" -- picking Hillary would mean Obama lacked confidence in his ability to win over women voters; picking Bayh would mean Obama lacked confidence in his ability to win over independents and conservative Dems; picking Webb would mean Obama lacked confidence in his ability to win over voters concerned about national security; picking Kaine would mean Obama lacked confidence in his ability to win over voters in the South; etc. For that matter, "the status quo" in Washington has been conservative Republican rule. Biden may be an old pro and a DC insider, but he's anything but "the status quo."

Second, in context, Fournier's objectivity covering the presidential race continues to look shaky. We are, after all, talking about a journalist who, as recently as last year, considered working for the McCain campaign.

Fournier is also a buddy of Karl Rove, and exchanged emails with him recently, telling him to "keep up the fight..." he's also the guy who handed Mac a box of donuts during a media briefing earlier this year (with sprinkles.) Media Matters' Eric Boehlert has documented the AP's "Fournier problem," but so far, nothing has been done about it. Quite the contrary, Fournier has filled the Washington bureau with fellow travelers.

The Clintons made a lot of hay during the campaign about challenging the objectivity of news outlets, mostly to negative effect, for them. But in this case, Democrats have a real case to make that the most ubiquitous institution in news, the AP, has developed a strong right-wing/Republican bias in the bureau that matters most: Washington. How else do you explain a Fournier dispatch like this:

A dispatch Fournier filed in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina began: “The Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes. The economy is booming. Anybody who leaks a CIA agent's identity will be fired. Add another piece of White House rhetoric that doesn't match the public's view of reality: Help is on the way, Gulf Coast.”

Somebody call Howard Dean. Or the Obama campaign. There's something rotten at the AP and it's time someone in a position to do so stepped up and said something about it.

More blog reaction here.

Join Moveon's email campaign here. Or here's the shorthand:

Can you email AP reporter Ron Fournier and CC his boss, Managing Editor Mike Oreskes? Tell them that the public's faith in the 160-year-old AP will be gone if Ron Fournier is allowed to continue his slanted articles against Democrats and for McCain.

Here are their emails:

Michael Oreskes, AP Managing Editor,
Ron Fournier, AP reporter and Washington D.C. Bureau Chief,

After you email them, please help us track our progress by reporting your email here:


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posted by JReid @ 11:07 PM  
Republicans behaving unhelpfully
I don't care what any Democrat says. I still love Chuck Hagel.

He's not speaking at the Democratic convention and he hasn't (yet) endorsed, but Chuck Hagel continues to provide great fodder for Dems.

His paper statement on the Biden pick:

"Joe Biden is the right partner for Barack Obama. His many years of distinguished service to America, his seasoned judgment and his vast experience in foreign policy and national security will match up well with the unique challenges of the 21st Century. An Obama-Biden ticket is a very impressive and strong team. Biden’s selection is good news for Obama and America."
You GO, Hagel. I love Biden and have since 1988, but I would have been thrilled to see Hagel as the veep, as well. Moving on: let's hear what Indiana Republican Dick Lugar has to say:
"I congratulate Senator Barack Obama on his selection of my friend, Senator Joe Biden, to be his vice-presidential running mate. I have enjoyed for many years the opportunity to work with Joe Biden to bring strong bipartisan support to United States foreign policy."
Okay, let's go for a third: Arlen Specter? You're up:
Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, a Republican who serves on the Judiciary Committee with Biden and often rides Amtrak with him to Washington, also offered praise. "No one on the Democratic side knows more about foreign policy than Sen. Biden," Specter said. "He's been an articulate spokesman on the subject. He also knows about domestic policy. He's been a leader on crime control."

I wonder if they get to keep their GOP mugs...


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posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
The trouble with context
The McCain campaign rushed out an online attack ad, hoping to capitalize on a comment Joe Biden made during the primaries about Barack Obama not being ready to be president. Also included in the spot was a quote wherein Biden says that he would be happy to run "with" John McCain, and that the country would be better off for it. Well ... here's the problem... (courtesy of Insomnia):
The full quote is from The Daily Show, August 2, 2005:


John Stewart: “You may end up going against a Senate
collegue, Perhaps McCain, perhaps Frist…”

Joe Biden: “Well, John McCain is a personal friend, a
great friend, and I would be honored to run with or
against John McCain, because I think the country would
be better off, it would be well off no matter who.”

John Stewart: “Did I hear you say ‘with’?”

Joe Biden: “You know, um, John McCain and I think

John Stewart: “Don’t become cottage cheese my friend,
say it!”

Joe Biden: “Yes, I hope John… I wanted John to run
with John Kerry the last time out, and I asked him to
do it.”
So the McCain camp is passing around a video that deals with McCain's flirtation with becoming a Democrat. Nice. Someone tell Rush Limbaugh, he'll love it.

But wait, there's more. When asked about his flirtation with being John Kerry's running mate by NYT reporter Elizabeth Bumiller, McCain got really hot under the collar:

Maybe that should go into the Obama response video, too... (and why ARE you so angry, John?)

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posted by JReid @ 1:27 PM  
Why the media 'vetting' may turn off middle America, and help Obama-Biden
The ticket: so fresh and so clean

The media has already begun searching for bad news in the Obama Biden pick. And what many are settling on are his gaffes, joking about Indian-Americans owning 7-11s and Obama being "articulate."

Well maybe we should take a poll. How many Americans have made a joke about Indians in the 7-11? Probably more than a few. Probably a hell of a lot more, and not just white people. If that and the fact that he talks too much is the best the media can do to try and take down Joe Biden as Obama's v.p., then the MSM is going to turn off a lot of middle America (not to mention Matt Groening)...

Did I mention that Obama and Biden are making their debut in Springfield...?

Meanwhile, sure, the "articulate, bright and clean" comment was dumb, but again, being lauded as "articulate" is something that anyone who is black and educated in America has heard over and over again from white people who genuinely believe they're giving us a compliment ("my goodness, you're soooo articulate!") So why would white Amerca suddenly turn on Biden for saying it? And watching Rush "little black man child" Limbaugh and Hannity attack Biden as racist is going to be as fun as anything I've experienced.

And they're going to have a tough time taking down Biden, who is one of Washington's most experienced and respected hands, and a guy with one hell of a personal story, including the tragedy of losing his first wife and infant daughter:
In 1966, while in law school, Biden married Neilia Hunter. They had three children, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi.

His wife and infant daughter died in a car accident shortly after he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. His two young sons, Beau and Hunter, were seriously injured in the accident, but both eventually made full recoveries. Biden was sworn into office from their bedside. Persuaded not to resign in order to care for them, Biden began the practice of commuting an hour and a half each day on the train from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, DC, which he continues to do.

In 1977, Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs. They have one daughter, Ashley, and are members of the Roman Catholic Church. In February 1988, Biden was hospitalized for two brain aneurysms which kept him from the Senate for seven months.

Biden's elder son, Beau, was a partner in the Wilmington law firm of Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick, LLC and was elected Attorney General of Delaware in 2006. He is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, where he serves in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. He is set to be deployed to Iraq in October. Biden's younger son, Hunter, works as a lawyer in Washington, DC, serves on the board of directors of Amtrak, and previously worked in the Commerce Department.

Since 1991, Biden has also served as an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law, where he teaches a seminar on constitutional law.
Needless to say, I like the Biden pick. And here's my choice for the campaign's new theme song.


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posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
It's 3 a.m. ...
Whoever the "high ranking Democrat" who leaked the Biden veep news to the Associated Press is, they had better keep their identity deep, deep under cover. They have got to be the most hated person in Obama world. A few more hours and Team Obama could have pulled off the announcement coup of the century, simultaneously texting millions of supporters and possibly even having Chuck Todd find out on the air at the same time as their volunteers. Instead, the leaker ensured that the old media got the scoop first, and the Obama camp had to rush the announcement, sending out a text message that I got at 3:32 a.m. It read:
"Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3 pm ET on Spread the word!"
The good news for the Obama campaign is that they did keep the media talking about something other than McCain's "celebrity surge" for a solid week, and they kept the news from leaking longer than anyone thought possible. In retrospect, it might have been better to drop the news on Friday, to take full advantage of the news cycle, and to not push their luck on leaks, but there you go. The millions of new email addresses and cell phone numbers they collected, which will be hella useful at Get Out The Vote time, were well worth the leak.


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posted by JReid @ 12:27 PM  
Leaking news: It's Obama-Biden
That's the ticket: Obama reportedly taps Joe Biden as veep

A Democratic official is leaking all over the Obama campaign's carefully crafted text message announcement. Apparently, I and lots of other prognosticators were correct -- Joe Biden is the pick -- unless we've all been Rick-rolled...

The McCain camp's response suggests the theme of their coming attacks:
There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama's lack of experience than Joe Biden. Biden has denounced Barack Obama's poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing -- that Barack Obama is not ready to be President."
-- McCain spokesman Ben Porritt
Yeah, good luck with that. But it does suggest that Team McCain has no clear line of sight on Biden himself. He is a very respected figure, whom it would be hard even for a complete traitorous hack like Joe Lieberman to attack.

Overall: I'm thrilled with the pick. Biden was my secret favorite of all the candidates because he's knowledgeable, direct, down-to-earth and funny. Had Barack not been in the race, he was my second choice (Hillary third.) Biden was by far the best choice for Obama, and he'll fit right into the attack role, though he has had the odd bad performance...

BTW, two of the runners up, Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sebelius, are apparently booked on the Sunday shows. Biden, I suspect will get a TV walk-around, too.

Last but not least, on to the Pubs: I'm also on the line for Romney, so hopefully the McMansion story won't put McCain off him 'cuz he's too rich...


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posted by JReid @ 2:24 AM  
Friday, August 22, 2008
Things fall apart
Could the McMansions flap scuttle John McCain's plans to name Mitt Romney, the single richest candidate to run for president this cycle, as his running mate? Would this multi-million dollar ticket look like a scene out of Oliver Twist, given that even some conservatives have noticed how tilted McCain's tax plans are toward the very wealthy ... like himself and his wife?

Already, McCain's team is having to come to grips with the fact that given their candidate's houses comment, it's going to be tough going forward, to paint the skinny kid from a single parent household whose mom was on food stamps and who went to college on student loans (McCain went on the taxpayer's dime, though he opposed the same opportunities for today's veterans...) as the elitist in the race.

Add Romney to the picture, and you get to do fun things like go back through the net worth rankings from the primaries:

Republicans (millions) Democrats (millions)
Mitt Romney - $202 - Full Review Hilary Clinton - $34.9 - Full Review
Rudolph Giuliani - $52.2 - Full Review Barrack Obama - $1.3 - Full Review
Fred Thompson - $8.1 - Full Review John Edwards - $54.7 - Full Review
John McCain - $40.4 - Full Review

... revealing that even during primary season, Barack Obama was -- and stil is -- the poor man in the race. Since then (last December,) Obama's average net worth (over 12 months) has been revised down to $799,000, versus $36.4 million for McCain (not counting his wife's $100 million inheritance, which is sealed away from him via pre-nup.) Add Romney's $200- or even $250 million fortune, and these guys aren't even playing in the same league.

Meanwhile, Byron York misses the plot.


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posted by JReid @ 10:47 PM  
The secret life of Eldon Smith
John McCain has always been funny about admitting to the wealth he married into. When he first ran for Congress, and was accused of being a carpetbagger who "venue shopped" for a state and Congressional district where his war record would get him "the prize," as Mac likes to say, he responded by obfuscating, and even taking on a fictitious name so he could spruce up his and Cindy's new half million dollar crib on the down low...

In 1986, when then-Rep. McCain was running for the Senate seat vacated by Barry Goldwater, he quietly began remodeling a $500,000 house in central Phoenix owned by his wealthy father-in-law James Hensley. The $225,000 project -- which included the construction of a 4,000-square-foot addition, swimming pool, jacuzzi, cabana and barbecue -- held political peril for McCain, who was already fighting charges that he was as an opportunistic carpertbagger.

The new house was located in Phoenix's fourth congressional district -- outside of the first district in Tempe which he represented at the time.

AP caught wind of the work at 7110 North Central Ave. shortly before the general election and dispatched a reporter to examine blueprints at the planning department. They found the permit applicants were listed as Hensley and a mysterious "Mr. Smith."

The reporter tracked down McCain's plumber, who told him he'd been told Mr. Smith's first name was "Eldon."

Eldon Smith, it turned out, was John McCain.

When confronted with the blueprints, McCain's spokeswoman didn't deny that the renovation was being done for McCain and his wife Cindy -- and suggested that Smith was Cindy's mother's maiden name. She didn't explain why Marguerite Hensley might have been listed as "Mr. Smith."

Later, McCain released a statement attributing the choice of Smith's name to his architect. Use of the alias didn't violate the law, he claimed, because it appeared only on blueprints and not on official permits.

... Alas, local planning experts didn't quite agree.

Fast forward to 2007, when the media caught wind of what would soon become clear: John McCain has a problem remembering how many houses he has ... and even what kind of car he drives...

More at DiamondJohnMcCain.


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posted by JReid @ 9:54 PM  
Can you go to hell for lying about Mother Theresa?
I may have to consult some Catholic friends on this, since I haven't been Catholic since I was like, six. At the Huffpo, Mark Nickolas explores the "evolving" story about just who promoted Cindy to bring home those two Bangladeshi orphans, a story McCain exploited so well with the, I think deliberate, help of Pastor Rick Warren last week.


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posted by JReid @ 9:43 PM  
A noun, a verb, and POW
Finally, the punditocracy has started to notice just how often John McCain plays the POW to get out of gaffes, political scrapes or all-around unpleasantness, usually of his own making. His press aide's frickin tirade about Obama living in a frickin mansion, and that John McCain is no pointy headed intellectual and besides, he spent FIVE YEARS IN THE HANOI HILTON SO SHUT UP!!!!

It's not just McCain. Sean Hannity threw down the POW gauntlet to try and excuse McCain cheating on his first wife then dumping her for Cindy as morally superior to John Edwards cheating on his wife but not dumping her for Rielle (Hannity's giant, kick-ball shaped head nearly exploded all over poor whats-his-name Colmes...)

And McCain's surrogates fling the POW card down every time their man is in a jam, (remember how they clam baked Wes Clark for stating the obvious (and how the media went along?) And the McCain camp even invoked the specter of Vietnam to stop the media from questioning why he wasn't in the "cone of silence" during Obama's portion of the Rick Warren debate.) When it was his turn at Saddleback, McCain drew for the Vietnam anecdote about half a dozen times, to the point that by the time he got to the "cross in the sand" made-up story, my eyes were all the way in the back of my head.

Now, people are finally talking.

Josh Marshall finds some of them, including Howard Fineman. The Huffpo features another.

VetVoice reminds McCain that there are many vets out there who have zero homes.

And another retired general, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard of Veterans for Obama makes it plain:

It's time for the Senator to stop cheapening the war experiences of thousands of vets and his fellow POWs, and his own as well, by stretching the boundaries of logic to make his POW status a wild-card rebuttal to all accusations or an answer to all difficult questions.

We are veterans who like John McCain, who served honorably, but and we continue to serve our country honorably by not using our military experiences as unjustifiable necessary shields or stepping stones. John McCain has faced and will continue to face many difficult questions that he does not have an answer for, and problems to which that he will provide no solutions to, in the 70 days between now and the election. When he uses his status as a veteran to deflect legitimate questions and concerns, it devalues not just his service to our country but ours as well.

So today, we ask not as Veterans for Obama, but as Veterans of America that Sen. McCain respect the service of his fellow POWs and combat veterans, and stop cheapening their service by hiding behind his own.

Awaiting the hysterical fricken overreaction from another frickin McCain press aide...


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posted by JReid @ 9:00 PM  
It's a date! ... and a timetable...
The U.S. has agreed to withdraw its combat forces from Iraq by 2011, roughly the timetable laid out by Barack Obama. The Washington Post reports:
Iraqi and U.S. officials said several difficult issues remain, including whether U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes. But the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss the agreement publicly, said key elements of a timetable for troop withdrawal once resisted by President Bush had been reached.

"We have a text," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after a day-long visit Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spent nearly three hours here discussing key undecided issues. The accord must be completed and approved by both governments before a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

The question of immunity for U.S. troops and Defense Department personnel from Iraqi legal jurisdiction -- demanded by Washington and rejected by Baghdad -- remained unresolved. Troop immunity, one U.S. official said, "is the red line for us." Officials said they were still discussing language that would make the distinction between on- and off-duty activities, with provisions allowing for some measure of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over soldiers accused of committing crimes while off-duty.

But negotiators made progress on a specific timetable outlining the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq, something Maliki is under considerable domestic political pressure to secure. In the past, Rice and other U.S. officials have spoken of an "aspirational time horizon" that would make withdrawals contingent on the continuation of improved security conditions and the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.

Officials on both sides have said they hope to split the difference, setting next year as the goal for Iraqi forces to take the lead in security operations in all 18 provinces, including Baghdad.

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have now also agreed to a conditions-based withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011, a date further in the future than the Iraqis initially wanted. The deal would leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops inside Iraq in supporting roles, such as military trainers, for an unspecified time. According to the U.S. military, there are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, most of whom are playing a combat role.
The U.S. has lost 4,137 troops in Iraq, and 573 in Afghanistan. Another 32,940 have been wounded in action. 


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posted by JReid @ 5:58 PM  
Chet Edwards doesn't get you Texas
The AP says 9-term Texas Congressman Chet Edwards, a Nancy Pelosi favorite, is on the short-short list. While that's nice for Nancy, and Edwards does chair a veterans committee, I'm not sure what he brings to the table, and he's an unknown quantity in a debate. I still am going with Biden as the pick. Said as much on the radio today, so hopefully I won't have to eat crow come Monday!

Just to be thorough, a bit more on Edwards:

Among his credentials, Edwards is chairman of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee. His district previously included Fort Hood, and the Waco Democrat is frequently pressed into service as a surrogate for the party on military issues.

Potential liabilities include Edwards vote in favor of the war in Iraq, which may not sit well with the party's liberal base. He is a low-profile member of Congress, whose selection may not give Obama's ever-tightening race against Republican John McCain the immediate boost the party is looking for.

Edwards is a native of Corpus Christi and graduate of Texas A&M University and Harvard Business School. His Central Texas congressional district includes President Bush's Crawford ranch.

Edwards has some seeming advantages: he endorsed Obama way back in February, he's a southern while male, which apparently is important to getting a Democrat into the White House, and he's a centrist (although the NRO folks point out he'd be a heartbeat away from reversing most of Obama's policies, and he voted for the war in Iraq ... then again, so did Biden...) He's also a good looking guy who would match up well with Obama, if he's not really short. I mean, he actually looks like a Chet, based on his Congressional pic. And from his official bio, more fuel for why Chet may be on fire, as it were...

As the Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Edwards is known as a national champion for America’s veterans, troops, and their families. In 2007, he authored the largest increase in veterans funding in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration, an $11.8 billion increase. American Legion National Commander Marty Conatser called Edwards’ record VA Appropriations bill, “a monumental achievement.” This year, both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized Congressman Edwards’ leadership with their national awards given to only one member of Congress. In 2007, he was awarded the Disabled American Veterans' “Going to Bat for Veterans” award for authoring the historic VA funding increases. Working with Speaker Pelosi in 2005, Congressman Edwards introduced the GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century, which dramatically improved veterans’ health care and benefits, and covered the full cost of a college education. Edwards then received the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s "Inspirational Leadership" award in 2005. In 2008, Chairman Edwards played a key role in enacting the new GI Bill of Rights into law.

Nancy, you scamp... BTW Edwards is a Baptist, which doesn't help with the Catholic gap... And I'm not sure the Democrats would want to chance losing his seat (he has a challenger) when every vote counts to keep a strong majority in the House. I'd be surprised if he's the pick, and as I said before, I remain bullish on Biden, but hey, anything can happen...


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posted by JReid @ 5:12 PM  
Guess who's coming to breakfast?
I just got it on good authority that starting Monday morning at 5 a.m., Don Imus will be the morning show on 940 WINZ... Nicole Sandler, who has been "holding down the fort" since P.D. Ken Charles ousted Jim Defede (Sandler was Defede's producer), was the promotions director at one point, maybe she goes back to that...

Personally, I didn't enjoy Nicole's show and found myself choosing sports talk instead (or silence ... or a CD...) But I hate to see anyone lose a gig.

Meanwhile, word on the street is that at least three names you definitely would know are no longer going to be on the air at NBC 6, which was sold to the Washington Post Company...

Tough times are afoot in the media biz, folks! Consolidation and syndication are the name of the game, and that's death for local radio and TV.


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posted by JReid @ 2:52 PM  
Check out the new blog: Diamond John McCain
Here you go! It's brand new, so be gentle! Anyone interested in contributing, please drop me an email.


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posted by JReid @ 1:12 AM  
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Guess what else is 'on the table'...?
The John McCain campaign chose to go bat crap crazy after the Obama campaign capitalized on El Richbo's colossal gaffe, telling a Politico reporter that he'd have to have his staff get back to him regarding how many homes McCain owns. Now, they're threatening to put "everything" on the table, from Rezko to Rev. Wright, a sure sign in politics that they fear the line of attack that McCain is the elitist in the race will work.

Tonight on the final "Verdict" (and I'm sorry the show is going, btw...) Republican talking point peddler (he's actually a nice guy, but geez... enough with the hackery, man...) Rev. Joe Watkins floated the trial balloon that not only is Rezko "on the table," Obama is "attacking John McCain's wife," because in fact it's Cindy who owns the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 homes they've got.

Really? Do you really want to go there? Because if you do, I've got questions:
  • If John McCain left his first wife for Cindy, when did they start dating? While he was still good and married to wife #1. (Somebody call Rick Warren... and the National Enquirer!)
  • If John McCain doesn't own the homes, why is that? Because Cindy is a $100 million heiress who was damned sure not gonna marry a social climbing pol without an ironclad prenup.
  • If John McCain is a social climbing pol with a super rich wife, a pre-nup, and access to so many homes he can't remember them, what else is he forgetting? That Cindy also brought to the marriage a fortuitous introduction to a Mr. Keating.
And by the way, if John McCain wants to go Rezko, let's take his Rezko and raise him a Diamond. Per Crooks and Liars back in April:
When considering John McCain’s history of unethical behavior, the list usually starts (and ends) with the Keating Five scandal in the 1980s, for which McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for having shown, at a minimum, poor judgment. In the aftermath, McCain helped improve his public image, and bury the scandal, by becoming an advocate of campaign-finance reform.

But the notion that McCain cleaned up his act may not be entirely true. Take, for example, Donald Diamond, a wealthy Arizona real estate developer and generous McCain contributor, who wanted some coastal land in California freed up by an Army base closing.

When Mr. Diamond wanted to buy land at the base, Fort Ord, Mr. McCain assigned an aide who set up a meeting at the Pentagon and later stepped in again to help speed up the sale, according to people involved and a deposition Mr. Diamond gave for a related lawsuit. When he appealed to a nearby city for the right to develop other property at the former base, Mr. Diamond submitted Mr. McCain’s endorsement as “a close personal friend.”

Writing to officials in the city, Seaside, Calif., the senator said, “You will find him as honorable and committed as I have.”

Courting local officials and potential partners, Mr. Diamond’s team promised that he could “help get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Department of the Army” because Mr. Diamond “has been very active with Senator McCain,” a partner said in a deposition.

For Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who has staked two presidential campaigns on pledges to avoid even the appearance of dispensing an official favor for a donor, Mr. Diamond is the kind of friend who can pose a test.

Ya think? The closer one looks at this, the worse it appears.

In California, the McCain aide’s assistance with the Army helped Mr. Diamond complete a purchase in 1999 that he soon turned over for a $20 million profit. And Mr. McCain’s letter of recommendation reinforced Mr. Diamond’s selling point about his McCain connections as he pursued — and won in 2005 — a potentially much more lucrative deal to develop a resort hotel and luxury housing.

In Arizona, Mr. McCain has helped Mr. Diamond with matters as small as forwarding a complaint in a regulatory skirmish over the endangered pygmy owl, and as large as introducing legislation remapping public lands. In 1991 and 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored two laws sought by Mr. Diamond that resulted in providing him millions of dollars and thousands of acres in exchange for adding some of his properties to national parks. The Arizona senator co-sponsored a third similar bill now before the Senate. […]

For the California projects, the campaign said the McCain aide arranged the introduction to an Army official for Mr. Diamond’s team as “a constituent matter.”

Other things that are now "on the table":
  • John McCain's use of former mistress/current wife Cindy's corporate jets for his campaign...
  • John McCain's rejection of an MLK holiday (you want to play Rev. Wright clips? Take two doses of that next week during the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington. Hey, John, maybe you can consult your personal wise man John Lewis for advice on a response...
You know what, bat-crap crazy McCain communication staffers? Turns out it really is fun putting things on the table. Thanks!

Oh, and welcome to the come-uppance, Diamond John. And yes, yes, I know you're a former POW, okay?



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posted by JReid @ 10:39 PM  
Look, over there! A timetable!
The U.S. and Iraqi governments are negotiating ... somebody hold John McCain down for a minute, will you? Thanks ... a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But the Guardian reports the U.S. may not be getting their way in the negotiations.
American negotiators have not yet succeeded in getting Iraqi officials to agree to keep US troops well into the next president's first term, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, confirmed yesterday.

On a surprise visit to Baghdad, Rice denied earlier reports this week that the two sides had ironed out the last disputes in a heavily contested draft agreement that is due to replace the UN mandate covering the US-led occupation.

President George Bush wants the pact to authorise a troop presence at least until 2011 so that he can trumpet it as proof of his policy's success. But the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has adopted the rise in nationalist feeling in the Iraqi parliament and among the public and is insisting on a clear timetable for withdrawal, the lifting of judicial immunity for US troops who commit abuses, and a veto on US military operations, including the arrest of Iraqis.

The pact has been downgraded into a "memorandum of understanding" to avoid the need for the US Senate to approve it. In Iraq, it has to clear several hurdles. "Once a breakthrough has really been achieved, the draft will be presented to the council of ministers", Raid Fahmi Jahid, the science and technology minister told the Guardian yesterday.

If the government approves the draft, the parliament will have the last word.

The Iraqi side has been pressing for a withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June, and for all troops to leave a year or so later. But after her talks yesterday, Rice said only "aspirational timetables" were worth having in the agreement.

The Bush administration was angered last month when Maliki gave broad support to Senator Barack Obama's pledge to pull all combat troops out of Iraq by June 2010. This undermined his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, who insisted along with the Bush administration, that withdrawals be linked to achieving various political and security goals, the so-called "conditions-based approach" as opposed to "artificial timetables".
Sorry, John.


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posted by JReid @ 9:46 PM  
Home, sweet homes
So John McCain can't remember how many frickin' homes he has. So What! So whaaaa? Wow, look at those CRIBS!

And now, for a word from our hysterical communications person:
"We're delighted to have a real estate debate with Barack Obama," said spokesman Brian Rogers, adding that the press should focus on Obama's house. "It's a frickin' mansion. He doesn't tell people that. You have a mansion you bought in a shady deal with a convicted felon."

... "That's fair game now," he said. "You are going to see more of that now that this issue has been joined. You'll see more of the Rezko matter from us."

Yeah, yeah, and you know what else??? ... We're gonna kick his ass after school. Three o'clock, black man! We're bringing the pain!!!

The McCain campaign was in full damage-control mode as the housing story took off today. Rogers tried to play down the story, saying that reports of the many McCain houses were overstated.

"The reality is they have some investment properties and stuff. It's not as if he lives in ten houses. That's just not the case," Rogers said. "The reality is they have four that actually could be considered houses they could use."

Those four include an apartment in Arlington, a ranch in Sedona, and two condos, in California and Phoenix, he said. The others include "some investment properties and things like that."

He also added: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," referring to the prisoner of war camp that McCain was in during the Vietnam War.

Rogers called the house story "by far the most personal attack" of the campaign, and said "it comes from a candidate who said he was against this kind of thing."

He predicted that the story would not "stick" with the American people.

"In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story."

Yeah but ... how many houses has he got?


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posted by JReid @ 5:35 PM  
Here comes part two of the Skank Talk Express:

The RNC has launched a website designed to attack Barack Obama for knowing Tony Rezko... Meanwhile Team Politico reports on how the McCain camp is "coordinating..."
Sen. John McCain's campaign is fighting back against questions about his house holdings by opening a website focusing on past questions about Sen. Barack Obama's dealings with controversial Chicago businesssman Tony Rezko.

The campaign was getting the site ready Thursday afternoon. McCain surrogates on television were being armed with facts about Rezko's relationship to Obama's purchase of his Chicago home in 2005.

Previewing the message the campaign will seek to drive, a McCain spokesman said: "In an attempt to make something stick, Barack Obama has re-aired his dirty laundry with convicted felon Tony Rezko that led to a highly questionable land deal. Rezko’s dirty dealings are well-documented and his relationship with Barack Obama goes back 20 years."

Meanwhile a group "not linked to McCain", but run by a former campaign staffer, goes after Obama on Bill Ayers:
A new conservative group has produced a television ad attacking Barack Obama for his relationship with former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers.

"How much do your really know about Barack Obama? What does he really believe?" asks the ad, which then cites the failed attack on the Capitol on 9/11, and links it to the Weather Underground attack on the Capitol decades earlier.

The group says it will spend $2.8 million airing the ad in Ohio and Michigan -- which would be the largest single third-party expenditure this cycle.

"Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it?" asks the narrator. "Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?"

The group, the American Issues Project, is a 501(c)4 -- which means it isn't required to disclose its donors. According to a press release set to go out shortly, it's the product of a coalition of conservative groups (Failor said his Iowans for Tax Relief is not among them). Its president is Ed Martin, a Missouri conservative. Another official, Ed Failor, Jr., is a former McCain aide in Iowa who left after the campaign's shakeup last summer.

The substance of the ad matches a recent upswing in the McCain campaign's references to Ayers. The use of 9/11 imagery links Ayers, and Obama, to the American conflict Islamic terror, which is the subject of many viral emails attacking Obama.

You knew this was coming folks. Batten down the hatches ... and get Barack a freaking 527 already! Yes, yes, there's this voter registration group, and there's America Votes, but what Obama needs, and needs now, is a bona fide attack group with no links to him. Stat.

There's so much McCain material out there to plunder, from the 4> 6 7 homes he can't remember, to his $500 shoes, to his dirty deals with Mr. Keating to his wife's pill problem... I say it's all on the table, if the other side is allowed to call Obama a crook and a terrorist.


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posted by JReid @ 4:39 PM  
You know you're rich when ... don't remember how many houses you have.

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posted by JReid @ 4:18 PM  
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Polls say the darndest things

Getting a little whiplash here, but could the Reuters/Zogby shock poll showing John McCain pulling ahead of Barack Obama by five points nationally, and pulling out to a 9-point advantage on the economy be an outlier? Maybe. MSNBC and other mainstream outlets completely ignored the poll today, perhaps because they've got their very own branded polls ... but you'd think this one would be news.

The latest MSNBC/WaPo poll shows Obama still in the lead, up 45%-42%, but half the lead he held last month. But the poll shows the opposite of the Zogby finding on the economy, despite also showing warning signs for Barack:

“Whatever momentum that Obama took into the summer, he really appears to have lost it,” says Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart. “It is not a dead heat, but it is close.”

The survey also shows that both presidential candidates face their share of challenges. For Obama, he receives the support of just one in two voters who backed Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and he trails his Republican rival on handling terrorism, the war in Iraq and international crises like the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia.

As for McCain, nearly eight in 10 voters believe that the Arizona senator would closely follow President Bush’s policies if elected, and respondents view him as the weaker candidate on the issues of the economy and health care — which rank among the public’s top concerns in the poll.

Back to the Zogby poll: David Moore at gives it a good working over:

All pollsters, it seems, eventually find themselves with what Andy Kohut once referred to as "loopy" results. His comment was about the Gallup polls in the 2000 election, though in September 2004, Pew experienced such results itself, and of course several polls this campaign season have produced inexplicable or "wrong" numbers, as indicated by the subsequent primary election vote counts.

This time, it's Zogby's turn to confuse the masses. His latest Reuters/Zogby poll, based on a sample of 1,089 "likely voters" drawn from listed telephone numbers, conducted Aug. 14-16, 2008, shows McCain over Obama by 46% to 41%.

Two days earlier, Zogby reported substantially different results. His online poll (of self-selected people who want to be part of his Internet polling sample) of 3,339 "likely voters," conducted Aug. 12-14, showed Obama with a three-point lead, 43% to 40%.

By Zogby's own calculation of the margins of error of each poll, the difference between the two polls in McCain's support (46% in the later telephone poll vs. 40% in the earlier online poll) is statistically significant. The difference in Obama's support (41% vs. 43% respectively) would not be statistically significant. Still, the 8-point difference in the margin of McCain's lead would be significant - a McCain 5-point lead vs. an Obama 3-point lead in the earlier poll.

If we believe both polls, the period of Aug. 13-14 must have been a real bummer for Obama and an electoral high for McCain. Whatever it was that caused millions of voters to "change" their minds and gravitate toward the Republican candidate in the two-day period, however, escaped my notice. Perhaps others have been more observant.

Moore also slams Zogby's "refusal" to use "sound methods of designing his samples," including using only listed phone numbers and self-selected online samples. Two problems that could make both the Zogby results less credible. Maybe that's why Chuckie T pretended the poll didn't exist today.

Good for my blood pressure, though I don't think it erases Obama's creeping message problem, something he is trying to address with limited attack ads and tougher rhetoric. But I agree with Josh Marshall on one big point: Obama simply must stop asking, begging, whatever, John McCain to stop attacking his patriotism. Instead, he needs to come up with three salient, succinct attacks on John McCain, and repeat them 100 times a day, every day between now and November 4th.


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posted by JReid @ 11:43 PM  
Stephanie Tubbs Jones has died
The 58-year-old Ohio Congresswoman, who suffered an aneurysm yesterday, has died, according to a very well placed source. Very sad to hear.

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posted by JReid @ 1:17 PM  
Make that TWO unacknowledged half sisters...
... for Cindy McCain.


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posted by JReid @ 12:57 PM  
CAMPAIGN ALERT: Obama losing the lead?
It may be an outlier poll, state polls may matter far more, and Obama's veep pick and convention bounces may erase McCain's gains, but the new Reuters/Zogby survey of likely voters shows John McCain pulling ahead of Barack Obama by five points nationally, and pulling out to a 9-point advantage on the economy. Combined with Obama’s average lead over John McCain of just 3 points nationally (before the Zogby/Reuters poll,) according to RealClearPolitics, the latest Bloomberg/LosAngeles Times poll that has the race tightening to just 2 points, and the CNN "poll of polls" which shows a 3-point gap, it is indicative of a very unhealthy trend.

And while maybe it's not quite time to hit the panic button, Obama supporters (and hopefully the campaign itself,) can no longer deny that Houston, we have a problem.

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posted by JReid @ 10:31 AM  
Cindy McCain's secret sister
Did you know that Cindy McCain has a half-sister she doesn't acknowledge, and that the Hensley tradition of acquiring a newfangled wife when the old one gets boring goes back at least a generation? NPR has the story.



posted by JReid @ 12:53 AM  
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Things that are coming back
1. The "old politics" -- David Brooks laments the campaign John McCain hasn't run.
McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.

And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.

2. Hyper-inflation -- call it "that 70s show.."
Wholesale prices jumped in July at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century, furthering concern about a continued increase in inflation at a time when economic activity has ebbed.

New federal government data showed that the cost of materials used by businesses increased 1.2 percent in July and have risen 9.8 percent during the past 12 months. It was the largest yearly increase since 1981, as businesses absorbed sharp increases in energy and other commodity costs.

Today's report follows recent news that consumer prices are also rising faster than expected -- and faster than the Federal Reserve's generally accepted target rate of around 2 percent. Although wholesale inflation does not necessarily translate into higher consumer prices, it can be evidence of things to come.

3. The Taliban -- They're back, and attacking the French...
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.

The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.

As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say. ...

4. The Russian bear -- complete with POWs...
Russia has dismissed a warning by Nato that normal relations are impossible while its troops remain inside Georgia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of bias and of trying to save the "criminal regime" in Tbilisi.
He insisted Moscow was not occupying Georgia and had no plans to annex the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Earlier, Nato demanded that Russia pull out its troops from Georgia as agreed in an EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by both parties at the weekend.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who will be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia's border.

France later tabled a US-backed draft resolution at the UN Security Council, demanding full compliance with the ceasefire and calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces to the positions held before the conflict.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, rejected the text. He objected to language on Georgia's territorial integrity, saying South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not want to be part of Georgia.

Some Russian troops have been seen leaving Gori, the largest Georgian town close to the South Ossetia border.
But BBC correspondents on the ground say there are still Russian artillery positions in place. In addition, there are Russian checkpoints close to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

As for the POWs:
In an apparent goodwill gesture Russia exchanged 15 Georgian prisoners for five of its own troops at a Russian checkpoint in Igoeti, about 30km (18 miles) from Georgia's capital.

Georgian officials told the BBC's Helen Fawkes, who was at the scene, that two of the Russian prisoners were airmen who had been shot down by Georgian forces about two weeks ago.


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 PM  
On ambition

“Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president,’’ Mr. McCain said. “What’s less apparent is the judgment to be commander in chief. And in matters of national security, good judgment will be at a premium in the term of the next president — as we were all reminded ten days ago by events in the nation of Georgia.’’

John McCain in his 2002 book, "Worth the Fighting For," talking about his 2000 run for president:
"I didn't decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president. . . . In truth, I'd had the ambition for a long time."

When someone tells you who they are, believe them.


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posted by JReid @ 9:32 PM  
They said it! John Lewis kick-ass edition
A few of my favorite quotes from the current news cycle:

First up, the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler, who thinks Joe Lieberman is a really big...
In a story about Obama’s plans for a vice presidential pick, AP noted that McCain was considering Sen. Joe Lieberman, “the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.” (Emphasis added.)
And yes, there is screenshot.

Meanwhile, Jack Cafferty slaps John McCain around a little bit:
It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

... He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich.

One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none.
And now for my favorite! John Lewis, the civil rights icon and Congressman from Georgia, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and gave the other memorable speech during the march on Washington, and who according to John McCain, would be one of the "three wise people" he would consult heavily while in office, says ... well, let's just let Mother Jones tell it:
This is not the first time McCain has invoked Lewis' name on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, in Selma, Alabama, he told the story of civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a 1965 march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Waiting at the crest of the bridge were a brigade of police and state troopers who meted out an attacks so violent that the day is known today as Bloody Sunday.

Central in McCain's telling was John Lewis, a man of just 25 who was at the front of the march and absorbed the first blow. Millions of Americans, McCain noted, "watched brave John Lewis fall."

But even though McCain has now repeatedly cited Lewis as a role model and potential adviser, McCain has not established a relationship with the Georgia Democrat in the 22 years they have served in Congress together. At the time of McCain's Selma speech, a Lewis associate told my colleague David Corn that McCain has never been close to Lewis. Lewis was not told about McCain's speech in Selma in advance, nor was he invited to attend.

In response to McCain's latest invocation of his name, Rep. Lewis said in a statement requested by Mother Jones, "I cannot stop one human being, even a presidential candidate, from admiring the courage and sacrifice of peaceful protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or making comments about it." But, he added, "Sen. McCain and I are colleagues in the US Congress, not confidantes. He does not consult me. And I do not consult him."

It took McCain years to fully embrace the goals that Lewis was fighting for on Bloody Sunday. In 1983, McCain voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, in opposition to most members of Congress, including many of his Republican colleagues. In 1987, the governor of Arizona repealed the state's recognition of King; McCain supported the move. It was only in 1990, 25 years after Lewis marched in Alabama, when Arizona reversed its decision that McCain changed his own stance on the issue. ...
Maybe he should have consulted Lewis before dropping his name during his hour-long pander at Saddleback... I mean even Byron York wasn't buying this one...


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posted by JReid @ 8:47 PM  
Veepstakes update: Biden or...
A source I highly respect within the Obama orbit told me tonight that the veep pick is down to two candidates: one you know, and one you ... know, but didn't think had a shot. According to this source, it's down to Joe Biden and (gulp) ... Hillary Clinton. I think a Clinton pick would be, problematic?... but it would chump the national press corps and be a hell of a media coup.

The Obama camp remains mum. I await my especial text message...

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posted by JReid @ 8:34 PM  
Not every vet is a McCain fan
Courtesy of this TPM diarist, a fellow Vietnam POW says he's not voting for McCain, and why McCain's POW experience is not in and of itself, a qualification to be president:
John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same. After our repatriation a census showed that 95% of us had been tortured at least once. The Vietnamese were quite democratic about it. There were many heroes in North Vietnam. I saw heroism every day there. And we motivated each other to endure and succeed far beyond what any of us thought we had in ourselves. Succeeding as a POW is a group sport, not an individual one. We all supported and encouraged each other to survive and succeed. John knows that. He was not an individual POW hero. He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did.

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.

Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button


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posted by JReid @ 5:47 PM  
Incoming! Hillary will campaign for Obama in Palm Beach Thursday
From the campaign today:
The Obama campaign today announced that Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) will visit South Florida this Thursday, August 21, to campaign on behalf of Barack Obama and talk with voters about why he is the only choice for Floridians who want a President who will change the way Washington has worked for eight years under President George W. Bush.

In Palm Beach County, Senator Clinton will host a rally focused on why Barack Obama is the only choice for voters who care about issues important to women in this election. The event will be open to the public, but space is limited. Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Later Thursday, Senator Clinton will attend an event in Broward County. Details for that event will be announced soon.

Tickets for the Palm Beach rally will be available at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, August 20 at the grand openings of two Campaign for Change offices in Palm Beach County: 279 E Main St, Pahokee and 2790 N Military Trail, Ste 6, West Palm Beach. Tickets will also be available online at and starting at 12 noon tomorrow at the following locations: Wexler for Congress, 2500 N Military Trail, Ste 251, Boca Raton; Democratic Party Headquarters, 6634 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach; and the FAU Student Union, 777 Glades Rd, Boca Raton.

No location or time yet for the Broward event.


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posted by JReid @ 5:28 PM  
Banned in 240 seconds: RedState becomes the Free Republic
I did an experiment today, to see how long it would take to get banned from, the right wing site that styles itself a home for "independent conservative thinkers," not at all like the thought-policed, drone-winger sites like the Free Republic, or the loony bin flypaper sites like Little Green Footballs, and which gets frequent link love from "legit" online journalists at places like Politico and the Washington Post. So here's what I did. I signed up, using the same ID I use here, JReid. Then, I posted a comment to a thread entitled "You are the one McCain is waiting for" whose point is, I guess, that ordinary Republicans will carry McCain over the top, not his vp pick. (I think the post is supposed to be tongue in cheek, but hell, with this crowd? Who knows...) First a clip from the original post:
Much virtual ink has been spilled Internet-wide on the problem of Senator McCain's running mate selection. Policy views, succession, age, experience, home states, and every other conceivable preference are touted by one person or another as essential to the pick.

I say they're all right, and they're all wrong. You should be John McCain's running mate in 2008. It's perfect! You are in a swing state, you shore up the Bush states, and you make Obama work in his 'safe' states. You are a political novice, and you are experienced. You're young. You're mature. You are a mainstream Republican, a reformer, and a maverick. You even look like America.

You were even Time's People of the Year. You can't go wrong. ...
Okay, so now for my comment, which went up at 11:02 a.m. by their clock (which is odd, because I joined at 11:48 a.m. EST) Anyhoo, I wrote:
RedStaters discover God: and He is John McCain
JReid August 19th, 2008 at 11:02 a.m. (link)
What's with the sudden hero worship of McCain by RedStaters? Here I'm assuming it's tongue and cheek, but other threads? Not so much. Frankly, it's getting creepy, like the "Pray for George W. Bush" threads that used to dominate the Free Republic.

John McCain is a politician, and frankly, not a very good one. Certainly not an inspiring one. His entire campaign boils down to: "vote for me. The other guy's a traitor." Which means that no matter who wins in November, his campaign has ensured that half the country will hate the next president's guts ... again.

Besides, wasn't this the guy RS readers found unacceptable during the primaries? Now he's Godlike? Kind of hard to accuse Democrats of beatifying Obama when this site does the same to John McCain...

[Waiting to be banned for apostasy.]
Literally 4 minutes later, came this post:
well, if you insist.
Moe Lane August 19th, 2008 at 11:06 a.m. (link)
Although if I wasn't on my way to Pearl right now I'd keep you around long enough to ask whether you guys really think that anybody actually believes you when you try to pass yourselves off as Republicans.
So that's it. The amount of time it takes to be banned from RedState for criticizing John McCain is 4 minutes. And you can't be a Republican if you don't slavishly support John McCain. 

I think that might even beat my previous record at Free Republic, where I was banned a grand total of THREE TIMES (using three different ID's) for criticizing George W. Bush, back before he became "unpopular..."

The point: the right is consistent, in using strict thought policing to keep their flock in line. The FReepers aren't outliers, they're mainstream. Recall that RedState was one of those sites where so-called conservatives denounced John McCain all through the primaries (along with tax raiser Mike Huckabee,) as unacceptable as the Republican nominee. McCain, lo those many months ago, was guilty of the sin of collusion with Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He was soft on immigration. He was soft on the Bush tax cuts. He was soft on torture. Now, having reversed himself on all three, and returned to his pre-Bush, neoconservative zeal on Iraq, McCain is RedState's boy, and you'd better love him, if you want to post there.

Sadly, American conservatism has been reduced to a series of cults of personality -- Reagan, then Bush II, now John McCain, where the drones (talk radio listeners, group blog members, and worse, Republican voters of all economic classes,) are inducted, indoctrinated, and deployed in the service of the people paying the bills: major corporations, oil companies, and lately, the private military. To push the agenda, the right uses wealthy individual talking heads like Rush, Hannity and the former Bush flaks who run RedState, and they whip their throng into shape, demanding total loyalty and obeisance, and weeding out doubters. Perhaps most unseemly of all, the right has also indoctrinated religious zealots -- America's Taliban, if you will -- to tie these beliefs to existing zealotry on issues like abortion. Combined, its a potent mix of religious zeal, hero worship, and strident determination to enrich others, at the expense of the faithful. I find it remarkable that it continues to work on so many people, and that the right has managed to convince those poor slobs that it's the other guy who's turning their candidate of choice into a Messiah.


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posted by JReid @ 12:25 PM  
The sorry saga of John McCain
Not only is John McCain running the most negative, divisive and dishonorable campaign since the Republican primary in 2000 (or the swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004, or hell, the Willie Horton ads against Michael Dukakis ... hang on, it seems Republicans always run dishonorable campaigns...) he is also running the most blatantly dishonest.

In 2000, the only real lie that Bush's team told about McCain was that he had a black love-child. (In fact, the McCain's adopted a Bangladeshi orphan.) Other than that, Bush was essentially right in portraying McCain as a former POW who abandoned veterans as a Senator, who traded on his media celebrity to get away with gaffes Dubya could never have, and who was a phony the right couldn't really depend on. Those things, it turns out, were true. (See McCain's voting record on veterans benefits here, here and here.) McCain has simply covered them up and coopted the Bushies who now worship him just as they did George W. Bush before the fall.

McCain's current line of attack against Barack Obama, so succinctly summed up by Keith Olbermann in his brilliant "grow up" special comment last night, is that you must elect him because his opponent wishes to lose the war in Iraq so that he can win the election. In other words, Obama is a traitor. Oh, and he is stained by the ambition to be president, an ambition McCain apparently doesn't share (I guess he is being compelled by the ghosts of his Vietnam captors who are even now, drawing crosses on the sands of time with their sandals, to run for president against his will.) Add to that McCain's meme since his disgraceful performance at the VFW in Florida yesterday, that while it would have been politically advantageous to support the generous G.I. Bill for the 21st Century put forward by fellow Vietnam vet Jim Webb, HE, the Courageous One, opposed the bill, holding out for something better.

What McCain fails to mention in his self-congratulatory nonsense speeches, is that he didn't even bother to vote on the G.I. Bill, which passed the Senate and was signed into law without his ever having had the courage to put his name on "yea" or "nay."

I hate to say this about an elder, let alone a veteran, but John McCain is a sleazy, desperate blowhard, and a man whose dishonor in this campaign makes him unfit to be president.

Flashback article of the day: New York Times, Feb 2000: When McCain played the victim on dirty campaigning


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posted by JReid @ 11:38 AM  
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thinking the unthinkable: is Pastor Rick ... a liar?

Pastor Rick Warren is on Larry King right now, giving a post-op on his civil forum on Saturday. I turned the channel and TiVo didn't pick up the beginning of the interview, so somebody please email me and let me know if King asked him about the "cone of silence." A preliminary interview with Beliefnet suggests he won't be forthcoming.

But another aspect of the interview which I did catch is really bugging me. An emailer asked Warren when he did the "coin flip" to determine which candidate would go first. Warren stumbled around a bit, and then said that he did the coin toss "about a month ago," and that when he put the forum together, "we decided who would go first ... and the format."

He flipped the coin a month ago?

Meanwhile, Warren was on "Hannity and Colmes" in the half hour before he did CNN. Hannity asked him a "lightning round" of questions nearly identical to the ones he asked John McCain and Barack Obama on Saturday, including whether he believes life begins at conception (the answer: "of course," and which Supreme Court justices HE wouldn't have nominated. Warren hedged on this one, but then couched his answer with, "well I'm a conservative, so..."

Less than a half hour later, on CNN, Warren had an exchange with Larry King in which he declared that there are many Americans who agree with some parts of the Democratic agenda and some parts of the Republican agenda, and who are neither completely left nor completely right when it comes to issues. King asked if Warren would put himself in that category. Warren's answer sure wasn't "well I'm a conservative." Instead, he said "of course."

So he's a conservative, but also in the middle ... depending on which cable network he's on?

UPDATE: The transcript on the Larry King interview with Rick Warren is in. Here's the part I missed last night:
KING: From Lake Forest, California, we welcome -- it's always great to see him, a frequent visitor to this show. Not frequent enough, by the way. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, best-selling author of "The Purpose Driven Life." and on Saturday, he conducted those interviews with Senators Obama and McCain at the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.

Let's take care of one thing right away. You introduced Obama and said that Senator McCain and said he was in a cone of silence.


KING: Now, obviously, Rick Warren would never tell a mistruth.

Did you not know that he was in an automobile?

WARREN: I didn't know they had put -- hadn't put him into the Green Room yet. No, I didn't. When we walked in, I knew he hadn't been in about 10 minutes earlier. And I figured within the 10 minutes we got there, they had put him in.

The whole thing is really kind of bogus, Larry. The Supreme -- I mean, the Secret Service were with him the whole time. Then our facility's staff -- our security staff were with him. And he was put in a building completely separate from everybody else. And there's no way he could hear. I've been talking about this all day. There was a rumor going around that he watched the program on a monitor in the Green Room that we had him in.

Well, there's only one problem with it. My staff, Chuck Taylor, disconnected that thing two days before it happened. So if he -- if they had happened to turn it on, it would have been all just static.

And both Barack and John agreed to the terms that said we will not listen to the other's, we will not get the questions in advance.

Actually, what happened is I did give Obama one in advance that I didn't get to Senator McCain because he wasn't there. Right before we started, I wanted to tell them there's going to be one question that I'm going to ask you for a commitment on. And I didn't think that was fair to ask for a commitment publicly without setting them up. And it had to do with orphans.

And so I did get to tell Senator Obama about that question. But because Senator McCain wasn't there, he hadn't -- he didn't have that question yet.

KING: All right.

Well, could he have heard it in the car, though, if he was still arriving at the event?

WARREN: You know what, if -- not a chance. The Secret Service would have reported it. When he showed up, there were -- and he says he didn't. You know, I...

KING: All right.

WARREN: ...I just have to accept his integrity on that.

KING: Sure.

Was it a stacked deck against Obama in the fact that this was Orange County and an Evangelical audience?

WARREN: Yes. Well, there's no doubt about it. I mean it was Orange County. And you're going to have more of a conservative audience.

But if you listen to applause, it's pretty equal in a lot of the places. And we gave an equal number of tickets to both campaigns. So they both had their -- their partisans in there at the same time and they had the exact same number of people.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Jeff in Wheaton, Illinois: "Pastor Warren, you said Saturday that there had been a coin flip to determine who went first."


KING: "When did this coin flip occur? Where were the senators when it took place?"

WARREN: Well, they were certainly weren't around. I just did it with my staff about a month before we even started the program. I started collecting questions myself a month in advance. And right off the bat, I said well, somebody is going to have to go first.

When I created this idea, why don't we figure out a civil way to do this, where the guys can express their views and their opinions in a civil -- a civilized, non-rude, non-got you type of format?

And I just decided why don't we just do one hour at time...

KING: Well, you did it.

WARREN: ...and we'll do them back to back. And I'll ask the identical questions so there's no bias in it.

KING: Excellent way to do it.

Not that Larry is biased... And here's the video:

You be the judge... Meanwhile, Barry Lynn calls Obama's appearance at the forum a mistake:
This crowd was swarming toward McCain to begin with, and Rick Warren has quite conservative views on plenty of hot button issues. But Warren is still a man best known for his homey advice about putting God first (not a very controversial notion for a Christian), so many viewers probably thought he would play "fair and balanced." Well, Jay, he did not. He was clearly well-schooled on how to set up questions with well-tested right-wing talking points, so that Obama would have had to spend a great deal of time just correcting the questioner. (You and I understand that technique well, both as talk show guests and hosts of our own shows.)

Let me give you a few examples on core constitutional and human rights questions. Here was Warren's set up to his stem cell questions: "We've had this scientific breakthrough of creating these pluri-potent stem cells in adult cells..." as if everybody knows we don't need all those embryonic stem cells which create all the problems for "pro-lifers." That crowd would rather grow all these "frozen" embryos into "snowflake babies" (which will never happen) and refuse to admit that these embryos will eventually be discarded as medical waste. But Warren's setup is the problem: there was no great breakthrough that means that all research can be done with adult cells. That is the line of the Religious Right; it is not the scientific consensus. To the lay listener, however, it sounded like God's own truth, not Pastor Warren's spin. Senator Obama more or less fell into the presumption, too.


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posted by JReid @ 9:56 PM  
John McCain's unoriginal originals
CBS News' Ryan Corsaro pisses off the right wing nutjobs by pointing out the many, many times John McCain violated the simple Rick Warren rule: don't give me your stump speech.


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posted by JReid @ 10:24 AM  
Veepstakes: final countdown
Okay, it's that time again. Barack Obama is expected to make his veep pick this week, while McCain is expected to make his pick on the Friday that closes the Democratic convention. So here are my prognostications, starting with five assumptions I'm using as the basis for my forecast:

1. Barack Obama probably won't pick a general. Why? Because the veep has only two real functions during this campaign: attacking John McCain, and beating John McCain's pick in the lone vice presidential debate. None of the really fantastic generals who have been mentioned as possibilities: Anthony Zinni, Scott Gration, or even Wes Clark, is a proven debater. In fact, Clark, who was my choice for president in 2004, turned out to be a pretty poor debater that cycle, which is one of the reasons he lost. Clark, who is the only general in the mix who has experience running a national campaign, also proved to be a less than stellar campaigner, while his first foray at attack politics this year (the very true statement that being shot down isn't a qualification for president,) bombed with the press. Obama needs a proven debater, attacker, and campaigner, and I can't think of a general who fits the bill. The last thing he needs is an Admiral Stockdale moment...

2. There's a better than 50 percent chance John McCain will pick a woman. Picking a woman would be a smart strategy for McCain to turn up the excitement and shift the conversation to his campaign after what will likely be a big convention week for Democrats -- and a comparatively dull one for Republicans (with the exception of the sure-to-be hilarious bathroom stall jokes on latenight all week.) By picking a woman, McCain may hope to blunt Obama's veep's attack mode, by making it appear that Obama's Number Two is picking on a girl. Also, a woman could help McCain pick up more of the Hillary dead-enders (though most of them are, honestly, already Republicans.) In fact, if Meg Whitman is pro-life, I would bet on her.

3. There's almost zero chance Barack Obama will pick a woman. Not unless he wants to hire a food taster to protect him from Hillary's Congressional supporters. So sorry, Chris Kofinis, you can stop selling Kathleen Sebelius.

4. There's a better than 50 percent chance Barack Obama will pick Joe Biden. Biden fits all the bills -- he's an experienced campaigner after 30 years in politics, he's an excellent attack dog, a foreign policy expert, a seasoned guy who still looks relatively young, and he's a great debater. In fact, had he had the star quality of Obama, Clinton and Edwards, I think Joe Biden might have been declared the winner of some of those Democratic primary debates.

5. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that Obama will pick Chuck Hagel. The convention already promises to have some high drama with the Clinton crowd, so why risk adding a Republican veep to the mix? Besides, Hagel says he is not going to Denver, which means he's not in the running.

Okay, so here are some of the likely finalists, in no particular order.

For McCain:
  1. Mitt Romney - safe choice, solid on economics, can raise lots of dough, help in Michigan, and bring in the Mormon cash -- and votes -- in key states like Colorado. And the large contingent of wingers who preferred the Mittster, including the talk radio hacks, would be satisfied with the pick. Downside: he's a Mormon, which will turn off some Christian righties, and he's a flip-flopper, which will make for some interesting attack ads.

  2. Meg Whitman - 52-year-old former Romney national finance chair, she gets you a link to the Romney fund raising stream without having to talk to Mitt Romney every day. And as a woman and a CEO, she helps with both women and people worried about McCain's lack of economic grasp. Upside: she's a billionaire, which is always helpful in politics, as John "millionaire-marryer" McCain knows well. Downside: she's untested politically, though she plans to run for office someday, and nobody knows how she'd do in a debate. Also, if she's pro-choice, fuhgeddabout it. Also, picking a rich blonde may bring up unfortunate associations in the minds of some voters ... and opponents... Still, McCain's mention of her as one of his "wisest" at Saturday's Rick Warren forum might have been a trial balloon.

  3. Tim Pawlenty - the safest of safe choices for McCain -- dull, but he gets you relative youth and "everyman-ness," a good look in a swing state, and he doesn't offend the wackadoo right.
Most likely as of today? Meg Whitman. I think McCain needs drama more than he needs certainty, and Whitman has a good story to tell. Also, his campaign appears to have finally fixated on one non-militaristic theme: OBAMA WILL RAISE YOUR TAXES. While not having the virtue of being accurate, unless you're earning $250,000 a year or more, it's a tried and true Republican strategy. Picking Romney, who presided over a blue state economy and who has flipped on major positions, might be a risk, while Whitman is not from Washington, not part of the Bush administration, and not an old white man. Does she get you a state? No. But she could make McCain more competitive with older white women. Close second: Mitt.

Okay, now for Barack, who I think has a lot more choices, but I'll also narrow it down to the usual suspect three:
  1. Joe Biden - In some ways, Barack can't miss with Biden. He's smart, experienced, and has great foreign policy chops. As I said above, he knows how to attack (who can forget the "noun, verb and 9/11" line about Rudy Giuliani from the primaries?) On the downside, he can be a gaffe machine, and he talks an awful lot. But that might be less important than having an effective attacker on the trail. Another downside: if Obama picks Biden, the GOP will surely attack the ticket as being "upside-down" when it comes to experience, a la Bush-Cheney. The Obama team will have to have an answer for that.

  2. Tim Kaine - I mention him only because his name is constantly being floated. And while he did a great job on MTP this weekend, Kaine is a relatively inexperienced governor whom it would be hard to imagine stepping into the presidency. (You could say the same for Meg Whitman...) His lack of foreign policy experience makes it hard for me to see him being the guy, and I'm not sure why the Democrats wouldn't rather have him in Virginia, getting out the vote.

  3. Evan Bayh - Bayh-Bayh-Bayh! I just can't help thinking about that boy band song every time I hear his name... Bayh has some advantages -- he's midwestern, has a great looking young family like Baracks, and the two families together look like a great Ralph Laren ad. He's experienced on foreign policy, and was a Clinton ally. But Bayh is also certified boring, a hawk on Iraq and Iran, and an anathema to much of the Democratic base. Could he be the one? Maybe, since he strengthens Obama in the Indiana-Illinois corridor, but something tells me it won't be him.
Most likely pick? I'm going with Biden. Despite the accusations that are sure to come that he's more prepared to be president than Obama, McCain won't be able to find a v.p. who's more prepared than him. He's a sure-fire debater, and a great attacker, which are the two things Obama needs -- and Obama doesn't need to make a splash with his pick, he needs to make white middle class voters comfortable. Biden is comfortable, stable, and probably Obama's strongest pick.


Add Joe Lieberman to the "maybe" list for John McCain. If he's in a particularly selfish mood, and feels his Rick Warren forum performance solidified him with the Christowinger base, McCain may pick the one he loves the most (sorry Miss Lindsey...) and damn the torpedos... also, if Barack picks Joe Biden, it may actually make it more likely that McCain picks Joe, since Obama's pick will not have been a splashy surprise... Meanwhile, the RedStaters are high five-ing over supposedly killing off Tom Ridge ... don't pop the corks too soon, though, boys, Lieberman is NOT, I repeat NOT, out of the running...


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posted by JReid @ 9:22 AM  
Pakistan does what Nancy Pelosi can't
Pervez Musharraf heads off into the sunset, fleeing office before he can be impeached. Are you listening, Nancy? From the Beeb:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, facing impeachment by parliament, has announced that he is resigning.

In a national televised address he said he was confident the charges against him would not stand, but this was not the time for more confrontation.

The charges against the president include violation of the constitution and gross misconduct.

Oh, Naaaannnncyyyyy....!

Meanwhile, his "pals" in the Bush administration say "don't even think about asylum."
WASHINGTON, Aug 17: The United States made it known on Sunday that it was not considering any proposal to grant political asylum to President Pervez Musharraf.

The announcement came from a person no less than the secretary of state who has the final say in such matters.

“That’s not an issue on the table,” said Condoleezza Rice when asked if the Bush administration was considering any proposal to grant political asylum to the embattled Pakistani leader.

“And I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan,” she told Fox News on Sunday.

Asked if it would be in the best interest of Pakistan to have Gen (retd) Musharraf resign, Ms Rice said: “This is a matter for the Pakistanis to resolve.”

Her statement makes it obvious that the United States is no longer interested in a person who only recently was called an “indispensable ally” in the war on terror. The question of seeking a ‘safe haven’ for Mr Musharraf was raised by the US media after they concluded, almost unanimously, that his days were numbered and that his departure was only a matter of days, not weeks.

While discussing Mr Musharraf’s future, a leading American scholar of South Asian affairs noted that the Pakistani leader had “one redeeming feature.”

Unlike previous US-backed strongmen, such as Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines or the Shah of Iran, he was not a rich man, said Michael Krepon, a founding president of Washington’s Stimson Institute.

“Musharraf doesn’t have an estate in Hawaii or a mansion in Los Angeles. This complicates any potential exile,” he added. But even this “redeeming feature” does not endear Mr Musharraf to Washington where he is no longer seen as an “indispensable ally”, as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte called him on Nov 7.

He is now seen as a “serious liability,” as a Western think-tank --- International Crisis Group --- pointed out recently.
In other words, thanks a lot, and good-bye. Message: stay out of the Bushes. When they're done with you, they're done with you.

Meanwhile, the Guardian runs down the key players in Musharraf's downfall.

And inquiring minds want to know: if Pakistani's sometime democracy can manage to reassert constitutional norms by impeaching its overreaching president, why can't WE?


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posted by JReid @ 8:30 AM  
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The fake 'cone of silence' ... plus: is John McCain embellishing his Vietnam stories for political gain?
Apparently, Pastor Rick Warren was surprised to learn that his pretend maverick guest, John McCain, wasn't in a "cone of silence" after all while Barack Obama was taking questions at the Saddleback Church's civil forum:
The McCain campaign, which flew here Sunday from California, said Mr. McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed by the Rev. Rick Warren.

The matter is of interest because Mr. McCain, who followed Mr. Obama’s hourlong appearance in the forum, was asked virtually the same questions as Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain’s performance was well received, raising speculation among some viewers, especially supporters of Mr. Obama, that he was not as isolated during the Obama interview as Mr. Warren implied.

Mr. Warren, pastor of Saddleback, had assured the audience while he was interviewing Mr. Obama that “we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence” and that he could not hear the questions.

After Mr. Obama’s interview, he was joined briefly by Mr. McCain and the candidates shook hands and embraced.

Mr. Warren started by asking him, “Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?”

Mr. McCain deadpanned, “I was trying to hear through the wall.”
Yeah, the wall of his car, in which he was riding to the church while most likely being briefed on the questions by an aide who was following the forum for him on his or her iPhone (sure, McCain doesn't know how to use one, but that's what young aides are for...)

Which leads to the question: did Mac lie to the pastor about the 'cone of silence', or did the pastor lie to us?

The McCain camp trotted out this not-unexpected defense:
Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said on Sunday night that Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions. “The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” Ms. Wallace said.
Sure, sure, when in doubt, draw for the "war hero" card.  We all know that former POWs never lie... Well if the McCain campaign wants to talk incessantly (as the candidate did himself at Saddleback,) about the greatness of John McCain's Vietnam service, is it fair to ask whether he is embellishing the stories of that service for political gain? I say it is. So let's... 

From CQ Politics:
Last week, a speech by Sen. John McCain had phrases that were likely lifted directly from Wikipedia.

Now it seems McCain may have lifted another story last night at megachurch pastor Rick Warren's Faith Forum. According to a very persuasive Daily Kos diary, the anecdote McCain told about a North Vietnamese prison guard making a cross in the dirt as a sign of solidarity -- or as he said, "just two Christians worshiping together" -- is very similar to a story about Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his times in the Soviet Gulags.
CQP has the Solzhenitsyn passage, along with links to other doubters about McCain's version of events when in 'Nam:
Steven Waldman [on Beliefnet] notes that McCain's recounting of this story has changed over the years and "has gradually morphed from being about the humanity of the guard to being about the Christian faith of the guard and John McCain."

Andrew Sullivan says that McCain's early accounts of his years as a POW do not even include this story.
That last piece is important, because if McCain only recently began telling that story, or worse, if he did so in conjunction with his candidacy for office, that seems to me to be a serious thing, especially given what was done to John Kerry in 2004. And just to make things interesting, guess who McCain's witness is for the cross story? Why, one Bud Day, the Florida crank and member of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. Day figures in many of McCain's Vietnam-faith stories, but curiously, the cross story often does not, as in this glowing profile of McCain in the Chicago Tribune, where a Christmas riot makes the grade, but the cross in the sand does not...

The Sullivan(?)/"Calouste" entry in the Daily Kos reinforces the point:
Shortly after John McCain came back from Vietname in 1973, he wrote a detailed 12,000 word report of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report.

Even though McCain goes into a lot of detail in that story and mentions religion a few times, there is no mention of the cross in the sand story, even though it would have fitted in well with the whole narrative. There are numerous mentions of Vietnamese guards in the reports, mostly bad ones but also good ones, but there is no indication at all that any of them would have been Christian, although "[a] lot of them were homosexual".

So even though McCain yesterday said:
It was Christmas day, we were allowed to stand outside of our cell for a few minutes, and those days we were not allowed to see or communicate with each other although we certainly did. And I was stadning outside for my few minutes, outside my cell. He came walking up. He stood there for a minute and with his handle [sandal?] on the dirt in the courtyard he drew a cross and he stood there and a minute later, he rubbed it out and walked away. For a minute there, there as just two Christians worshiping together. I'll never forget that moment so every day -

That moment he will never forget wasn't worth spending a few of those 12,000 words on.
Recall that McCain has already been caught massaging his "NFL team as my squadron" story to pander to Pennsylvania voters. He is becoming notorious for failing to remember details about his own voting record, including last night, when he served up four "liberal" Supreme Court justices he wouldn't nominate, despite the fact that he voted to confirm two of them when Bill Clinton was president (something he bragged about to Hillary Clinton dead-enders as recently as June...) And also at the Rick Warren forum, he cited a story about "evil" Iraqis strapping suicide belts on two retarded women -- a story that has long since been debunked. On the "cross in the sand story," there's also this problematic fact:

There is a real question here about whether McCain embellishing the story of his captivity in 'Nam, in order to make it more compelling to certain voters -- in this case, members of the religious right, who the inimitable Frank Rich points out McCain hasn't exactly been friendly with in the recent past. And if he is, does anyone in the media, or the Obama campaign, have the stones to call him on it?

UPDATE: The McCain campaign has adopted nearly the entire Hillary Clinton/Mark Penn primary playbook, complete with attempts to bully the press into getting back to the traditional, suck-up coverage of John McCain. This time, the campaign has demanded a meeting with NBC News president Steve Capus to protest, of all people, Andrea Mitchell, probably the one consistently objective reporter left in Washington. The reason? That darned "cone of silence..." Part of the letter from Rick Davis to Capus reads:
We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC News has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain.

Nowhere was this more evident than with NBC chief correspondent Andrea Mitchell's comments on "Meet the Press" this morning. In analyzing last night's presidential forum at Saddleback Church, Mitchell expressed the Obama campaign spin that John McCain could only have done so well last night because he "may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama." Here are Andrea Mitchell's comments in full:

Mitchell: "The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 8/17/08)

Make no mistake: This is a serious charge. Andrea Mitchell is repeating, uncritically, a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated in last night's forum at Saddleback Church. Instead of trying to substantiate this blatant falsehood in any way, Andrea Mitchell felt that she needed to repeat it on air to millions of "Meet the Press" viewers with no indication that 1.) There's not one shred of evidence that it's true; 2.) In his official correspondence to both campaigns, Pastor Rick Warren provided both candidates with information regarding the topic areas to be covered, which Barack Obama acknowledged during the forum when asked about Pastor Warren's idea of an emergency plan for orphans and Obama said, "I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea;" 3.) John McCain actually requested that he and Barack Obama do the forum together on stage at the same time, making these kinds of after-the-fact complaints moot.

Indeed, instead of taking a critical journalistic approach to this spin, Andrea Mitchell did what has become a pattern for her of simply repeating Obama campaign talking points.

Are you kidding me? Andrea Mitchell? Talking points? You must have her confused with David Gregory and YOUR talking points...


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posted by JReid @ 11:44 PM  
Condi Rice's April Glaspie moment?
Meanwhile in the, "even Gregory couldn't screw this one up" category, Stretch did manage to have an interesting exchange with "Russia expert" (ahem) Condi Rice on this week's "Meet the Press." The exchange revealed a bit more about what the administration knew, what it didn't, and what it might have done to bring on the Georgia-Russia crisis:
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about how we got here and what precipitated this crisis. This is how The New York Times reported it this week about a visit to Georgia back in July by you. "During a private dinner [in Tbilisi]" "Ms. Rice's aides say she warned President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia not to get into a military conflict with" Georgia--with "Russia," rather--"that Georgia could not win. `She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table,' according to a senior administration official who accompanied Ms. Rice to the Georgia capital. ...

"In the days since the simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted into war, Bush administration officials have been adamant in asserting that they warned the government in Tbilisi not to let Moscow provoke it into a fight - and that they were surprised when their advice went unheeded."

Well who wouldn't be?
MR. GREGORY: Did Georgia provoke this crisis?

SEC'Y RICE: This crisis has been going on for, as I said, more than a decade. It has been a hot zone and a volatile zone where there have been skirmishes over a significant period of time. It is absolutely the case that we have cautioned all parties against the use of force. In fact, I also talked to the Russians repeatedly in this period about the railway troops that they were bringing in, about reinforcing their peacekeepers, about overflying Georgian territory. So this had been a zone of conflict. We were trying to resolve it peacefully.

Oh, just answer the question, woman!
... SEC'Y RICE: David, as I've said, this--you can't just start with, "we told the Georgian's this." We also told the Russians not to engage in certain activities that they were engaging in. This was a zone of conflict, we were trying to do it peacefully. But whatever happened before this, once this broke out in South Ossetia, it could have been confined to South Ossetia. Rather than confine it to that and deal with the facts on the ground there, the Russians decided to go deeper into Georgia, to bomb Georgian ports, to bomb Georgian military installations, to go into the city of Gori. And so it was that escalation that got us to the point that where we're at now. And that...

MR. GREGORY: And give--but given...

SEC'Y RICE: ...fully has been...

MR. GREGORY: ...that escalation, Secretary Rice, do you understand why there are some within the Georgian leadership who feel betrayed by the U.S.? Do they have an unreasonable expectation that the U.S. would come in guns blazing, as it were, to protect them?

SEC'Y RICE: I don't think anybody...

...could have imagined planes flying into buildings??? Oh ... sorry ... go on Secretary Rice...
... had an expectation that the United States was going to use military force in this conflict. But we need to keep the focus on the culprit here, and the culprit here is that Russia over-reached, used disproportionate force against a small neighbor and is now paying the price for that, because Russia's reputation as a potential partner in international institutions, diplomatic, political, security, economic, is frankly in tatters.

Kind of reminds you of when a certain Bush I administration State Department official told Saddam Hussein back in 1991 that the U.S. would have no opinion about his adventures in Kuwait... et tu, April Glaspie...?

Meanwhile, the NYT reports that far from backing down, Russia is moving ballistic missile launchers into South Ossetia, solidifying its hold on the province, while at the same time threatening Poland with possible nuclear attack over the "missile shield" system we're putting there.

Great work Dr. Rice! You taught our Dubha well...


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posted by JReid @ 10:35 PM  
Has anyone checked David Gregory's car for a McCain '08 bumper sticker?
Reinforcing why I would literally quit watching "Meet the Press" if he became the moderator, David "Stretch" Gregory, who has made a faux reputation as a tough Washington reporter while simultaneously serving as Dubya's sweetheart, did an entire segment with surrogates for Barack Obama and John McCain (Tim Kaine, who did very well, by the way, and the very strange Bobby Jindal, who does the creepy eyes, if you know what I mean...) on the subject of Georgia, without once asking Jindal the following question (or something like it):

"Is it appropriate, in your opinion, for John McCain to have as his top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who not only lobbied on behalf of the Georgian government, but who also lobbied John McCain?"

Nor did Gregory quiz Jindal on the McCain campaign's crass politicization of the Georgia crisis, After all, his own network has reported on it, and in the previous segment, Gregory had just talked to Condi Rice ... about Georgia... Another issue that went un-asked, and thus un-answered, McCain's newly minted ties to Jack Abramoff scandal-tainted "Christian" lobbyist Ralph Reed, another issue reported by his very own network, NBC.

Instead, Gregory lobbed such softballs at Jindall as, "are you going to be vice president? ... are you sure ...? Is that a Shermanesque 'no' or a fakey-fake one...?" 

Just for giggles, let's check out the first question to Kaine and Jindall this morning. First, Kaine. Gregory asked him:
Let's get right to it. We both heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking about the situation in Georgia, Governor Kaine. Senator Obama was criticized by the McCain campaign this week, particularly for his comments that there should be restraint on both sides after the invasion. Was he too weak in his initial response?
...a fine imitation of Stephen Hayes or Bill Kristol, but trotting out the meme of the month is not an auspicious start for a so-called "straight reporter." Now, let's take a look at Jindal's first at-bat, which came moments later:
Governor Jindal, just as Senator Obama's criticized, Senator McCain, too, was criticized by an adviser to Senator Obama, who said that some of his initial tough talk was shot from the hip and was actually belligerent, in the words of one of Obama's advisers.
Okay, not bad, although it was a bit more than just Obama advisers that were having a go at McCain for trying to restart the Cold War ... anyway, now let's look at the next 10 questions Gregory asks the two surrogates, and I'm going to put them in the exact order in which they appeared in the program and transcript, without the responses, for the sake of time. Here we go...
1. MR. GREGORY: Let's turn to domestic matters in this campaign, and The New York Times reporting some criticism of Senator Obama now. And the headline reads like this: "Allies Ask Obama to Make Hope More Specific. [Democratic] party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts. ...

"These Democrats - 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders - say Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship of national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters. ...

(plays some tape)

2. MR. GREGORY: Governor Kaine, has Senator Obama wasted time here?

3. MR. GREGORY: But understands the economy, but has Senator Obama owned this issue?

4. MR. GREGORY: Are some of these criticisms of Obama coming out of the Clinton camp in your judgment?

5. MR. GREGORY: But is unity a problem right now in the party?

6. MR. GREGORY: There may be agreement there, but that doesn't sound like there's unity within the party, to hear some of the criticism about Obama.

(Kaine says you'll see unity in Denver)

7. MR. GREGORY: But it's not there yet.

Okay, now, for question number 8, with the set-up:
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to Governor Jindal and Senator McCain.

In some of his ads, this is how he's talking about America today, watch.

(Videotape, campaign ad)

Announcer: Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago.

(End videotape)

8. MR. GREGORY: That's a pretty direct swipe at President Bush, isn't it, Governor?
Say WHAT??? So Gregory spends about five minutes haranguing Tim Kaine about Democratic disunity, Obama squandering bad economic news and general doom and gloom for November, and then serves up a golden ticket for Bobby Jindal to distance his candidate from President Bush, which just happens to be precisely the McCain campaign strategy??? namely, DISTANCING THE CANDIDATE FROM PRESIDENT BUSH? Gregory, are you serious?

Let's go on:
9. MR. GREGORY: Governor, do you agree with Senator McCain that America's worse off than it was four years ago?
Again, nothing about McCain's comment, just the night before, about $5 million in income being the floor for being rich. Nothing about his 95-100 percent voting record with President Bush, in contrast to the message in the ad Gregory just ran; in short, nothing at all that an actual reporter, and not another campaign surrogate, would ask. Do we dare try question number ten? Oh, why the hell not. It's late and I'm an insomniac...
10. MR. GREGORY: You've talked about the crisis within the Republican Party, that it lost its way, that it used to be the party of big ideas. And now you back Senator McCain. What's the big idea Senator McCain is campaigning on?
Okay, here's where I start poking sharp sticks in my eyes. Why not just ask, "Governor Jindall, what is John McCain's plan to make America a better place for all of us to live?" Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Well, at least there was a follow up:
GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's several, but certainly when it comes to domestic issues, he understands the energy crisis is probably the biggest economic obstacle we face and he understands that it's not one silver bullet, that we do need more domestic oil and gas production. We do need nuclear power. We need clean coal. We need conservation. We need renewables.

MR. GREGORY: But those were Bush-Cheney big ideas in 2000. Where are the new big ideas of the Republican Party that John McCain is, is championing?
Wow. Give that man a Pullitzer.

Of course, after that, Gregory went right for the Jindal jugular with his very next question:
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, would you like to be vice president?
Well that's it, folks. David Gregory: crack reporter, killing "Meet the Press" in 11 questions or less. 


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posted by JReid @ 10:13 PM  
Meg Whitman??? ... and other thoughts on the Rick Warren presidential forum
My initial impression of the Rick Warren "civil discussion" tonight featuring one hour each for Barack Obama and John McCain is that the forum, and particularly the questions, did seem tailor made for McCain, which isn't surprising because Warren, like most evangelical leaders, is a Republican. Still, I thought he was fair, for the most part (except when he failed to remind John McCain to stay off his stump speech,) and thoughtful, and his forum enlightening. So here's the scorecard:

1. Thanks for nothing, honey. When asked who the smartest people he knew were, and who he would turn to for advice as president, Barack mentioned his wife and grandmother as the wisest, then fired off an assortment of Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate like Dick Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn as people he would turn to for advice (interestingly, he did not include either Clinton...) John McCain coldly ignored poor Cindy altogether, not to mention his very old mother, and instead reeled off the strangest triad I've ever heeard: Gen. Petraeus (surprise, surprise) Democratic Congressman John Lewis ... a Clinton friend and flip-flop to Obama guy, and Meg Whitman, the CEO of Ebay. HUH???

Whitman is a McCain campaign co-chair, She's also a former Romney girl, which increases the possibility that he's being influenced in that veep direction. And I guess he thought he was being economically hip by mentioning an online company that was hot like, ten years ago. The John Lewis thing I can't even begin to explain. Maybe he got his Georgias confused... Score this one: Obama.
2. Talking points memo. I have to give this one to McCain, who will, as David Gergen noted on CNN tonight, be a tougher debater than the Obama Nation might have imagined. While I found him irritating (he's simply got to drop the "my friends" thing -- it's extremely creepy and weird...) pandering and repetitive (war, war, Gen. Petraeus, war, al-Qaida, Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam, can I tell you one more story about Vietnam, my friends...?) he did what any communications director wants to see: he fired off the talking points and repeated them over, and over and over again, no matter what he was asked. When asked about his greatest moral failing, he gave a clipped answer: "the failure of my first marriage," and then moved right back to his stump speech talking points. Asked about abortion, he begged to talk about the Supreme Court, so he could give his talking points. (and then mentioned he would not have nominated the four liberal justices, including David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer, all of whom he voted to confirm in the Senate, by the way ... he probably would have voted to confirm John Paul Stevens, too, but he wasn't in the Senate in 1975 ...) Asked about security vs. privacy, he threw in secret union ballots -- a right wing favorite topic -- straight out of left field ... McCain pandered on every answer to his audience of religious right voters, and was aggressive at promoting his ... you guessed it: talking points. McCain came off more blatantly political and Obama more thoughtful and authentic, but that may not matter to undecided voters, who want one of these candidates to force them to make up their minds. Score this one: McCain.

3. Too cool for school? Barack Obama was his usual cool, languid self, but his communications team has simply got to get him to shorten his answers. By being so thoughtful and nuanced, Obama missed the chance to take more questions, and he failed to get across clear, succinct messages. On the up-side, he actually had an intimate, real conversation with Rick Warren, whereas McCain simply hammered on the talking points and pandered to the audience, rarely addressing Warren directly. I think Obama hit paydirt with his Supreme Court answer by saying that the justice he would not have nominated would be unqualified Clarence Thomas (he righties are just seething over that one, and we love that!) But as Chuck Todd points out over at First Read:
Obama spent more time trying to impress Warren (or to put another away) not offend Warren while McCain seemingly ignored Warren and decided he was talking to folks watching on TV. The McCain way of handling this forum is usually the winning way. Obama may have had more authentic moments but McCain was impressively on message.
Score this one: McCain.

4. Land mine avoidance. McCain completely circumvented Rich Warren's attempts to get him to elaborate on issues that could split him from the right wing of his party. His six word answer to the "worst personal moral failing" question was one example, but he did that one better when he completely avoided the obvious answer to the question of what instance he could cite when he bucked his party at great political risk to himself. The obvious answers: campaign finance reform and immigration reform. McCain chose neither one, instead picking climate change, or something... Warren, who we should stipulate is not a reporter, didn't follow up. Score this one: McCain.

5. Maybe this would have been a good time for McCain to mention his wife? Asked by Warren what amount of income qualifies someone to be considered "rich," Barack gave a pretty good answer, joking that anybody who has sold 25 million books, as Warren has, qualifies. But then he got down to numbers, saying that if you make over $250,000 a year, "you're doing pretty well." McCain? He set the low bar for being considered rich at a cool $5 million. As Chris Kofinis said on Fox tonight, that was an opposition ad waiting to happen, and that ad should be made. Score this one: Obama.

6. Faith first. This was, after all, supposed to be a faith forum, and on that score, Obama won by a mile. He came off as much more humble, more conversant with the topic of faith, and more versed in Biblical scripture. He talked about man's need for humility in confronting evil, knowing that God is the only one capable of eliminating evil from the world, while McCain went into full eye bulge, vowing to "chase bin Laden to the gates of Hell" and using the church venue to attack "Islamic fascism." Obama said that marriage was a sacred union, where "God is in the mix," but his missed a chance to use the phrase, "I have been married to one woman for 15 years, and have vowed before God to remain with her for life," which his communications team MUST insert into his talking points. Still, compared with McCain's staccato answers on spiritual matters, Obama won by a mile. Score this one: Obama.

Final score: Obama - 3, McCain - 3. A good old fashioned draw, which unfortunately is pretty good news for John McCain.

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posted by JReid @ 12:15 AM  
Friday, August 15, 2008
The wayback machine: Cindy McCain, pilfered pills and the Keating Five scandal
Does anybody remember how and when Cindy McCain first got addicted to painkillers? I came across this interesting blast from the past from Newsweek about the woman who has twice sprained her wrist with a simple handshake...
She named her charity the American Voluntary Medical Team. In 1991, she camped in the Kuwait desert five days after the end of the gulf war to take medical supplies to refugees. That same year, she visited Mother Teresa's orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she saw 160 newborn girls who had been abandoned. The nuns handed her a small baby with a cleft palate so severe that the infant couldn't be fed. Another baby, also just a few weeks old, had a heart defect. Worried they would die without medical attention, Cindy applied for visas to take the girls back to the United States. But the country's minister of Health refused to sign the papers. "We can do surgery on this child," an official told her. Frustrated, Cindy slammed her fist on the table. "Then do it! What are you waiting for?" The official, stunned, simply signed the papers. "I don't know where I got the nerve," Cindy told Harper's Bazaar.
I guess her wrists were in better shape then ... continuing:
When she arrived in Phoenix, she carried the baby with the cleft palate off the plane. Her husband met her at the airport. He looked at the baby. "Where is she going?" he asked her. "To our house," she replied. They adopted the little girl and named her Bridget. Family friends adopted the other little girl. ...

... As she nursed baby Bridget back to health, Cindy was suffering problems of her own. In 1989, she lifted young Jimmy and ruptured a disc in her back, an injury that took several surgeries to fix. As she recovered in the hospital, an orderly set a newspaper down on her bed. "Guess your husband's not so great after all," she said sarcastically. On the front page was a story questioning whether McCain and four other members of Congress had inappropriately intervened to save a failed savings and loan owned by developer Charles Keating—a Hensley family friend. Cindy and her father had invested nearly $400,000 in a strip mall Keating owned. He had been a major contributor to McCain's campaigns and John and Cindy had vacationed at Keating's home in the Bahamas nearly 10 times, often flying down on one of Keating's private jets. McCain insisted he had paid for the use of the jet, but Cindy, in charge of the family's records, couldn't find the receipts. Ultimately, McCain received a mild rebuke for "poor judgment." But Cindy, convinced she had embarrassed her husband, was distraught. Under stress and still in pain after surgery, she began taking more of the pain pills doctors had prescribed. Soon she was addicted, taking up to 20 Percocets and Vicodins a day.

Initially, her doctors simply refilled her prescriptions. But as her appetite for pills increased, she began stealing drugs from her own nonprofit, asking doctors who worked for the group to obtain the pills for her trips overseas. She worked hard to conceal her habit. If anyone saw her downing a pill, she said it was a vitamin. Her husband, away in Washington most of the time, suspected nothing.

Her mother was the first to notice something was wrong. Cindy looked terrible and had lost weight. "What's the matter with you?" she asked Cindy one night in 1992. Cindy confessed, and says she quit the pills cold turkey that day. But she didn't tell John. "I was scared," she told NEWSWEEK. "I didn't want to disappoint him." The secret didn't keep. A little more than a year later, an employee who had been fired from Cindy's nonprofit went to the Drug Enforcement Administration and reported that pills had gone missing. When the DEA called Cindy to ask questions, she broke down and confessed. But first, she called McCain from her lawyer's office to tell him the news. The senator rushed home. "I should have known that it was happening," he told NBC News later. "Maybe I was wrapped up too much in Washington and my ambitions to pay as much attention as I should have." Cindy paid restitution, did community service and attended counseling sessions.
I hadn't known that Cindy essentially set up the Keating affair by introducing her hubby to her rich friend. And her reactions to so many things seem to suggest ... I hate to say it ... a kind of fear of her husband that to me is just plain odd. In fact, a lot about this couple is weird. About the only thing that's clear is that in her, John saw a woman better looking than his broken, former swimsuit model wife, and much, much richer and more influential; someone who could help him fulfill his ambitions. And she has gone dutifully along -- though she did do one smart thing: Cindy got herself a pre-nup.

And as for her admissions on the drug addition, as usual, the back story is a little more complicated than the glowing media profiles:

I believe she wore red that day. She granted semi-exclusive interviews to one TV station and three daily newspaper reporters in Arizona, tearfully recalling her addiction, which came about after painful back and knee problems and was exacerbated by the stress of the Keating Five banking scandal that had ensnared her husband. To make matters worse, McCain admitted, she had stolen the drugs from the American Voluntary Medical Team, her own charity, and had been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The local press cooed over her hard-luck story. One of the four journalists spoon-fed the story -- Doug McEachern, then a reporter for Tribune Newspapers, now a columnist with the Arizona Republic (and, it must be added, normally much more acerbic) -- wrote this rather typical lead:

"She was blonde and beautiful. A rich man's daughter who became a politically powerful man's wife. She had it all, including an insidious addiction to drugs that sapped the beauty from her life like a spider on a butterfly."

What McEachern and the others didn't know was that, far from being a simple, honest admission designed to clear her conscience and help other addicts, Cindy McCain's storytelling had been orchestrated by Jay Smith, then John McCain's Washington campaign media advisor. And it was intended to divert attention from a different story, a story that was getting quite messy.

I know, because I had been working on that story for months at Phoenix New Times. I had finally tracked down the public records that confirmed Cindy McCain's addiction and much more, and the McCains knew I was about to get them. Cindy's tale was released on the day the records were made public.

But the story I was pursuing was not so much about Cindy McCain's unfortunate addiction. It was much more about her efforts to keep that story from coming to light, and the possible manipulation of the criminal justice system by her husband and his cohorts. The irony is that Cindy's secret would have stayed secret if John McCain's heavy-hitting lawyer, John Dowd (of D.C.'s Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld; his most recent claim to fame was serving as co-counsel for fellow partner Vernon Jordan during impeachment) hadn't heavy-handedly pulled out all the stops to protect the McCain family.

Dowd tried to get back at the man on Cindy McCain's staff, Tom Gosinski, who had blown the whistle on her drug pilfering to the DEA. But in the course of trying to get local law enforcement officials to investigate Gosinski -- Dowd and the McCains considered him an extortionist; others might call him a whistleblower -- Dowd set in motion a process that would eventually bring the whole sordid story to light. When that maneuver backfired, the McCain media machine went into overdrive to spin the story.

The reporter, Amy Silverman, wrote more about Gosinski

In the early 1990s, Tom Gosinski was the director of government and international affairs for the American Voluntary Medical Team, which did relief and medical volunteer work in third world countries.

Hired by Cindy McCain in 1991, Gosinski enjoyed his job, but he began to notice McCain's erratic behavior in the summer of 1992. In his journal, he wrote that he and others suspected the boss was addicted to painkillers and might have been stealing them from the organization.

In January 1993, McCain fired Gosinski. She told him that AVMT was having financial problems and couldn't afford him.

Gosinski had already come to suspect that Cindy McCain had gotten volunteer doctors with AVMT to sign prescriptions for her, and had used employees' names to fill them. Worried his own name had been used (he would eventually learn that it had), Gosinski approached DEA agents in the spring of 1993 to report McCain's suspicious behavior. The DEA launched an investigation.

Almost a year later, with the statute of limitations about to run out, Gosinski hired a labor attorney and sued Cindy McCain for wrongful termination. He intended to claim that she fired him because she suspected he knew about her addiction, but the lawsuit never got that far. Instead, Gosinski's attorney wrote to the McCains, asking for a settlement of $250,000.

And then...

Rumors about the untold details of the lawsuit hit the cocktail-party circuit that spring, but the story was locked up tight. As a federal criminal investigation, the DEA probe was completely secret; none of it was public record.

The entire story would likely have gone unreported if attorney John Dowd hadn't entered the picture. He wrote to Maricopa County attorney Richard Romley, a political ally of McCain, and asked him to investigate Gosinski for extortion.

"We believe that Mr. Gosinski is aware that in the past Cindy had an addiction to prescription painkillers ... Given Cindy's public position, exposure of this sensitive matter would harm her reputation, career, the operation of AVMT, and subject her to contempt and ridicule," Dowd wrote on April 28, 1994.

Thus began the inadvertent outing of Cindy McCain. Although the federal investigative materials were not public, the county investigative materials were. Romley launched an investigation, and one of the first things his people did, naturally, was ask the feds to turn over their investigative materials.

New Times finally got hold of the county investigative materials and we did our own story. So did the Arizona Republic, which was uncharacteristically aggressive, perhaps because the McCain machine had left the paper out of the loop on the story of Cindy's addiction.

Among the questions asked: Did Cindy McCain get preferential treatment by the feds? True, Cindy was a first-time offender, which partially explains the fact that she did no prison time; instead, she entered a diversion program. But at the time, defense lawyers told New Times that if Cindy McCain had been a poor minority and not married to a U.S. senator, she likely would have been locked up.

Gosinki's lawsuit was eventually dismissed, and wound up the subject of a criminal investigation and working two jobs to pay his legal fees. And where is John Dowd now? Why, he's on John McCain's Enemies List, after ditching Exxon John for Fred Thompson during the primaries!


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posted by JReid @ 9:11 PM  
Check out the new Matthew 25 ad
The progressive Christian group has made a modest $20,000 buy in tomorrow night's Rick Warren forum at Saddleback Church, in which candidates Obama and McCain will be asked about their personal lives.

The ad emphasizes Obama's family ties and loyalty to his wife, back-handedly referring to McCain's failure to keep his vows to his first wife, whom he left for Cindy... it's a point one man in the ad, Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell (who famously officiated at Jenna Bush's wedding) emphasized when he blasted McCain for suggesting his strangely fragile wife Cindy ... (when exactly did you stop beating her again, John...???) try out for Miss Buffalo Chip... (at least he didn't try to shake her hand ... again...)

Anyway, here's the ad:


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posted by JReid @ 8:43 PM  
Pretend President McCain
Someone at the WaPo notices that John McCain is using the Georgian situation to pretend to be the president of the United States. How presumptuous...

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posted by JReid @ 8:22 PM  
Stop making sense: Russo-Georgian edition
Every so often, crazy old Pat Buchanan makes a hell of a lot of sense:
... American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight -- Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.

... Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi?

Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing?

When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?

Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of who viscerally detest Russia?

That Putin took the occasion of Saakashvili's provocative and stupid stunt to administer an extra dose of punishment is undeniable. But is not Russian anger understandable? For years the West has rubbed Russia's nose in her Cold War defeat and treated her like Weimar Germany.

When Moscow pulled the Red Army out of Europe, closed its bases in Cuba, dissolved the evil empire, let the Soviet Union break up into 15 states, and sought friendship and alliance with the United States, what did we do?

American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation. Breaking a pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, we moved our military alliance into Eastern Europe, then onto Russia's doorstep. Six Warsaw Pact nations and three former republics of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.

Bush, Cheney and McCain have pushed to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would require the United States to go to war with Russia over Stalin's birthplace and who has sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and Sebastopol, traditional home of Russia's Black Sea fleet.

When did these become U.S. vital interests, justifying war with Russia?

The United States unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because our technology was superior, then planned to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against Iranian missiles, though Iran has no ICBMs and no atomic bombs. A Russian counter-offer to have us together put an anti-missile system in Azerbaijan was rejected out of hand.

We built a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey to cut Russia out. Then we helped dump over regimes friendly to Moscow with democratic "revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and tried to repeat it in Belarus.

Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.

Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow.

How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior?

For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia's space and getting into Russia's face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost -- in Tbilisi.
Cluck-cluck. Meanwhile, Michael Dobbs, writing on the Washington Post's op-ed page serves up some reality based reporting on Georgia's "democratic" tendencies:

Unlike most of the armchair generals now posing as experts on the Caucasus, I have actually visited Tskhinvali, a sleepy provincial town in the shadow of the mountains that rise along Russia's southern border. I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades. One of Gamsakhurdia's first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic's 90,000-strong Ossetian minority.

After negotiating safe passage with Soviet interior ministry troops who had stationed themselves between the Georgians and the Ossetians, I discovered that the town had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia's militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.

It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. "We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism," an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me. "It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time."

When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited.

Let us examine the role played by the three main parties.

Georgia. Saakashvili's image in the West, and particularly in the United States, is that of the great "democrat," the leader of the "Rose Revolution" who spearheaded a popular uprising against former American favorite Eduard Shevardnadze in November 2003. It is true that he has won two reasonably free elections, but he has also displayed some autocratic tendencies; he sent riot police to crush an opposition protest in Tbilisi last November and shuttered an opposition television station.

While the United States views Saakashvili as a pro-Western modernizer, a large part of his political appeal in Georgia has stemmed from his promise to re-unify Georgia by bringing the secessionist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under central control. He has presented himself as the successor to the medieval Georgian king, David the Builder, and promised that the country will regain its lost territories by the time he leaves office, by one means or another. American commentators tend to overlook the fact that Georgian democracy is inextricably intertwined with Georgian nationalism.

The restoration of Georgia's traditional borders is an understandable goal for a Georgian leader, but it is a much lower priority for the West, particularly if it involves armed conflict with Russia. Based on their previous experience with Georgian rule, Ossetians and Abkhazians have perfectly valid reasons to oppose reunification with Georgia, even if it means throwing in their lot with the Russians.

Also in the Post, a young Russian woman interning with the paper scalds the American press for their leap to the Georgian's side (which paralleled the leap of their pet candidate, John McCain.)

Last week, Georgia's president invaded South Ossetia during the night, much as Adolf Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. Within hours, Georgian troops destroyed Tskhinvali, a city of 100,000, and they killed more than 2,000 civilians. Almost all of the people who died that night were Russian citizens. They chose to become citizens of Russia years ago, when Georgia refused to recognize South Ossetia as a non-Georgian territory.

The truth is that, in this case, Russian aggression actually made some sense. Russia defended its citizens.

Yet American newspapers published stories that omitted mention of the Georgian invasion. And American media as a whole have been disturbingly pro-Georgian. The lead photograph on the front page of Sunday's Post showed two men -- one dead, the other crying -- amid ruins in Gori, Georgia. Many other images could have been used. Monday's Wall Street Journal, for example, contained several stories about the conflict and even an op-ed by Saakashvili. Where was the Russian response?

I understand why the Georgian government would block access to Russian media Web sites. I understand why Russian media would present events in a light that favors Moscow's actions. But American media are not supposed to do the equivalent.

The much-revered American principle of a free press guarantees access to an independent source of information. It is supposed to mean that nobody takes a side, that journalists give readers the facts and let them draw their own conclusions. The Georgian president quickly became a chief newsmaker for Western media outlets, yet little could be found to explain the Russian side.

It's hard to understand how and why the terrible situation between Georgia and Russia has played out this way. Everything seemed too clear for the journalists writing about the conflict: Big, evil Russia tried to destroy small, democratic Georgia.

And the American media's willingness to choose sides provoked Russian media outlets. Russian newspapers did not waste time reminding readers that the true evil was the United States and that Washington was ultimately responsible for the conflict in Ossetia and Georgia.

Still in the Post, no hubris column on McCain from our friend Dana "last place 8:00 show guest" Milbank...


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posted by JReid @ 7:57 PM  
Irony alert: Bush scolds Russians on 'bullying and intimidation'
Offering further proof that Republicans now believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq happened in the 20th century, President Bush today slammed Russia for invading a sovereign country that didn't threaten it:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday chided Russia for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
Really??? Remember this?
[Feb. 23, 2003] Bush Threatens Economic Retaliation If Other Countries Do not Support Invasion - [Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar pleads for patience from Bush, and says that a UN resolution is vital. Aznar notes that public opinion in Spain is heavily against the war. Bush retorts that should certain countries not support the war in the UN, they could face retaliation from the US: “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States.” Bush mentions negative votes could endanger a free trade agreement with Chile and financial support for Angola. [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007]
Back to today's events...

Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."

"We will not cast them aside," he said.

Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."

Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors," Bush said, calling Georgia a "courageous democracy."

Sovereignty ... damaged credibility ... where have I heard those phrases before... oh, I remember!
The way the Iraq war was conducted was a "tragedy" that has seriously damaged the credibility of the US and the UK on the international stage, according to former British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Greenstock blamed the architects of the 2003 joint invasion, in particular the US, of "woefully inadequate planning." Years of potential progress were wasted in the first few days in April 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, he said.

... Greenstock served as UK Ambassador in New York during the countdown to the war and subsequently as Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq. His own memoirs have reportedly been blocked by the UK Foreign Office.

"We cannot just put these mistakes behind us and move on, because the consequences have seriously affected, at least for a while, the credibility of the US and the UK in the international arena," he warned.

Yes, that's the ticket.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condi Rice is headed to Georgia carrying a peace treaty that would essentially allow Russia to have the two break-away Georgian provinces it already occupies, by letting Russian troops remain there, something Moscow apparently concurs with, since Vlad Putin has already told Georgia to forget about getting them back.

I think it's proper to ask whether the U.S. invasion of a sovereign Iraq and its aggressive, "bullying" tactics in the run-up to that invasion emboldened the Russians, both by setting a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war, and by neutering the U.S.' ability to respond militarily to an actual crisis. Russia knows that any consequences it suffers from the U.S. will be minor, since the Iraq war also enriched Russia as a major oil producer (those inflated prices went right into their pockets.) So Putin is probably laughing at the man he duped into believing he was his friend, while asking Dubya, in regard to "consequences": you and what army.

Oh, and that Poland missile shield deal? That's not going to back Russia down. It will probably make things worse.


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posted by JReid @ 8:41 AM  
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Convention buzz
A deal has been reached to put Hillary Clinton's name in nomination at the convention, on August 27th. She is supposed to then cast her superdelegate vote for Obama, ask her supporters to do the same, and turn over her delegates. We'll see if it goes down that way.

Meanwhile, a judge says Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick CAN go to the convention, without an ankle bracelet! ... leading me to wonder, why in the hell does Kwame Kilpatrick think he should be at the convention? Is his goal to just keep embarrassing himself and the Democratic Party until someone actually slaps him? (sigh)

And speaking of sighs, MoDo says the Clintons are already in the process of stealing the convention from Barack.

Last but not least, with all the ugliness that has surfaced about the Mark Penn memos exhorting Team Clinton to trash Obama as not quite American, the latest Atlantic bomblet is that if Obama picks Evan Bayh as his veep -- which he won't, because Bayh is boooooringgggg -- it could mean the return of the slimy Mr. Penn. Goody!

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posted by JReid @ 11:48 AM  
Military votes for Obama with their dollars
A few interesting stories this morning that are not about Russia or Georgia...

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics finds that U.S. troops stationed overseas are giving to Barack Obama 6 to 1 over military veteran John McCain:
During World War II, soldiers crouching in foxholes penned letters assuring their sweethearts that they'd be home soon. Now, between firefights in the Iraqi desert, some infantrymen have been sending a different kind of mail stateside: two or three hundred dollars -- or whatever they can spare -- towards a presidential election that could very well determine just how soon they come home.

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul.

Despite McCain's status as a decorated veteran and a historically Republican bent among the military, members of the armed services overall -- whether stationed overseas or at home -- are also favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008, by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money from the military to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama.

With the latest campaign finance filings, detailing June fundraising, McCain has overtaken Paul among all military donors, though Paul still leads with contributors listing an overseas address. Financial support from military personnel for anti-war candidates Obama and Paul is a trend that the Center for Responsive Politics first

Individuals in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps have all leaned Republican this cycle, but the only branch in which that ideology has carried over to the presidential race is the Marine Corps, where McCain leads Obama by about $4,000. In each of the other branches -- including the Navy, in which McCain served when he was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War -- Obama leads by significant margins.

"That's shocking. The academic debate is between some who say that junior enlisted ranks lean slightly Republican and some who say it's about equal, but no one would point to six-to-one" in Democrats' favor, said Aaron Belkin, a professor of political science at the University of California who studies the military. "That represents a tremendous shift from 2000, when the military vote almost certainly was decisive in Florida and elsewhere, and leaned heavily towards the Republicans."
And here are the numbers:

Contributions from All Military Personnel
Recipient Total Number
Obama, Barack $335,536 859
McCain, John $280,513 558
Paul, Ron $232,411 537
Clinton, Hillary $167,050 376
Republican National Cmte $135,902 219
Huckabee, Mike $66,751 127
Thompson, Fred $46,400 93
Romney, Mitt $43,307 96
Giuliani, Rudolph W $22,050 47
National Republican Senatorial Cmte $21,885 26
DNC Services Corp $16,873 53
Based on contributions made during the 2008 election cycle through June 31, 2008.

Could it be that members of the military have figured out, despite being bombarded daily with right wing talk radio and Fox News, which candidate will get them the hell out of Iraq, and which one will get the U.S. into even more wars, while playing out the neocon fantasy in Mesopotamia indefinitely?

Well, maybe not indefinitely, since it appears that a deal, call it a "timeline for withdrawal" -- has been worked out with Iraq.

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posted by JReid @ 11:37 AM  
Irony alert: McCain sounds off on 'invasions', Krauthammer decries 'regime change'
In his scrambling to sound coherent on Georgia, John McCain came up with his most ironic statement to date this week, when he pronounced that "in the 21st Century, nations don't invade other nations." Really? Watch:

More irony: Charles Krauthammer in the WaPo today says he knows what Vlad Putin's REAL objective is in Georgia:
His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia's mercy.

The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.

Which explains Putin stopping the Russian army (for now) short of Tbilisi. What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps -- troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces -- will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia. But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin's refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to "give peace a chance."

Huh??? Since when does Krauthammer not like regime change? And of course, if there's a neocon in the room, there's gonna be talk of oil:
The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.

Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.

So what does Krauthammer want to do? Only dissolve the G8, bar Russia from entering the World Trade Organization, suspend the NATO-Russian alliance and ... Jimmy Carter fans will love this one ... boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics. Yes, you heard it right. He wants to boycott the Olympics.

Yeah, that should show Puty-Put.

Krauthammer is also making news for calling Bush's "lingering in Beijing, yucking it up with the U.S. beach volleyball team" a "mini-Katrina moment." Aside from that, his column is little more than the usual neocon sputter. But it's fully of irony, and we love that!

UPDATE: Yet another one for the irony file ... also writing in the Post today, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili casts the imperative for Western military rescue of Georgia in strangely familiar terms...
The historical parallels are stark: Russia's war on Georgia echoes events in Finland in 1939, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Perhaps this is why so many Eastern European countries, which suffered under Soviet occupation, have voiced their support for us.

Russia's authoritarian leaders see us as a threat because Georgia is a free country whose people have elected to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community. This offends Russia's rulers. They do not want their nation or even its borders contaminated by democratic ideas.
Translation: they hate us for our freedoms ...
This war threatens not only Georgia but security and liberty around the world. If the international community fails to take a resolute stand, it will have sounded the death knell for the spread of freedom and democracy everywhere.

Georgia's only fault in this crisis is its wish to be an independent, free and democratic country. What would Western nations do if they were punished for the same aspiration?

I have staked my country's fate on the West's rhetoric about democracy and liberty. As Georgians come under attack, we must ask: If the West is not with us, who is it with? If the line is not drawn now, when will it be drawn? We cannot allow Georgia to become the first victim of a new world order as imagined by Moscow.

Sounds a lot like George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war. The biggest irony of all, however, is that had Bush not invaded a sovereign country his damned self, and had he not dragged America's military, and our reputation, through the mud, the U.S. might have been freer to come to Georgia's aid in a more substantive way (though I doubt we'd be going to war with Russia in any event.) Still, the biggest reason Georgia will get little more than food and good wishes from America, is one Iraq War -- the same war the neocons demanded.


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posted by JReid @ 11:04 AM  
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Hey Scheunemann, it's Georgia calling ... they want their $800,000 back
Exactly what did the nation of Georgia expect in return for the $800,000 they paid to Randy Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm over the last couple of years? And did they renew the contract this spring, for $200,000, expecting that they were buying a guaranteed U.S. response to any belligerence by Russia, as if they were already in NATO? The Washington Post bombshell about Schenemann's lucrative Georgian lobbying deal was explained brilliantly tonight on "Countdown":

Details now from the Post:
Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.

The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate's decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

But ethics experts have raised concerns about former lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about those same countries. "The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" said James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "It's dangerous if you're getting advice from people who are very close to countries on one side or another of a conflict."

At the time of McCain's call, Scheunemann had formally ceased his own lobbying work for Georgia, according to federal disclosure reports. But he was still part of Orion Strategies, which had only two lobbyists, himself and Mike Mitchell.

Scheunemann remained with the firm for another month, until May 15, when the McCain campaign imposed a tough new anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to separate himself from the company.

Besides being a lobbyists for a foreign government while he was both lobbying Sen. McCain and then working for him, it turns out Scheunemann also ... um ... sucks at his job:
As a private lobbyist trying to influence lawmakers and Bush administration staffers, Scheunemann at times relied on his access to McCain in his work for foreign clients on Capitol Hill. He and his partner reported 71 phone conversations and meetings with McCain and his top advisers since 2004 on behalf of foreign clients, including Georgia, according to forms they filed with the Justice Department.

The contacts often focused on Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and on legislative proposals, including a measure co-sponsored by McCain that supported Georgia's position on South Ossetia, one of the Georgian regions taken over by Russia this weekend.

Another measure lobbied by Orion and co-sponsored by McCain, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2006, would have authorized a $10 million grant for Georgia.

Too bad Georgia's invasion of the break-away province of South Ossetia and Russia's military rout of their Army after they killed peacekeeping troops, along with the pretty darned clear fact that the Bush administration has NOOOOOO intention of taking military action to defend Georgia has made the possibility of Georgia being let into NATO about ... um ... zilch. They are getting humanitarian aid, though, which is nice. I think one of the ships carrying supplies is scheduled to get there in a month.

Apparently, Georgia's president, Mr. Shakaasvili, didn't get the memo, however. He was on CNN today rebuking McCian, as you saw in the Olbermann clip, for not matching his "we are all Georgian's now" schtick with "action." You mean like ... military action??? ... oh, dude, I'm sorry. How much did you pay that Scheunemman guy again?
For months while McCain's presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia's lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.

Since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.
Damn, I sure hate it. I don't suppose you have a receipt for where Randy told you the U.S. would stand by its new ally come what may against Russian aggression ... do you?

Meanwhile, the neocons at the corner are probably a little disappointed that McCain stumbled and bumbled his way through a major walk-back from his Russo belligerence today, saying he "didn't want to re-start the Cold War." And presto! They've uncovered proof that Georgia may have seen it coming, which would put them one up on the vacationing through the crisis Condi Rice... Sez the Corner:
Here's an interesting Radio Free Europe story from 2006 (my emphasis added):
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels today that during a recent phone conversation, Saakashvili had confessed to "tremendous worry" about the possible consequences that ongoing UN-sponsored Kosovo status talks could have for Georgia...Solana indicated that he, too, considers it possible that independence for Kosovo could have a negative effect on Georgia's territorial integrity, acknowledging it would set a "precedent."

In other words, though the Corner folks apparently missed it in their zeal to back-slap Bill Clinton's foreign policy more than a decade later, independence for Kosovo prompted the ethnic Russians in South Ossetia to give it a go themselves, causing ... wait for it ... the Georgian army to invade South Ossetia, killing some peace keepers in the process. And while Russia looks like the ogre here, I think Barack Obama turns out to be the grown0up by noting that both sides committed aggressive acts, rather than implying that the U.S. should act like Georgia is already a member of NATO and go to war on their behalf. In fact, the very idea of putting Georgia in NATO looks suicidal, given the present situation and the ongoing Georgian internal conflict over not one, but TWO ethnic Russian provinces. Russia and Georgia have both behaved badly, it seems clear to anyone who isn't a neocon or a complete right wing hack. The difference is, only one side of the Ruso-Georgian conflict had a United States Senator's chief foreign policy adviser on the payroll.

UPDATE: McCain is sending his wing-men, the comedy act of Lieberman and Lindsey, to Georgia to ... um ... reassure them that they should still pay Scheunemann because he's a good neocon??? According to the New York Times:
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Senator John McCain turned aside questions today about whether Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, had strayed over the political line yesterday when he said that Senator Barack Obama had shown inexperience in his initial response to the war between Russia and Georgia.

And he tried to tamp down earlier charges from the Obama camp that he was responding to the Russian crisis with a belligerence that could only make the situation worse. He said he was taking a hard line on Russia but wasn’t trying to “reignite the Cold War.”

It was all part of a continuing effort by the McCain campaign to seize on the events overseas to appear presidential and in command on the world stage while at the same time not appearing to be political. At several points today, he emphasized that he had visited Georgia many times and was familiar with the players.

He also said he was sending Mr. Lieberman, of Connecticut, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to Georgia, as both stood beside him at a flag-bedecked news conference here. All three are members of the Senate Armed Services committee.

... At a fund-raiser in Teaneck, N.J., on Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman had criticized a statement from Mr. Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, about the war in Georgia.

“As the Russians move into Georgia as aggressors, and if you read the statements from the beginning, from Senator McCain and Senator Obama, one had a kind of moral neutrality to it,” Mr. Lieberman said Tuesday. “That comes, I think, from inexperience.” He added that Mr. McCain’s statement was “strong and clear” and showed he was ready to be commander in chief from day one.

Really? (And why does Lieberman sound so much like Hillary Clinton circa March???) On the contrary, Joe, I honestly don't see why anyone continues to take John McCain seriously on foreign policy. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that his grand standing against Russia has only one possible consequence: making both himself, and the U.S. look silly, since he cannot hope to back up his tough talk with action since 1) he is not the president of the United States, 2) he and Lieberman helped cook up a ridiculous war in Iraq that's draining our troop strength and 3) nobody in their right mind in the U.S. wants to go to war with Russia (and there I exclude the neocons, Lieberman included, who are insane, and I INCLUDE one George W. Bush. Even HE's not that stupid. In fact, Bush has already ruled out a military response, which ... and this is the big one ... Vlad Putin and his puppet president KNOW ... and told the Georgians point blank that all that previous talk about standing with them was all crap: all they're getting is humanitarian aid.

BTW check out this series of wiggles by the Bush administration today, about that aid:
Saakashvili also caused an uproar when he said that Bush's pledge of humanitarian aid meant the U.S. military would take control of "Georgian ports and airports." The Pentagon swiftly contradicted his statement, and Saakashvili did not repeat it during a subsequent television appearance.

But the administration appeared to be sending mixed signals with its aid shipments, pointedly using military planes and ships and warning Russia not to block sea, air or land transport routes, while insisting it had no plans to intervene militarily.

"This is not an attempt to put military assets in closer proximity to inject U.S. forces into this conflict," a senior defense official said.

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane with medical supplies, shelters and bedding, dispatched from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., landed yesterday in Tbilisi. Onboard was what the Pentagon called a 12-man "assessment team," which will stay in Georgia to act as liaison. Some team members had served in the country as part of more than 140 U.S. military and contract civilian trainers who previously worked with the Georgian military.

U.S. officials denied reports in the semi-official Russian media that U.S. advisers have been working with Georgian combat troops. On Monday, the U.S. military transported about 2,000 Georgian troops home from duty as part of the multinational force in Iraq.

Now our reticent Cowboy in Chief doesn't even want to own up to training Georgian troops, and damned sure doesn't want the Russians to feel that we're placing troops along their southwestern border ... WHICH IS WHERE GEORGIA IS... Why?

Think Cuban missile crisis. In other words, if we deploy military assets essentially along the Russian border in order to "help" a breakaway former Soviet republic that is hanging onto two ethnic Russian provinces against their will, and thus interfering with Russia's sphere of influence AND threatening them militarily? Cuban ... missile ... crisis. Which of course, would be fine by the neocons, because they're crazy (and Georgia has oil pipelines.) But the rest of us who are NOT crazy? Not so much.

And, we're supposed to trust John McCain with the button?

And what's this I hear about Joe's friends the Israelis joining with the Bush administration to train Georgian troops (apparently not very well...)? Could that be another reason why the neocons are so hopped up on Georgia, because it has become a sphere of influence for the Israelis, with lots of oil, right next to Israeli-U.S. ally Turkey, to boot? Just a thought...

Meanwhile, Steve Clemons at TWN speculates on the neocons' plans to purge McCain's foreign policy team of the taint of realism, by exporting Collin Powell.


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posted by JReid @ 11:00 PM  
Limbaugh pulls an Imus on Elizabeth Edwards
Three rules for talk radio: never attack disabled children, African-American women college students, or Elizabeth Edwards.

Well, Limbaugh just broke rule #3:

In case you missed that, what El Rushbo said was ... John Edwards stepped out on Elizabeth Edwards "because he found someone ... who would do something with her MOUTH ... besides talk."

Yep. That's what he said. Here's the full quote, courtesy of Media Matters (note that Limbaugh appears to be aware of the mine field he's about to step into, but he jumps in anyway...)
LIMBAUGH: Well, it's -- I mean, at some point, at some point, you gotta exhibit maturity and restraint. You know, and I do that constantly. But -- well, I don't -- look, let me see if I can run you through this and get you to think what I'm thinking without my actually saying it. That might be a pretty big talent if I could do that -- make you think what I'm going to say without my having to say it, therefore if anybody gets in trouble for saying it, you say it.

We know -- we've been told that Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards. That's part of the puff pieces on them that we've seen. Ergo, if Elizabeth Edwards is smarter than John Edwards, is it likely that she thinks she knows better than he does what his speeches ought to contain and what kind of things he ought to be doing strategy-wise in the campaign? If she is smarter than he is, could it have been her decision to keep going with the campaign? In other words, could it be that she doesn't shut up? Now, that's as far as I'm going to go.

Well, you're -- Snerdley says he's missing something. If you're missing it, you're going to have to provide it. What are you missing? Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

I can't close the loop on it. I can't close the loop on it. I'm on -- you know, I'm in a little quicksand already today talking about how the chicks are giving us boring pictures of the female athletes from the Olympics. Because I know -- you -- the diversity crowd's going to be upset. They're going to -- "Ooh, do you mean the Olympics are just so you guys can ogle wom--" Yes, because we do not care to watch 'em compete. But back to Elizabeth and the Breck Girl.

I'm sorry, my friends, I just -- I can't. It just seems to me that Edwards might be attracted to a woman whose mouth did something other than talk.


LIMBAUGH: OK, we're back. Ladies and gentleman, my theory that I just explained to you about why -- you know, what could have John Edwards' motivations been to have the affair with Rielle Hunter, given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him a lot about doing this, and he found somebody that did something with her mouth other than talk.

Well I guess he oughta know...

So, will there be consequences? Well let's see... What's the head count of advertisers and stations who have dropped Savage's show since he went after autistic kids? While were at it, how are Don Imus' ratings over on satellite radio? In other words: no. People like Limbaugh and Savage don't get fired, because the people they work for LIKE what they're doing. Most talk radio PDs are "conservatives," whose views of what is too outrageous for broadcast is colored, to say the least, by their political views. Limbaugh just signed a $400 million contract. He won't even be chastised harshly.

In fact, because his listener demo only includes a handful of women who call in on occasion to worship him ... with their mouths ... I'm not even sure he'll lose many advertisers.

Happy Wednesday!


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posted by JReid @ 10:30 PM  
Obama's new ad: hitting McCain on Iraq
Sure it's not funny like the DSCC ad against Liddy Dole, but the new Obama ad targeting John McCain's Bush-like policies on Iraq is pretty darned good, and ends with a line that should be a keeper: "Barack Obama: Middle Class First," a good retort to McCain's jingoistic "America first" strategy. Watch:


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posted by JReid @ 1:13 PM  
DSCC scores!
The DSCC messes around and launches the best political ad so far this season, targeting Elizabeth Dole's reelection bid in NC:


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posted by JReid @ 1:07 PM  
Obama veepstakes continue
A guy called William, a Hillary supporter who writes thoughtful analyses of the election that wind up in the in-boxes of political junkies like myself, has done a pretty damned thorough run-down of whose name might be in that Obama text message to supporters regarding his veep choice. (I'm not sure if he wants his full name used, so I'm just going with William.) His assumptions:

  1. His choice will not be a woman - other than Senator Hillary Clinton.
  2. Will not be someone who has already received media attention or speculation as being "vetted," per Senator Obama's own statement.
  3. Will not be a Senator, as two Senators on the same ticket have not been elected since John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960.
  4. Will be from a battleground state that will be in play in November.
  5. Has not ruled self out of the running.
  6. Will be a Catholic, as (a) this segment of the voting population (of the 27% of voters who are Catholic, the Republican Presidential ticket in 2004 had a margin of 5%, which was an increase from the Democratic Presidential ticket’s margin of 2% in 2000) is critical to a Democratic victory, (b) Senator Obama performed poorly with Catholics in the Democratic primaries/caucuses, and (c) polls show Catholics evenly divided between Senators Obama and McCain.

By that reasoning, Wils rules out a long list of potential Obama veeps, including Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, Jim Webb (whom I rule out because of his "sexism issues" vis-a-vis women voters), Mark Warner (ruled himself out, not Catholic), Kathleen Sebelius and on and on. I agree with many of the rule-outs, excepting Hagel. So William comes up with the following final six (in order of electoral votes):
* Anthony Zinni, Retired General, Pennsylvania: 21 electoral votes, Catholics are 29.4% of the population
* Phil Bredesen, Governor of Tennessee: 11 electoral votes, Catholics are 3.2% of the population
* James Doyle, Governor of Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes, Catholics are 29% of the population
* Bill Ritter, Governor of Colorado: 9 electoral votes, Catholics are 14.7% of the population
* Joe Manchin, Governor of West Virginia: 5 electoral votes, Catholics are 4.6% of the population
* John Lynch, Governor of New Hampshire: 4 electoral votes, Catholics are 24% of the population
Pretty good list, but I'd put Hagel back on , and also add retired Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a former strategy chief at the U.S. European Command, and the guy who accompanied Obama to Germany as a campaign adviser and whose presence at Ramstein air base was dubbed overly political by the Pentagon. Gration is clean cut and All-American. He's got obvious military cred, and he shares African roots with Obama (he's white, but he grew up in the Congo.) If he can speak, and debate, I'd put him on the list.

I have to say, and quite seriously mind you, that I'd take John Lynch off the list. Not because he's not good enough for the gig, but because I don't think the strategists will like Obama and Lynch in the same sentence. Too much Rush Limbaugh tasteless joke potential.


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posted by JReid @ 12:36 AM  
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
China's kiddie engineering
To ensure a perfect opening ceremony, the Chinese dubbed in fireworks, jailed protesters, and swapped a 7-year-old girl with the perfect voice for a 9-year-old lyp sync star with the perfect looks. Seriously.

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 AM  
The McCain mispronounciator
Poor John McCain. Just when he's got the neocons salivating over his Russia stance, and the media rapt with attention to hear his expertise on foreign affairs, he mispronounces the name of his good friend, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ... three times.

The Washington Independent's Matthew Delong suggests McCain's aides add some pronouncers in his scripts. Very helpful idea. Perhaps they could borrow some from Wikipedia while they're using it to write McCain's scripts (allowing him to fake an in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs ...) says Delong:
I don't mean to be petty -- the name is not an easy one to say correctly, particularly for Westerners -- but McCain wasn't even close. If he met "many times" with the Georgian president, it would probably be a good sign that McCain had done his homework and pronounced the leader's name properly -- especially when he is highlighting his supposedly close relationship with Saakashvili.

Furthermore, one of McCain's top advisers, Randy Scheunemann, was a longtime lobbyist for the Georgian government. So McCain should have this one nailed down. The point is a small one, but it is an important sign of respect -- considering McCain wants to be the principal agent and public face of U.S. foreign relations. Maybe his writers should take a cue from radio and TV reporters -- and include phonetic pronunciations of tricky names in his scripts.
Like the prompter, pronounciation is just one more bugaboo for the 20th century pol.


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posted by JReid @ 10:23 AM  
Bush gets bad reviews on Georgia
The reviews are in, and from the Wall Street Journal to papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch, George W. Bush's handling of the Russia-Georgia situation is getting panned. This is why they only watch Fox News...

Meanwhile, at the WaPo, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev says the conflict is Georgia's fault.

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posted by JReid @ 10:03 AM  
The end of American influence? Plus, the neocons new, old crusade
George Bush at the Olympics, says he and Vlad Putin have a "good relationship" and
he was "firm with him"
on Georgia. Perhaps someone should have been firm with
Dubya about the proper direction of the American flag...

According to BBC News, Russia has ended its military operations in Georgia. (Background on the conflict here.) However, the current situation in Georgia is as clear a demonstration as any in recent history of America's waning influence in the world. Watching George W. Bush cavorting around Beijing with U.S. Olympic athletes was kind of funny for a while, but against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Georgia, and Bush's absolute impotence in the face of it, it's actually downright embarassing. UPDATE: Georgian officials are disputing that Russian military attacks have ended in South Ossetia. And there are charges of ethnic cleansing being thrown around.

I haven't posted much about the Georgia situation because I wanted to dig into it first on my own, and know what's actually going on. The political back and forth in the U.S., the silly spectacle of John McCain pretending to give ultimatums to Russia that a) he has no authority to deliver because hello? he isn't president ... (where's Dana Milbank with a "hubris" column when you need him) and b) the U.S. doesn't have the available troops to do anything to Russia even if we wanted to (leading to the possibility of the Russians throwing down the perennial classic, "you and what Army?" Besides, the fact that McCain's neocon chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was up until recently a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government puts his comments in a less than glowing context. (Not to mention his inability to accept the notion of context coming out of the mouth of one Barack Obama.)

So much about the Russia-Georgia mess speaks of America's inability to influence events:

1) Where is Condi? Condoleezza Rice is our resident Russian expert, in addition to being secretary of state. She has proved less than deft at either one. As even the National Review's Claudia Rossett points out:
If Washington’s diplomacy with Russia should have had one thing going for it, it is that Bush has an expert on the job. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a Soviet (a.k.a. Russia) specialist from way back. But so busy has Rice been with global diplomacy that she appears to have dropped the ball entirely on Georgia. Or so one might infer from the past few days in which President Bush appeared caught by surprise, tied up watching Olympic basketball and swimming in Beijing, while Russia got down to the business of bombing and shooting its way into Georgia — a U.S. ally which not so long ago Bush was praising for its Rose Revolution, thanking for its troop contributions in Iraq, and trying to usher into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
2) Bush: all hat, no cattle. While I hate to agree with the neocon nutjobs, the sight of Dubya hanging with his good friend, Prime Minister Putin on the Olympic sidelines looked downright silly while back in Washington, his government was issuing stern sounding warnings to Putin's hand-picked president, Mr. Medvedev, while Putin did all the big talking. (Bush is finally back from his Beijing vacation, and is issuing even sterner sounding warnings. And reportedly, while at the opening ceremonies, he gave Putie-Put a good talking to. Well, that should do it...) The fact is, Bush hasn't got any leverage over Russia, and can't do anything more than he is doing: talking. His own policies, including in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, are partly to blame. Russia is richer than it was when he arrived, thanks to the skyrocketing oil prices that he and Cheney helped engineer, and Putin feels freer to act, knowing that the U.S. is as bogged down in Mesopotamia as the Soviets once were in Afghanistan.

3) The U.S. seemed so taken aback by the events in Georgia, you've got to wonder what they're smoking. The U.S. has been pouring military aid into the former Soviet satellite (much of it through GOP-patented privatization) ever since they agreed to join the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. They had the third largest troop contingent still remaining there, but Georgian troops now face being airlifted out of Iraq by the U.S. military, so they can return to their own war zone. That airlift coming at U.S. taxpayer expense. By flexing military muscle right on Russia's doorstep, you've got to believe that the U.S. and Georgia should have expected a response from the likes of Putin ... sorry, Medvedev, who's really "in charge" nowadays ... and if you believe that... As Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center, guest posts on TWN, the Bushies aren't the only ones who were caught flat footed. Count the Georgian government in, too:

It is remarkable, but probably inevitable, that so many in Washington have reacted with surprise and outrage to Russia's response to President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to reestablish Georgian control over South Ossetia by force.

Some of the angriest statements come from those inside and outside the Bush administration who contributed, I assume unwittingly, to making this crisis happen. And like post-WMD justifications for the invasion of Iraq, the people demanding the toughest action against Russia are focused on Russia's lack of democracy and heavy-handed conduct, particularly in its own neighborhood, and away from how the confrontation actually unfolded. Likewise, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, these same people accuse anyone who points out that things are not exactly black and white, and that the U.S. government may have its own share of responsibility for the crisis, of siding with aggressive tyrants - in this case, in the Kremlin.

Yet many both outside and even inside the Bush administration predicted that the U.S. decision to champion Kosovo independence without Serbian consent would lead Moscow to become more assertive in establishing its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent and a U.N. Security Council mandate as a precedent for the two Georgian de facto independent enclaves. Furthermore, while President Saakashvili was making obvious his ambition to reconquer Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow was both publicly and privately warning that Georgia's use of force to reestablish control of the two regions would meet a tough Russian reaction, including, if needed, air strikes against Georgia proper.

So it would be interesting to know what President Saakashvili was thinking when, on Thursday night, after days of relatively low-level shelling around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali (which both South Ossetians and Georgians blamed on each other), and literally hours after he announced on state-controlled TV the cessation of hostilities, he ordered a full-scale assault on Tskhinvali. And mind you, the assault could only succeed if the Georgian units went right through the battalion of Russian troops serving as international peacekeepers according to agreements signed by Tbilisi itself in the 1990s.

Under the circumstances, the Russian forces had three choices: to surrender, to run away, or to fight. And fight they did - particularly because many of the Russian soldiers were in fact South Ossetians with families and friends in Tskhinvali under Georgian air, tank, and artillery attacks. Saakashvili was reckless to count on proceeding with a blitzkrieg in South Ossetia without a Russian counterattack.

4) The Georgian situation proves, if there remained any doubt, that the neoconservative movement is a cult of insane people. They would dearly love to revive their Reagan-era drive for a U.S. war against the former Soviet bad guys. (In fact, it was Ronald Reagan's refusal to fire up the nukes and take the Soviets out that ultimately drove the neocons away from him. and into their PNAC think tanks.) No sooner did the guns start blazing in Georgia than the Hitler analogies and calls for war started streaming from the keyboards of war cultists like Bill Kristol and the aforementioned Mr. Kagan. But as Rossett's column goes on to lament, the cons have lost control of their White House cowboy to the evil one world government of the U.N.

For the democratic world, there will be no easy recovery from the chilling spectacle of Georgia’s 2,000 or so troops pulling out of Iraq to go join their own country’s desperate defense. The message so far is that America will ferry them home, but while Georgia rallied to the defense of freedom in Iraq, none of Georgia’s erstwhile allies will risk taking up arms to help the Georgians against a Russian onslaught.

The damage in many dimensions is already enormous. As historian and former State Department official Robert Kagan wrote in an incisive article in Monday’s Washington Post, “Historians will come to view August 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell” — though for far less promising reasons. Kagan notes, correctly, that the issue is not how, exactly, this war in Georgia began, but that the true mistake of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, “was to be president of a small, mostly democratic and adamantly pro-Western nation on the border of Putin’s Russia.”

China’s Communist rulers, while basking in the glow of their Olympics bash, are surely checking the tea leaves for what this might presage about U.S. support for another U.S. ally: the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. If the U.S. will not stand up to North Korea, will not stand up to Iran, will not stand up to Russia, then where will the U.S. stand up? What are the real rules of this New World Order?

And Rossett reveals, if anyone had remaining doubt, that the neocons have gone home, quitting their second choice, Mr. Bush, for their first love, John McCain:
Apart from Afghanistan and Iraq, the main rule right now seems to be that while anti-democratic bullies do the shooting, everyone else does a lot of talking and resolving. The UN Security Council meets, repeatedly. The European parliament ponders. Presumptive Republic nominee John McCain at least has the gumption and insight to point out that Russia’s actions threaten not only Georgia, but some of Russia’s other neighbors, such as Ukraine, “for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values.” Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama calls for more diplomacy, aid, and not just a U.N. resolution but also a U.N. mediator — despite the massive evidence that U.N. mediators can’t even protect the dissident monks of Burma or the opposition in Zimbabwe, let alone a small country trying to fight off single-handed an invasion by the Russian army.
Ironically, the neocons cheered when Condi Rice succeeded the hated Colin Powell at State. Now, color the cons disappointed:
President Bush, lapsed cowboy and former global top cop, dispatches his envoys to talk, and talk — and talk about talking some more. America’s ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad told the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgia’s elected President Mikhail Saakasvhivili “must go.” Khalilzad informed the Security Council that this is “unacceptable” and “this Council must act decisively to reaffirm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.” This is a phrase that satisfies the U.N. brand of etiquette, but it stops no bombs or bullets.

Bush, upon his return from Beijing to Washington, having failed to stop the Russian invasion of Georgia by declaring himself “deeply concerned,” issued a tougher statement in the Rose Garden: That by invading a neighboring state and threatening to overthrow its elected government, Russia has committed an action that is “unacceptable in the 21st century.”

Oh really? While declaring this invasion “unacceptable,” the global community of the 21st century seems prepared to accept it in spades. While Russian guns close in on Tbilisi, even the basic diplomatic penalties are not yet fully on the table, for whatever they might be worth. By all means, let’s see the G-8 expel Russia, if the will can be found to do even that much. By all means, let the U.N. Security Council engage in the farce of discussing reprimands and maybe even sanctions for Russia — which happens to be both a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, and one of the world’s most adept and experienced sanctions violators.

5) It's the oil, stupid. A clip from John McCain's bellicose statement yesterday tell us what McCain thinks this is really all about:
"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.
Well, that and giving McCain's neocon friends another war. ... As Joe Klein points out:
With Word War IV--Norman Podhoretz's ridiculous oversell of the struggle against jihadi extremism--on a slow burn for the moment, Kagan et al are showing renewed interest in the golden oldies of enemies, Russia and China. This larval neo-crusade has influenced the campaign of John McCain, with his comic book proposal for a League of Democracies and his untenable proposal to kick the Russians out of the G8.

To be sure, Russia's assault on Georgia is an outrage. We should use all the diplomatic leverage we have (not all that much, truthfully) to end this invasion, and--as Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus argue in this more reasonable take--help Georgia to recover when it's over. And, to be sure, neither Russia nor China are going to be our good buddies, as many of us hoped in the afterglow of the fall of communism. They will be a significant diplomat challenge.

But it is important, yet again, to call out the endless neoconservative search for new enemies, mini-Hitlers. It is the product of an abstract over-intellectualizing of the world, the classic defect of ideologues. It is, as we have seen the last eight years, a dangerous way to behave internationally. And it has severely damaged our moral authority in the world...I mean, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, after our blithe rubbishing of the Geneva Accords, why should anyone listen to us when we criticize the Russians for their aggression in the Caucasus?

Indeed. Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias calls out more neocon alarmists on the warpath here.


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posted by JReid @ 7:55 AM  
Monday, August 11, 2008
A little me-me-me-me
Okay, so over the weekend I did something pretty uncharacteristic for me: I auditioned for a TV show. No, it was not a reality show. Something more in my vein: a new morning news/talk show that's being put together for the South Florida CW affiliate, WSFL. So Saturday was the initial audition, where about 250 or so people showed up. Sunday was callbacks, where there were about 36 of us.

I think they're going to post some of the audition tape on Youtube, or run it on the local CW here. If so, I'll let you know. I may also be asking you to vote for me (shameless plug, but hey, that's showbiz!)

One thing I do think I messed up in the audition (because of nerves,) was not mentioning enough about my interests besides politics. So in the event that the judges check out this blog, had I been more composed on Sunday, I would have mentioned my favorite non-political pastime: movies.

Best ones this summer:

"Batman" and "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (and the first half of "Hancock." The second half sucked. Big time.

Also FYI, if you're local, I'll be hosting a political forum/debate at Greater Bethel AME Church in Deerfield Beach tomorrow at 6 p.m. The face-offs will between the county sheriff candidates, and State House 29 and Senate 92. If you're in Broward, stop on by! (I think they're gonna have food...)



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posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
It had to happen...
First it was rickrolling (and the newer phenomenon, "rick-Roving," which is when you get slimed by a former Karl Rove associate...) now ... watch your back, or you might get ... Barackrolled:

Hat tip to the Sun Sentinel blog.


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posted by JReid @ 3:39 PM  
Out of Bounds
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds apparently lost it over the weekend, leveling probably the lowest road political attack I've heard in ages, this as both candidates weigh in on the near-all-out war between Russia and Georgia. It all started when the Obama campaign pointed out that one of McCain's lobbyist advisers, Randy Sheunemann, used to lobby for Georgia. That touched off this jaw dropper from Bounds:
"The Obama campaign's attacks on Randy Scheunemann are disgraceful. Mr. Scheunemann proudly represented a small democracy that is one of our closest allies in a very dangerous region. Today, many are dead and Georgia is in crisis, yet the Obama campaign has offered nothing more than cheap and petty political attacks that are echoed only by the Kremlin. The reaction of the Obama campaign to this crisis, so at odds with our democratic allies and yet so bizarrely in sync with Moscow, doesn't merely raise questions about Senator Obama's judgment--it answers them."

The Bounds comment hits so far below the belt, it's almost unbelievable that it was approved for release, unless you remember that John McCain isn't exactly known for comity. The low road is kind of where he lives, especially now that he's fighting to get the keys to the White House, apparently at any cost.


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posted by JReid @ 12:36 PM  
Who's the celebrity?
The Obama campaign debuts its own "celebrity ad," targeting John McCain"

Good ad, and about time! The spot is set to start running nationally tomorrow. Let's see if the media runs with it the way they did McCain's Paris Hilton ad...


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posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Dana Milbank hubris watch
Dana Milbank, who turns out to be one of the snottiest sirens of the ego-centric "mainstream media," is continuing to huff out defenses for his misquote of Barack Obama in a converstion with House reporters that Milbank didn't hear first-hand. Milbank has claimed that both he and fellow Post reporter Jonathan Weisman used the quote accurately, and that subsequent renditions of the quote, which clarified that Obama was saying "it's not about me, I have become a symbol..." were manufactured by Democrats who didn't like the way it looked. Well, here's the update. First, from Media Matters a couple of days ago:

In his July 30 Washington Post column, Milbank wrote: "Inside, according to a witness, [Obama] 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.' " Milbank suggested the quote showed Obama's "hubris." He did not cite a source for the quote.

In a July 29 entry on the Post's The Trail blog, Weisman reported a similar version of the comment, writing that, "according to a witness," the reported remark "suggest[ed]" that Obama "was beginning to believe his own hype." But Weisman later posted an update to his July 29 blog post saying that "House leadership aides pushed back against interpretations of this comment as self-aggrandizing," and reported: "[O]ne leadership aide said the full quote put it into a different context. According to that aide, Obama said, '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.' " During his August 8 chat, Weisman wrote, "We ran them [the quotes] exactly how they were e-mailed to me."

Milbank asserted as fact in a July 31 chat that "House Democratic aides got up Thursday morning and decided that the quotes looked bad." And in his August 7 online discussion, Milbank asserted: "Hopefully we needn't go through all of this again, but to make sure everybody's clear: My colleague Jonathan Weisman and I believe the quote was correct as written, and that this supposed 'context' is a recreation, after-the-fact, by Democratic aides who were worried about how the quote looked. Perhaps Obama didn't mean for it to come out that way, but there's every reason to believe it did."

However, when asked about Milbank's August 7 comments in his August 8 online chat, Weisman wrote, "I'm happy to see Dana taking a firm stand. I'm a little more squishy":

New York: Yesterday, in here, Dana Milbank claimed that both he and you believe your controversial quoting of Obama from the House Caucus fully reflected the context in which the statement was made, and that claims otherwise by aides and Congressmen in attendance are in fact lies. Does Milbank in fact speak for you on this?

Jonathan Weisman: I was waiting for this question. I'm happy to see Dana taking a firm stand. I'm a little more squishy. Here's what I can say. The source of the quotes is an unimpeachable voice of House Democrats and a strong Obama supporter. We did not cherry pick quotes. We ran them exactly how they were e-mailed to me. And the "context" that was provided was provided the next morning, after House Democratic aides met to compare notes. I can't say whether the first rendition was more accurate than the second. I can say those providing the second rendition had good reason to supply context that would nullify the first. I can also say I trust the suppliers of both renditions.

Without a tape or transcript, we will never know which was accurate. But I will tell all those who accused of us [sic] willfully cherry-picking quotes or taking them out of context, you are flat dead wrong.

Well, now the Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has admitted that Milbank and Weisman did not even attempt to verify the quote, and worse, that Milbank has responded to the criticism with rank sarcasm:

... That quote came in an e-mail -- I saw it, and it was quoted accurately -- from notes taken by a source trusted by national political reporter Jonathan Weisman, who has long covered Congress, and Washington Sketch columnist Dana Milbank. They thought it made Obama sound full of himself.

Weisman was on a plane, traveling with Obama, and he picked up the e-mail on his Blackberry about 10:30 p.m. and quickly turned the quote into a late online post on The Trail, The Post's political blog. He also e-mailed Milbank with the quote, a common occurrence among Post reporters, because Weisman knew that it would fit into Milbank's column. ...

...There was no tape and no transcript of Obama's talk, but the quote came from someone who told me that the quote didn't reflect arrogance. Here's where it gets tricky for me; I dislike most anonymous quotes, including this one. I figured out who the source probably was and confirmed my suspicion by talking with him, but no journalist should ever reveal another's source except in the gravest of circumstances.

Neither Weisman nor Milbank called the source. Weisman considered the source more or less official and didn't use his name, even though the source didn't ask for anonymity in the e-mail. Weisman said he has "an understanding going back years that he is giving me privileged information from closed meetings; it is by definition on background. With someone you interact with constantly, there just aren't the formalities of sourcing on every conversation and e-mail." Milbank called the source "unimpeachable.

When he gives you a quote you can take it to the bank. You don't need to go around verifying it with others."

The source said he often tells reporters what happens in closed meetings and expects anonymity. He sent an identical e-mail to several other reporters and talked to several more; the others didn't see the quote as damaging.

By the next morning, partisan blogs, Obama fans and House aides were disputing the quotation, and Weisman updated his Trail post online, saying that House leadership aides pushed back against interpretations of this comment as self-aggrandizing, saying that Obama "was actually trying to deflect attention from himself." One aide said the "full quote" was: "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." But there's no tape to verify that, either, and Post editors refused to publish a correction.

Milbank's column was undoubtedly a sharp stick in Obama's eye, giving examples of what Milbank thought was Obama acting as if he were already president. Readers had other complaints, including that Milbank had mistakenly said Obama was sharing views on micromanagement with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; the remarks were made to opposition leader David Cameron. That error was the subject of a correction.

Readers were also ticked off that Milbank laughed off complainers during his online chat July 31. He dubbed himself the "Whine Enthusiast," ranking complaints or "whines" from readers. Milbank said he chose to answer some nasty attacks with humor.

Howell claims that the lessons to be learned from this episode are to be spread around:

Lessons for sources: Stand up and be named. Be sure reporters understand the context if they weren't there. Lesson for Milbank's editors: Label his column commentary. Lesson for the Obama campaign: Let the press in when your candidate speaks to a large gathering of elected officials.

I'd say she's missing one: lesson to the Post: print a correction. Milbank can now be found weeknights on Campbell Brown's bottom-rated CNN show (hey, I thought he'd go to Fox...)

Recommended reading: more on this case of seriously sloppy journalism from Consortium News.

And another Consortium pick: how the mainstream media is helping John McCain, and could ultimately help him win.


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posted by JReid @ 6:36 PM  
Death of a 'got-damn'genius

When George Carlin died, he was heralded by the media as the wryest social commentator of his generation. Well, Bernie Mac was the George Carlin of Black America. Actually, he needed no such derivation. He was the funniest comedian, black or white, in my opinion, to come along in 20 years. May God rest his soul.
Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago, Mac grew up on the city's South Side. His publicist said he died Saturday from complications of pneumonia. He had suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.

Velin Stewart, 39, said Mac's success was a "point of civic pride" for Chicagoans, and not just because of his celebrity.

"I was just in shock to wake up and hear that Bernie Mac was dead," Stewart said. "He made it big, but it didn't seem to go to his head. He could have lived anywhere in the world. But he stayed close to where he came from."

That sense of approachability, of humility, is what led Gary Crawford to introduce himself in 2005 to the comedian at a Chicago White Sox game. Crawford, 51, manages a Chicago-based Web site that benefits surviving Negro League baseball players. In 2004, Mac starred in "Mr. 3000," a movie about an aging baseball player who returns to the game to collect his 3,000th hit.

Crawford thought the two might share a commonality.

"I've seen a lot of celebrities at baseball games and Bernie wasn't like that, meaning he didn't have an entourage," Crawford said. "We talked for several minutes, baseball mostly. He was excited the White Sox seemed to be poised for a pennant run. All in all, just a very down-to-earth regular guy."
"Mr. 3000" wasn't his only great film role. He was hilarious in "Life," and even made the insufferable "Oceans 11" series palatable. Mac's self-titled TV show was great, especially in the first season, and he was by far the highlight of "The Original Kings of Comedy." (Grab his complete filmography here.)

Dying at 50 is an incredible truncation of a life well lived. Mac really did take in his sister's children after she became strung out on drugs. He plugged away for 30 years to become a success in comedy, television and movies, and he stayed funny to the end. Unfortunately, dying young is becoming more and more common, and it's even more so among African Americans (Gerald Levert, Luther Vandross, Ed Bradley and others went in their 50s and 60s too, recently.)

Well, Bernie, here's to a great ride. You entertained the hell out of us, and you rode it till the wheels fell off.

In tribute, here's one of Mac's funniest bits:

And here's another (caution, the word "mothafucka" will be heard throughout.

Rest in peace.

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posted by JReid @ 5:59 PM  
Friday, August 08, 2008
Update: Edwards releases statement
Per Politico (an excerpt):
In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public. When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99% honest is no longer enough. ...

... It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry. In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up – feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare and will now work with everything I have to help my family and others who need my help. ...
Well at least he didn't say "I am not gay..."

Meanwhile the Dallas Morning News' religion blog has an interesting flashback.
On June 4, 2007, CNN hosted a candidates' forum where religious questions were the focus. Edwards was asked about sin. Transcript at the jump.
What is the biggest sin you've ever committed? Are you willing -- are you willing to say? You can take a pass, sir, as you know.

EDWARDS: Just between you and me?


O'BRIEN: Just between you and me and the 1,300 people in the crowd.

EDWARDS: I'd have a very hard time telling you one thing, one specific sin.


If I've had a day -- I turn 54 years old this Sunday -- and if I've had a day in my 54 years where I haven't sinned multiple times, I would be amazed. I believe I have. I sin every single day. We are all sinners. We all fall short, which is why we have to ask for forgiveness from the Lord. I can't -- to try to identify one particular sin that was worse or more extreme than the others, the list is too long.


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posted by JReid @ 6:32 PM  
Dems warn GOP money bags
Tom Mazzie's new organization sends a warning shot across the bow of Republican donors: if you fund a 527 that attacks Barack Obama, we're coming after you:
... the newly formed nonprofit group, Accountable America, is planning to confront donors to conservative groups, hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.

“We want to stop the Swift Boating before it gets off the ground,” said Mr. Matzzie, who described his effort as “going for the jugular.”

The warning letter is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.
You go, Tom! Here's the website. And they've already got some interesting info on board
, regarding Newt's oil industry front group American Solutions:
... mega-developer Mel Sembler, one of the group's top funders to the tune of at least $3 million, might have missed the memo. The Palm Beach Post recently reported that Mr. Sembler and his company are under federal investigation for a $100,000 payment allegedly used to grease the wheels of local government in Florida:

A developer paid a $100,000 fee to lobbyist Hugo Unruh after being told it would be hard to win county approval for a traffic-throttling shopping center without him.

The message came from Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor, who at the time was a trusted aide to Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty.

Now the fee and Taylor's role have drawn the attention of federal investigators.

...St. Petersburg-based Sembler is a national developer of shopping centers and residential communities. It was founded by Mel Sembler, a major state and national Republican Party fund-raiser who is especially friendly with the Bush presidential family.

McCarty said Sembler is a political acquaintance whom she bumped into recently at a White House affair.

Read the whole article HERE.


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posted by JReid @ 5:15 PM  
Team Obama hits McCain on DHL
Now that's what I'm talking about!


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posted by JReid @ 5:11 PM  
Top 5 people who are glad John Edwards is the top story today
John Edwards' sex life is one of the least interesting stories I can think of off the top of my head. But that doesn't mean that some people out there in the world aren't damned happy he has admitted to cheating on Elizabeth with a blonde filmmaker type lady who has a baby girl that might be his. Let's count them down, in no particular order...

1. John McCain -

McCain dodges a media bullet today (something he's kind of used to at this point) since now that Edwards is the story, no one cares that he has had to return $50,000 in ill-gotten campaign contributions from a Jordanian national who's the business partner of a shady McCain bundler in Florida named Harry Sargeant.

The Post first reported on Sargeant's efforts on behalf of McCain and other political candidates earlier this week. McCain's campaign has credited Sargeant for collecting dozens of $2,300 and $4,600 checks, many of them from ordinary families in California. The manager of several Taco Bell restaurants, an auto mechanic, and the one-time owners of a liquor store all wrote big checks, even though many were not registered to vote.

Sargeant told The New York Times this morning that he at times left the task of collecting the checks to a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba'a. The problem with that is that Abu Naba'a is not an American citizen. According to court records, Abu Naba'a is a dual citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic.

The law on this question appears to be unclear, said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance expert who runs the advocacy group, Democracy 21.

"There's probably very little law on this," Wertheimer said. "If it is not illegal for a foreign national to bundle checks, it ought to be, since it's illegal for a foreign national to make contributions in the first place."

2. Barack Obama -

Barack is finally taking some time off this week, taking advantage of the Olympics to head to Hawaii on vacation. Maybe now that Edwards is the story (and he's not available to comment on it today,) he can take some time to reduce his media profile and come out fresh before the campaign. Also, the Edwards problem helps to highlight his happy, stable marriage to Michelle -- and if the media cares to make the connection, the extent to which the other adulterous elephant in the room -- John McCain -- can relate to Senator Edwards, since McCain's current marriage is the product of cheating on his wife, and then dumping her for a Paris Hilton-style heiress with issues. (Flashback article of the day: High Infidelity)

3. China -

The Communist government in Beijing has detained White House reporters and staff, deported foreign protesters, and generally clamped down on its own population (but not the smog ... not much they can do about the smog...) during an Olympics that never should have been awarded to them, given their human rights record. The idiots who made that award are probably also breathing a sigh of relief today that at least until the Edwards fever breaks, no one will care what basic human rights they're violating. Instead, the foreigners will focus on bright, shiny objects like their cool architecture and snazzy technological wonders ... rather than on their police state:

The Beijing Olympics are themselves the perfect expression of this hybrid system. Through extraordinary feats of authoritarian governing, the Chinese state has built stunning new stadiums, highways and railways -- all in record time. It has razed whole neighborhoods, lined the streets with trees and flowers and, thanks to an "anti-spitting" campaign, cleaned the sidewalks of saliva. The Communist Party of China even tried to turn the muddy skies blue by ordering heavy industry to cease production for a month -- a sort of government-mandated general strike.

As for those Chinese citizens who might go off-message during the games -- Tibetan activists, human right campaigners, malcontent bloggers -- hundreds have been thrown in jail in recent months. Anyone still harboring protest plans will no doubt be caught on one of Beijing's 300,000 surveillance cameras and promptly nabbed by a security officer; there are reportedly 100,000 of them on Olympics duty.

The goal of all this central planning and spying is not to celebrate the glories of Communism, regardless of what China's governing party calls itself. It is to create the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald's happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery -- to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself. Unlike the police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, China has built a Police State 2.0, an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.

4. Russia -

Hey, have you heard the one about Russia invading former Soviet captive state Georgia? Probably not, thanks to John Edwards' libido. Just in case, here's the story:
On the day the Olympic Games begin to promote unity and healthy competition between nations, Russia and the breakaway state of Georgia have made more brutal and disastrous headlines. It appears that Russia has invaded Georgia after a series of violent exchanges. Before Russia invaded Georgia, Georgia sent troops to the region of South Ossetia, a region that has been demanding independence from Georgia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After Georgia's attack on South Ossetia, Russia sent troops to strike back at Georgia, putting the two on the brink of war.

Russia's invasion of Georgia is the latest climax of a conflict going back to the end of the Soviet Union. Georgia won it's independence as a result, but South Ossetia wanted it's independence from Georgia. South Ossetia has officially been labeled as a Georgia province, but they have sought to break away from the state.

Russia and Georgia have long conflicted over not only South Ossetia, but over Georgia's desire to be part of NATO. Russia has long opposed these efforts, and has also given support to South Ossetia's separatist forces that are fighting Georgia.
And last, but not least:

5. Hillary Clinton -

I'll bet it feels good to send her thoughts and prayers to some other humiliated wife for a change. And now she can finally klatch with someone other than Chelsea.


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posted by JReid @ 4:36 PM  
Enquirer 1, Edwards 0
John Edwards caught dead to rights, but is this is love child? National Enquirer photo

John Edwards comes clean on the Rielle scandal, though he says, to quote Michael Jackson, "the kid is not my ... daughter..." ABC News got the scoop (after the National Enquirer did the leg work):
John Edwards repeatedly lied during his Presidential campaign about an extramarital affair with a novice filmmaker, the former Senator admitted to

In an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with 44-year old Rielle Hunter, but said that he did not love her.

Edwards also denied he was the father of Hunter's baby girl, Frances Quinn, although the one-time Democratic Presidential candidate said he has not taken a paternity test.

Edwards said he knew he was not the father based on timing of the baby's birth on February 27, 2008. He said his affair ended too soon for him to have been the father.

A former campaign aide, Andrew Young, has said he was the father of the child.

No, it's not that Andrew Young ...

According to the Enquirer, young Mr. Young, who is married himself, had essentially taken the fall for being the father of Rielle's daughter, knowing it was really Edwards. I haven't been following the story too closely because ... well ... it was from the National Enquirer. Now that Edwards has admitted it, he's in for a media storm of Olympic proportions ... especially since only NBC has to pretend to be interested in the actual Olympics...

And this one includes high drama crap about Enquirer photogs chasing Edwards in and out of a Beverly Hills hotel, Exclusive! pics of Edwards holding the baby, hush money paid to Rielle and soon to come: an outpouring of outrage from Edwards staffers, blowhards on Capitol Hill, Republican campaign operatives etc., and sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards, who has inoperable cancer. It's just too juicy for the MSM to pass up, don't you know. (I'm thinking Fox News should impanel David Vitter and Larry Craig to discuss the ethcandal...)
Edwards supposedly met Hunter at a bar and later hired her to produce campaign videos for him, at a hefty $114,000 fee. He says he told his wife about the affair in 2006, according to ABC News, and in truly cheesy fashion, told Nightline he specifically made sure Elizabeth's cancer was in remission before he got his groove on. Seriously. Of course since then Elizabeth came out of remission, and her cancer is now incurable...

Even worse for the former Senator, from the MSM point of view:

When the National Enquirer first reported the alleged Edwards-Hunter affair last October 11, Edwards, his campaign staff and Hunter vociferously denounced the report.

"The story is false, it's completely untrue, it's ridiculous," Edwards told reporters then.

He repeated his denials just two weeks ago.

Edwards today admitted the National Enquirer was correct when it reported he had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month.

The former Senator said his wife had not known about the meeting.

And as you know, the media ... does NOT ... like to be lied to. I'm guessing what finally cornered Edwards was a lawsuit that followed the attempted reporter ambush in Beverly Hills:

NATIONAL ENQUIRER reporters Alan Butterfield and Alexander Hitchen filed a criminal complaint with the Beverly Hills Police Department on Thursday, July 24, charging that hotel security acted unlawfully while the reporters were trying to question the former senator.

Edwards now could be contacted by police to give an eyewitness account of what occurred.

Hotel security tried to stop the reporters from questioning Edwards in the basement of the hotel at approximately 2:40 a.m. Tuesday, July 22 after Edwards came off an elevator and appeared to be attempting to leave the hotel unseen.

His secret mistress Rielle Hunter and her baby were upstairs, and Edwards had just spent hours with them in a secret rendezvous.

As Butterfield and Hitchen tried to question Edwards, he ran down a hallway and ducked into a men's public bathroom. The reporters attempted to follow him in and Edwards pushed the door shut from inside.

I should think that Edwards couldn't have gotten far from that one without talking to authorities, and without somebody leaking to the "real" media.


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posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Can't buy me love
Politico's The Crypt details Traitor Joe's "schmear campaign":

After forking over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year, the Connecticut Democrat-turned-Independent has written a second $100,000 check to DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer in recent days, according to a people familiar with the situation.

“Basically, he doesn’t want everybody to hate him,” one Lieberman-friendly Democrat said. “Plus he wants to keep his committee.”

Lieberman caucuses – awkwardly -- with Democrats at their weekly meetings but is on the outs with many in his longtime party for turning his back on Barack Obama, who refused to campaign against him in 2006 during his bitter re-election contest against Ned Lamont. More than a few have talked about stripping him of his committee post after November.

Lieberman likes to pretend he doesn't care what his former fellow Democrats think of him, and that he's proud of his pro-McCain, anti-Obama stance. In fact, Lieberman has become McCain's lead attack dog against Obama, including in frequent Florida appearances where he goes after Obama's character and insinuates frightening associations when talking about the candidates with Jewish groups.

But at the end of the day, this is a man who was desperate enough to hold onto his Senate seat that he dropped his affiliation to the Democratic Party after Conneecticut Democrats chose someone else as their nominee. He wants to hold that seat, and his chairmanship, in the worst way. But speaking at the GOP convention, trashing Barack Obama and cuddling up to both John McCain and the strategy of endless war in the Mideast aren't a good look for Joe. And he knows it.

My vote? Take his money, and then, when the Dems increase their majority in the Senate, take his chairmanship, too.

If you haven't done so already, sign the petition to boot Joe out of the Democratic Caucus steering committee. He cannot and should not be trusted, and shouldn't be privy to anything the Democrats are planning, especially regarding the campaign. Raise your hand if you think he DOESN'T report anything he knows directly to the McCain campaign.

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posted by JReid @ 10:18 PM  
Florida man arrested in Obama assssination threat
A Florida winger living in a hotel muses about assassinating the Democratic presidential nominee... I guess Dana Milbank would say Obama's guilty of trying to act like he's already the POTUS, with all that Secret Service "protection" and arrests of "assassination plotters" and all. The hubris!


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posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
Road rage?
A senior citizen shoots a federal agent dead in broad daylight in the parking lot of a post office a few blocks from my home in the suburbs. He shot the guy in the head as the agent's 12-year-old daughter watched. Her older sister turned 15 today. Their mom gave a tearful press conference yesterday about losing the love of her life.

The manhunt? Off the hinges. There were cops from every conceivable jurisdiction -- hundreds of them -- descending on this area, parked on every corner and stopping car after car to ask questions and hand out flyers. Everyone around here assumed it was some sort of hit -- something related to the federal agent's job. Instead? Turns out to be just another random shooting by a "law abiding gun owner."
MIRAMAR - A police report says today that U.S. border protection agent Donald Pettit died as the result of a road rage incident.

The report said both Pettit and James Patrick Wonder, the man charged with his murder, exchanged obscene gestures with each other as they drove along Dykes Road Tuesday morning.

The report said Wonder, 65, pulled into the Pembroke Pines post office first from Dykes Road. It said Pettit then pulled into the post office parking lot from Pines Boulevard.

There, they argued some more, Wonder pulled a gun from his waistband, removed the safety and shot Pettit in the head, the report said.
As for Wonder? Neighbors say he was a nice guy; quiet ... no temper. No signs that he would become a wanted murderer. He got caught after attending a dialysis appointment at a nearby mall.

This, I'm afraid, is what comes of the nexus between readily available guns, and the common stresses of suburban life -- like road rage. Without the gun, this is at worst a fist fight in the parking lot. Probably not even that, since the assailant is a 65-year-old man with a bad kidney, and the victim was a fit federal agent. Think Wonder would have messed with him unarmed?

Thanks, NRA.


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posted by JReid @ 5:09 PM  
Military intelligence
Seven years into the so-called "war on terror," it's becoming increasingly clear that the best defense America may have against the Bush administration, and its authoritarian, almost congenital abuses of government power, is the very military it has pressed onto the front lines of the global battlefield. Case in point, the apparent ending to the saga of Salim Hamdan, convicted, not of being a terrorist, but of being the wrong guy's driver. His sentence was passed down by a military panel late this afternoon:

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A military jury sentenced Osama bin Laden's former driver to 5 1/2 years in prison for aiding terrorism Thursday, making him eligible for release in just six months, despite prosecutors' pleas to give him no less than 30 years.

Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni who had faced a maximum sentence of life behind bars, gets credit for five years already served at Guantanamo Bay. He thanked the jurors for the sentence and repeated an apology for having served bin Laden.

"I would like to apologize one more time to all the members and I would like to thank you for what you have done for me," Hamdan told the panel of six U.S. military officers, hand-picked by the Pentagon for the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half century.

The military tribunal, which Hamdan and his attorneys helped to bring about for himself and others, by successfully arguing to the Supreme Court that so-called "enemy combatants," a term simply made up by the Bush administration, were not beyond the reach of the Geneva Conventions, or of the Constitution.

The military jury and judge had already decided that Hamdan should receive credit for the five years he has already been locked away in the Bush administration's special brand of limbo, and the judge had urged the panel to consider Hamdan's low level status in the Bin Laden organization, and the fact that he is the sole supporter of his family. The military panel resisted the Pentagon prosecutor's demand that they "make an example of him."

Hamdan, who was likely tortured while in American custody at Gitmo, can still appeal to a U.S. court. Which begs the question: what's the point of these "military tribunals" if the same kind of justice meted out to domestic terror suspects like Jose Padilla -- who got a longer sentence than Hamdan: 17 years from an old fashioned American jury, despite having no contact whatsoever with Bin Laden -- winds up being dished out there?

The difference? In a real courtroom, Hamdan would have walked on the heresay, the secret testimony, and the torture alone. Driver or no driver.


Life for driving?
Bush's legal beagles

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posted by JReid @ 4:37 PM  
McCain and his job-killing machine
A leaked memo from the McCain campaign suggests the campaign intends to paint Barack Obama as a "job killing machine." Well pot ... let me introduce you to kettle...

By Michael D. Shear - LIMA, Ohio -- Five years ago, John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, lobbied on behalf of German shipping giant DHL Express, whose purchase of Airborne Express meant a new corporate boss for thousands of residents in Wilmington, Ohio.

Now, DHL wants to stop using the Wilmington airport as a hub, something that could cost thousands of jobs. And today, McCain will meet with some of the people who could be laid off.

He is scheduled to gather with about two dozen local officials and company employees, a meeting that was supposed to highlight McCain's concern about the faltering economy in an important election-year swing state.

But thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which this week wrote about Davis' 2003 lobbying efforts on behalf of DHL, the meeting has invited some unwelcome attention for the campaign.

The Plain Dealer reported that McCain himself argued on behalf of the merger in 2003 after concerns were raised by fellow senators about foreign ownership of the shipping company.

... In a new conference yesterday, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown called on McCain and Davis to use the same connections they had in 2003 to try and stop DH: from abandoning the airport.

"I'm personally calling on John McCain to send Rick Davis to Germany to use his considerable clout with DHL,... to help save these 8,200 jobs in southwest Ohio," Brown said.

So just how involved in this job killer were Davis and McCain? From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Davis was a lobbyist who helped [Deutsche Post World Net] overcome objections in Congress in 2003, when the company was acquiring Airborne Express and its Wilmington airport, as The Plain Dealer reported.

And McCain, then the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, fought back proposed legislative language in a defense spending bill that would have made the deal less attractive -- language favored by lawmakers and DHL competitors that wanted to keep the foreign firm out of the air express business in this country.

Davis and McCain were successful in 2003 -- and so was Wilmington for several years, with a humming freight airport and a net gain of an estimated 1,000 jobs. But now DHL wants to use rival United Parcel Service for its air freight, saying the move would help stem more than $1 billion in projected losses this year. DHL would stay in the delivery business, even though it would contract with UPS for airlift.

Wilmington officials are worried about the potential loss of up to 8,000 jobs if DHL moves work away from the Wilmington Air Park by hiring United Parcel Service to replace ABX Air and ASTAR Air Cargo in transporting DHL packages.

... The McCain campaign told The Plain Dealer that no one in 2003 could anticipate today's threatened job cuts. The campaign noted that Davis has not lobbied for Deutsche Post since 2005.

In addition (there's a Ted Stevens connection):

Before the merger, some members of Congress, as well as UPS and Federal Express, cited concerns about a subsidiary of a foreign company controlling a segment of air commerce in the United States. Sen. Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, tried to insert language in a military spending bill to ban a foreign-owned carrier from flying military equipment or troops. That would have made the Airborne Express purchase less attractive to DHL.

McCain, of Arizona, and fellow Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi objected, saying it would be unfair to keep the Pentagon from using an air carrier it might someday need. McCain, then the chairman of the Commerce Committee, also objected to using a spending bill to set military policy.

"Moreover, Sen. McCain has a long-held belief that defense contracts should reflect providing our service members the best equipment and support while providing the best return to American taxpayers, irrespective of narrow and protectionist concerns," his campaign said .
He prevailed. After the merger, Ohio and local governments provided more than $400 million in incentives for road and facility upgrades, and DHL in 2005 moved its smaller air freight operation from northern Kentucky to Wilmington.

The Ohio Democratic Party took a swipe in a new web ad released today:

The ad features video of McCain's exchange in early July with a woman at a town hall in Portsmouth, Ohio and reporting from The Plain Dealer and

The Democratic Party noted that on the eve of McCain's visit today to DHL-Airborne Express in Wilmington, Stephen Koff, The Plain Dealer's Washington Bureau chief, reported that McCain's campaign manager and longtime friend Rick Davis lobbied on behalf of DHL to overcome Congressional opposition to allowing a foreign company to take over Airborne, and that McCain himself intervened to ensure that the deal went through.

The story on Tuesday said that filings in the Senate show Davis' lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, was hired to help both companies deal with Congress, where objections over DHL's foreign ownership arose. Davis and a partner earned their firm $185,000 for the DHL-Airborne Express work that year, records show.

They earned $405,000 more from Deutsche Post for work on other issues in 2004 and 2005, after the deal passed Congress.


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posted by JReid @ 3:13 PM  
If they can do it...
In Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf faces ... wait for it ... impeachment.

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posted by JReid @ 3:09 PM  
Life for driving?
The Pentagon is seeking a 30 year to life sentence for Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan, after he was convicted on one of five terrorism counts in the Bush administration's kangaroo court (which thankfully was tempered by the general good sense of the U.S. military officers on the "jury.")

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A Pentagon prosecutor Thursday cast Osama bin Laden's driver as ''a hardened al Qaeda member'' and asked the six-member U.S. military jury who convicted him of terrorism to lock him up for 30 years, if not for life.

''Once you see your boss killing people, you leave. You get another job. Period,'' prosecutor John Murphy told jurors assigned to start deliberating his punishment later in the day.

Defense attorneys countered that the appropriate penalty was 45 months imprisonment, effectively seeking time served.

The same jury on Wednesday convicted Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen on five counts of providing material support for terrorism, which the trial judge consolidated into one.

It rejected more serious charges of conspiracy.

The sentence would seem in some ways to be a moot point, since the Bush administration intended to hold Hamdan indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" even if he had been acquitted of all charges. In addition, his conviction was obtained using heresay evidence, secret testimony, and possibly even statements derived from torture.

From the Independent UK:

Hamdan, a Yemeni, was convicted by the six Pentagon-appointed jurors at the Guantanamo Bay trial of aiding terrorism by chauffeuring bin Laden around Afghanistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks. But Hamdan said he merely had a "relationship of respect" with bin Laden, as would any other employee.

"It's true there are work opportunities in Yemen, but not at the level I needed after I got married and not to the level of ambitions that I had in my future," he said, reading in Arabic from a prepared statement.

The five-man, one-woman jury found Hamdan guilty of aiding terrorism but acquitted him of conspiracy Wednesday at the first US war crimes trial since World War II.

Under tribunal rules, the jury imposes the sentence, not the judge. Their verdict does not have to be unanimous, and a review by a Pentagon legal official can reduce the sentence but not increase it.

The military judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, told jurors they could impose any sentence from life in prison to no punishment. He instructed jurors to take into account the nearly seven years Hamdan has spent in confinement and that he is the sole supporter of his wife and two children.

Allred, who has described Hamdan as a "small player," previously ruled he should receive five years of credit for time served at Guantanamo Bay since the Pentagon decided to charge him.

The tribunals' chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, had said prosecutors would take the acquittal into account when recommending a sentence. But prosecutor John Murphy on Thursday urged the jury to make an example of Hamdan with a penalty of 30 years to life.

"You have found him guilty of offenses that have made our world extremely unsafe and dangerous," Murphy said. "The government asks you to deliver a sentence that will absolutely keep our society safe from him."

Defence attorneys urged leniency, reminding jurors that Hamdan was not convicted of any role al-Qaida's attacks. A psychiatrist hired by the defense told jurors that Hamdan has the potential to be rehabilitated.

"It is important the world recognize that this is justice and not revenge," said Charles Swift, one of Hamdan's civilian attorneys.

The verdict will be appealed automatically to a special military court in Washington. Hamdan can then appeal to U.S. civilian courts as well.

Defence lawyers say Hamdan's rights were denied by an unfair process, hastily patched together after Supreme Court rulings that previous tribunal systems violated U.S. and international law.

"The problem is the law was specifically written after the fact to target Mr. Hamdan," Swift said.


Bush's legal beagles

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posted by JReid @ 2:24 PM  
Bush has his 'tear down that wall' moment ... but not in China
George W. Bush stands up to the Chinese government ... but not in China ...
BANGKOK, Thailand - With all eyes on Beijing, President Bush planned to bluntly tell China today that America stands in "firm opposition" to the way the communist government represses its own people, a rebuke delivered from the heart of Asia on the cusp of the Olympic Games.

Bush balanced his chiding with praise for China's market reforms and hope that it will embrace freedom.

"We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labor rights not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential," Bush is to say in perhaps his last major Asia address.

"And we press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs, but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs," the president will add.

Bush's brought his message to Thailand, a turbulent democracy. The marquee speech of his three-country trip hailed deepening ties between the United States and Asia. He pledged that whoever follows him in the White House will inherit an alliance that is now stronger than ever.

The president planned to quickly pivot from his speech to a full day of outreach toward the people of Myanmar, also known as Burma, who live under military rule across the border.

Yet heading eagerly to the Beijing Olympics himself as a sports fan, Bush faced pressures all around: a desire not to embarrass China in its moment of glory, a call for strong words by those dismayed by China's repression, and a determination to remind the world that he has been pushing China to allow greater freedom during his presidency.
Of course, there's always a rub:
"The leadership in Beijing will almost certainly find his comments irritating or objectionable," said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "But they will clearly understand that the United States will not impose any real consequences if they do not make progress on human rights."
Well there you go.

Our sports fan in chief was so determined to go to China for the opening ceremonies, he apparently has completely missed the irony that a fellow American won't be there:

US Winter Olympic speed-skating champion Joey Cheek, a prominent member of the Team Darfur activist group, saw his Chinese visa allowing him to attend the Games cancelled.

"We were disturbed to learn that the Chinese had refused his visa," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Perrino added that the U.S. has " sent in our embassy in Beijing to démarche the Chinese," and "hope they change their mind." In other words, the Bushies plan to complain vigorously, and hope the prez enjoys the games.

The U.S. did get one good dig in, through no action whatsoever form the Bush administration:

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- A Sudanese-born runner who is a member of an athletes group critical of China's policies toward Darfur was chosen to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Lopez Lomong, a 1,500-meter runner who became an American citizen 13 months ago, was selected last night in a vote of captains of the sports squads on the U.S. Olympic team.

The 23-year-old Lomong will carry the Stars and Stripes at the head of the U.S. delegation of athletes, coaches and administrators as it parades into the Bird's Nest stadium with the other 204 countries tomorrow night.

``This is the most exciting day ever in my life,'' Lomong said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee. ``It's a great honor for me that my teammates chose to vote for me. I'm here as an ambassador of my country and I will do everything I can to represent my country well.''

Well played.

If you care to read Bush's remarks, here you go.


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
Boehner tees off
While the Democrats are dithering around "on vacation..." the Republican Party is doing the people's business in the House of Representatives; lights be damned!
(WaPo Capitol Briefing) On Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a release commending McCain for his call [for the House to come back into session and vote to drill, drill, DRILL...!], trashing Barack Obama and adding: "While Democrats left town for a month-long break, House Republicans have stayed behind and continued to demand a vote on the American Energy Act, which will help lower energy prices and liberate America from its dependence on foreign oil."

Boehner was around for the start of the fake House session Friday but then left town and hasn't been back since. Even former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) showed up today to rally with his GOP comrades, but the current party leader was nowhere to be seen.

So where is the Boehner?

... His office says he's been in Ohio raising money for his political action committee, the Freedom Project, and that he should be back in D.C. later this week. He's also doing 18 events in August for GOP candidates across the country.

But Boehner also has found time to squeeze in a couple rounds of golf. Scores reported by Boehner himself to a United States Golf Association site show that he posted an 85 sometime this week at his home course, Wetherington Golf & Country Club in West Chester, Ohio. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said he wasn't exactly sure of the details of Boehner's 18 holes, but that he felt confident that "if he did play at home, it was over the weekend."

And The Sleuth passes along a tip that Boehner was spotted yesterday at the lovely Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Muirfield was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is the home of the Golden Bear's annual memorial tournament. Here's a nice shot of Boehner and Nicklaus together at the 2005 tournament.


Well... at least we can count on John McCain to do the people's business .... right...?
As for McCain, it would be a big deal indeed if Congress came back into session for an energy vote and the Arizonan actually showed up. This Friday will mark the four-month anniversary of the last time McCain actually cast a vote in the Senate. Since April 8, he's missed 103 consecutive floor votes, including several on energy-related issues. That's a remarkable streak, even for a presidential candidate. McCain is like the anti-Cal Ripken.
Damn, damn, DAMN!

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posted by JReid @ 12:24 AM  
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Where in the world is ... Dana Milbank?
Forget the correction watch ... it ain't comin' ... but via a brief Jon Stewart clip tonight your intrepid blogger learned that our boy Dana Milbank, the quote-clippingest, context-changingest snarkporter in Washington, has resurfaced as a CNN commentator. Sez Dana about the whole "misquoted Obama and kicked off of Countdown" kerfuffle:

"The CNN contract was negotiated long before the Obama column," Milbank tells FishbowlDC. He says that there are "no hard feelings" although he takes exception to Olbermann's characterization of things on last night's program (more on that later here on FishbowlDC).

"It's just that CNN's a better fit for me and my philosophy of holding all parties to account," says Milbank. He will be a political analyist for CNN, mostly with Campbell Brown but "wherever they want me."

Ooh, oh no she didn't! Olbermann, please to respond...

Olbermann tells TVNewser:

Dana appeared with us the night before his column appeared with the truncated Obama quote — and did so under the terms of his contract which both he and MSNBC obviously considered still in force. After the column, he contacted us, joking he was glad I hadn't put him on the "Worst Persons" list, and then discussing with the producers coming on to clarify or explain what he wrote. Out of appreciation for his work for us, I had delayed a permanent decision on whether he should again appear on Countdown. Dana used this time to make another deal, which he told us about the day before he appeared on another network.
Wow, it gets ugly. But the fact remains, and is now CNN's to deal with, that Dana Milbank completely mischaracterized a statement that amounted to heresay, by one of the two major presidential candidates. Had he misquoted John McCain in that way, to quote the Creepy Grandpa, there would have been a seizmic event. But since it was Obama, no probs, including at CNN, which apparently will appreciate Dana "holding both sides (ahem) ... to account." BTW Dana's new gig is with Campbell Brown, who is currently getting her wig handed to her by pretty much everybody, at 8:00. Perhaps someone should bring it to Dana's attention.

BTW, just for a laugh, check out this Powerline Blog rant from 2003... The first sentence is interesting. Or this one. Apparently, NO ONE likes Dana Milbank!

Related: Washington Sketchy returns! With quotes! (Sure hope somebody checked them...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:54 PM  
Bush's legal beagles
On the 7th anniversary of that notorious August 6th Presidential Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States," (which Dubya ignored cuz he was busy clearin' brush...) the Bush administration's Constitution skirting military tribunals claim their first victim. So what victory have the Bushies won for the Global War on Terror? They've convicted Bin Laden's driver ... of being Bin Laden's driver:

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's former driver was convicted of supporting terrorism in the first U.S. military war-crimes trial of a terror suspect captured after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Salim Hamdan was found guilty of providing material support to al-Qaeda by serving as bin Laden's driver and body guard, Army Colonel Gary Keck, a Defense Department spokesman, said in Washington after the verdict was announced at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The jury of six military officers cleared Hamdan of conspiring with bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda operatives to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, Keck said.

And despite the failure to convict him of anything more serious than driving, the U.S. can now incarcerate Hamdan (whose name was made famous in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld cast that established a basic right to a trial for detainees ... fancy that ...) for the rest of his life.

A conviction means ``now we will have an appeal'' to test the validity of the crime of providing material support to terrorists, which is ``a new made-up offense that didn't exist when he committed it,'' said John Hutson, a former Navy judge advocate general and dean of the Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord, New Hampshire.

A decision on that issue ``will be important because lots of people will be charged with it,'' Hutson said.

The jury cleared Hamdan of specific accusations that he transported SA-7 surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan to be used by al-Qaeda to attack U.S. forces, according to verdict details described in a telephone interview by Air Force Major Gail Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Office of Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay.

Life Term

The charges carry a possible term of life imprisonment.

The charge of providing material support to terrorism accused Hamdan of serving as bin Laden's driver in Afghanistan, ``knowing that by providing said service or transportation he was directly facilitating communication and planning used for acts of terrorism.''

Ah, American jurisprudence! Fort it's next trick, maybe the Bush administration could put the late Bruce Ivins on trial posthumously for material support to the FBI in closing the anthrax case which they haven't got the goods to prove...


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posted by JReid @ 10:09 PM  
Newt Gingrich: America's oil man
The disgraced former speaker of the House was on CSPAN this morning, and actually prompted me to pick up the phone and try to call in (I didn't get through.) Had I gotten through, I would have asked Newt Gingrich exactly who funds his "drill now!" group, called American Solutions for Winning the Future. Well... who do you think? (Hint: they're the same people that suddenly enjoy giving lots of money to John McCain...)

First, what American Solutions says about itself:

American Solutions for Winning the Future is a new, non-partisan organization built around three goals: to defend America and our allies abroad and defeat our enemies, to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values, and to move government into the 21st Century. The General Chairman is former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Our mission is to become the leading grassroots movement to recruit, educate, and empower citizen activists and elected officials to develop solutions to transform all levels of government.

... The American people are tired of Red vs. Blue partisan bickering and want to create a Red, White, and Blue country. American Solutions is designed to rise above traditional gridlocked partisanship, to provide real, significant solutions to the most important issues facing our country. Yet, the current political governmental system has four major flaws which block it from developing the kind of solutions we need.

First, it is dominated by daily headlines, a focus on the negative, fights rather than discussions, and sound bites and commercials so short they can't communicate anything complex or positive.

Second, the old system simply does not have the ideas and techniques for being successful. Today's politicians are trapped in old ideas, old interest groups, and old bureaucracies that simply do not have the tools for solving America's problems.

Third, consultants dominate the current system, and they are essentially technicians with very limited knowledge of fundamental issues and historic lessons. So they tend to reduce the system to clever commercials and fancy fundraising gimmicks.

Fourth, the current system focuses on the Oval Office, yet there are 513,000 elected officials in America, from school board to city council to county commission to state legislature. Real solutions have to move through all these offices, not merely the White House.

Uh huh ... and they've even got their own rejiggered version of Newt's "Contract with America"...

However, it appears that American Solutions is less of a grassroots organization than it is a clearinghouse for the same old lobbyists, staffers and think tankers propping up the stale, bloated, conservative movement. From Matt Stoler over at OpenLeft on August 5th, following that so-called "spontaneous" protest of pro-drilling Americans in Washington D.C.:

I just came back from the Capitol, where Moveon volunteers and conservative movement group staffers were holding competing rallies around oil leasing (the full flickr set is here). Patrick Ruffini, one of the smartest consultants on the right, thinks this marks a turning point for the right. For the first time, he says, Moveon has mobilizes against "the House Republicans and the rightosphere".

The problem with this formulation is that the people that I spoke from Moveon came because they were volunteers, whereas the people from the pro-drilling groups were paid staffers from groups like the National Taxpayers Union and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks. I spent some time arguing with a nice young man from FreedomWorks about oil companies (though I'll spare you the video), and he was a law student who did economic policy for the group. These two groups are by and large funded by large companies, and they were formed by recognized conservative movement elites who came to power in the 1980s.

In fact, the entire drill drill drill campaign originated with Newt Gingrich, hardly the kind of leadership you'd expect from a real grassroots uprising. His group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, got a large grant from Peabody Coal at about the same time this campaign started, and is backed by the same crew of billionaires helping Freedom's Watch. Contrast this to Moveon, which was founded by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, or Dailykos, led by Markos Moulitsas-Zuniga, or even Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie of the New Right in the 1970s. These leaders came from the grassroots, and elevated a previously unorganized constituency into a powerful new voice. The Drill Drill Drill campaign has simply helped an existing powerful voice - the oil lobby - keep winning, the way it did earlier this year when it killed the Energy Bill in the Senate (with the help of John McCain and Mary Landrieu).

Now, this is not to say that the Drill, Drill, Drill campaign isn't popular. It is. But it is not some movement breakthrough on the right; new political movements are not populated entirely with paid staffers, funded by the extraordinarily wealthy winners of a society, and led by old over the hill political leaders. What is actually going on here is that the 1970s conservative movement is still around and still dominant. Right-wing billionaires are still funding Newt Gingrich, who is still dictating our agenda just as he did in the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. Conservative 'populism' in DC is still the same old Brooks Brothers Riot we saw in 2000, ie. paid staffers masquerading as grassroots.

So who are Gingrich's sugar daddies? The Alaska Wilderness League follows the money and finds a long breadcrumb trail of billionaires, Bushies and oil men. Just for fun, try to spot the guys who will "rise about gridlocked partisanship..."

• Thomas A. Saunders III ($200,000)—Saunders is a Trustee of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank devoted to free enterprise, limited government and individual freedom. Exxon Mobil is one of the Foundation’s biggest donors.

• Dan W. Evins ($100,000)—Evins was originally an oil jobber for Shell before starting the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants.

• Michael G. Berolzheimer ($70,000)—The Berolzheimer Family began California Cedar Products in the 1920’s. CCP now produces Duraflame logs which are made by mixing saw dust with petroleum byproducts.

• Dave K. Rensin ($50,000)—Rensin is a software engineer for Reality Mobile, LLC. Reality Vision, a product of Reality Mobil, is currently being marketed to numerous industries including oil and gas production and refinement, as well as companies specializing in pipeline maintenance.

• Morton Fleischer ($25,000)—Fleischer is the Co-founder and Chairman of Spirit Finance. Fleisher is also a board member for Flying J, Inc., a chain of highway rest stops and gas stations. Fleisher also founded Franchise Finance Corporation of America which provided $15 million in capital for the merger of Miltenberger Oil Company and Jump Oil in 1999.

• Donald M. Wilkinson ($25,000)—Wilkinson is the Chairman and CIO of Wilkinson O’Grady & Co., the 15th largest investment company in the United States. They invest in numerous companies including National Oilwell Varco, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, EOG Resources, Schlumberger, Transocean, BHP Billiton, Apache Corporation, and XTO Energy.

• Edmund N. Carpenter II ($10,400)—Carpenter is now a retired attorney and past president of the Delaware State Bar Association. In 1977, he represented Texaco in a case involving a crash with the Texaco Caribbean and the Paracas, a Peruvian vessel.

• Clark Wamberg, LLC ($10,000)—Clark Wamberg, LLC is a consulting firm comprised of many different small businesses. One of these businesses is Federal Policy Group. In the first half of 2007, Federal Policy Group was paid $120,000 by Hess petroleum to lobby the federal government. Other clients of Federal Policy Group include GE and Teco Energy.

• Jack Caveney ($10,000)—Caveney works for Panduit, a provider of network and electrical solutions to a variety of markets including the oil, gas, and petrochemical market. Panduit strives to find solutions to problems with offshore platforms, refineries, and floating production storage-offloading (FPSO).

• Lewis Lehrman ($10,000)—Lehrman was one of the original investors in George W. Bush’s oil business, Arbusto Energy.

• Foam Fabricators, Inc. ($5,000)—Foam Fabricators, Inc., a state-of-the-art molding and fabricating plant, provides a variety of industries with economical and efficient shape molded and fabricated foam products, packaging and components. These products are made from expanded polystyrene manufactured primarily from petroleum.

• William T. Wolf ($4,000)—Wolf is employed by Allied Capital. In 2003, Allied Capital invested $18.4 million into Geotrace Technologies--a leading provider of subsurface imaging solutions and sophisticated reservoir analysis for the oil and gas industry worldwide.

• Kathleen Huff ($2,500)—Huff is employed by the Navteq Corporation. Navteq’s customers include Statoil, one of Scandinavia’s leading suppliers of fuel oil and gasoline.

Other Interesting Finds

• Sheldon Adelson ($4,597,632)—Adelson, of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is the founder of Freedom’s Watch, a right-wing lobbying group which advocates to continue the war in Iraq and many other mainstream conservative ideas. [More on Sheldon and other bigwig donors from ThinkProgress.)

• Terry J. Kohler ($50,200)—Kohler, of Windway Capital, is a contributor to GOPAC, Gingrich’s PAC.

• Robert W. Johnson IV ($50,000)—Johnson is the owner of the New York Jets and big time Bush supporter. [Sidebar: He's the Johnson of the family that founded Johnson & Johnson]

• Stanley Gaines ($25,000)—Gaines is on the Board of International Coal Group, Inc.

• Frederick C. Palmer ($25,000)—Palmer is the Vice President of Government Relations at Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company. Palmer is responsible for advancing state and federal policies related to the production and use of coal.

• Howard H. Callaway ($10,000)—Callaway was the Chairman of GOPAC from 1987-1993.

• Mel Sembler ($10,000)—Sembler was the former Ambassador to Italy and a founding donor for Freedom’s Watch. He also helped to finance the 2000 Florida recount battle between Bush and Gore.

• Tucker Anderson ($10,000)—Anderson is on the GOPAC Board.

• Frederic V. Malek ($5,000)—Malek, of Thayer Capital Partners was co-owner of the Texas Rangers with President Bush.

• Melvyn J. Estrin ($5,000)—Estrin serves on the Board of Directors of the Washington Gas & Light Company. He is also the director of WGL Holdings, Inc., a public utility holding company serving the D.C. metropolitan region.

American Solutions, which is a 527 group, has taken in more than $13 million this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They also helpfully rank the donors in dollar order (Adelson is the biggest.) CRP also tracks the organization's spending, and finds that the single biggest expenditure has been travel. Gingrich's group is spending more money raising money and hiring consultants than they are on advertising.

AdministrativeMiscellaneous Administrative$34,374
Salaries & Benefits$1,441,594
Administrative Consultants$36,519
Supplies, Equipment & Furniture$63,836
Campaign ExpensesMaterials$39,894
Campaign Events$558,712
Political Consultants$1,187,960
Campaign Direct Mail$497,795
FundraisingFundraising Consultants$12,471
Fundr Direct Mail/Telemarketing$2,054,688
MediaMiscellaneous Media$277,120
Broadcast Media$155,298
Internet Media$180,795
Media Consultants$48,709

Instead of buying ads, the Gingrich oil salesmen are relying on all the free media they're getting, on CSPAN this morning, on the cable networks, but especially on right wing blogs and talk radio, which has picked up the "drill here, drill now" message full bore. In fact, tune in randomly to ANY right wing talk show (or to Fox News) at any time of the day or night, from Limbaugh to Hannity to the local wingnuts like Todd Schnitt down here in South Florida, and you'll find the hosts talking about little else besides the need to drill, ludicrous arguments that the oil companies really aren't making that much money, and the total canard, put forward with hilarious results last Saturday by Mike McConnell, that more drilling would actually LOWER oil companies' profits (he got his clock cleaned by a guy from Public Citizen.)

So far, American Solutions (with the help of Big Oil's newly minted talk radio shills,) has been able to get more than 1 million dimwits Americans to sign their petition demanding that the oil companies be given drilling rights in the Rocky Mountains, off our coasts, and in the Alaskan wilderness (I can just see the Colorado rockies now, pock-marked with dirty, belching oil rigs. Great for tourism!)

And interestingly enough, NONE of the "Drill Now!" talk show hosts or civilians appears interested in demanding that the good capitalists at the big oil companies actually sell any oil they extract in the U.S., to Americans. In fact, the idea that oil companies would extract oil, and then sell it at lower prices here, when they could make more money selling to the highest international bidder (probably the same Indian or Chinese markets that are driving up demand today,) is not only crazy, it's downright anti-capitalist. Perhaps that's why John McCain opposed a measure that would have demanded that newly extracted oil be sold in the U.S. The American Solutions petition reads:
We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.
Not a word about "drill here, SELL here..." because that's not what Newt's friends in Big Oil intend to do. Meanwhile, the idea that oil companies really don't make that much money when you look at their profit margins is equally daft, as Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum points out:

In most industries, when the main component (crude oil) of a product (gasoline) skyrockets in price, those higher costs eat into profit margins. But not the oil industry because ExxonMobil and the other major oil companies operate as a type of monopoly, with massive oil production, refining and retail marketing operations.

It isn't just Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who gets rich when a barrel of oil hovers at $60/barrel; it's ExxonMobil and the other oil companies, since collectively the five largest oil companies produce 10 million barrels of oil a day - more than Saudi Arabia's 9 million barrels of oil a day. And much of the oil ExxonMobil et al is producing is coming from land owned by U.S. taxpayers (more than one-third of the oil and natural gas America produces every day comes from federal land). It only costs a company like ExxonMobil about $10 to produce a barrel of oil, but they're selling it to Americans for close to $60/barrel - a huge windfall profit.

The oil companies' windfall profits don't end there. Because the largest five oil companies also own half of America's oil refining capacity, they're more easily able to manipulate markets. The Federal Trade Commission confirmed this when it investigated the industry in 2001 and concluded that U.S. oil companies "withheld or delayed shipping additional supply in the face of a price spike" and that one oil company executive "made clear that he would rather sell less gasoline and earn a higher margin on each gallon sold than sell more gasoline and earn a lower margin. Another employee of this firm raised concerns about oversupplying the market and thereby reducing the high market prices."

The proof of these uncompetitive markets stemming from recent mergers is in the numbers. As late as 1999, U.S. oil companies made 22.8 cents for every gallon of gasoline they refined. By the summer of 2005, they made 99 cents on every gallon.
And while the Republicans are pulling off a pretty good marketing stunt that is moving the needle of public opinion in favor of Big Oil (for perspective, think of Marie Antoinette's press team in 1789 convincing the bourgeousie to revolt, not against the royals, but on the side of the royals against the peasants...) and Republicans are enjoying a lot of free publicity for their lights out stunt on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are diametrically opposed to forcing oil companies to sell any oil they "drill here" ... here:

(July 17) Today, Congressman Wexler voted for the Drill Act, which would bring 10.6 billion barrels of oil immediately to American consumers by requiring oil companies to being producing oil from acres of land already leased. The legislation would have allowed other companies to take over these leases if the oil company currently in possession failed to begin oil production.

The Drill Act would have also required the Administration to oversee the construction of a pipeline from these Alaskan reserves for the transport of oil and gas to the lower 48 states. The pipeline project would have created an estimated 10,000 new jobs. In addition, the legislation banned the export of this American-made energy, reserving resources for here at home. Unfortunately, House Republicans blocked the Drill Act, which required a two-thirds vote of support in order to pass."Oil companies are actively holding 10.6 billion barrels of oil hostage from the American people and this legislation would have required them to begin production immediately,” said Congressman Wexler. “While House Republicans claim they want to increase domestic supply of oil and gas to the market, by blocking this legislation they took a hard stand against the development of our domestic resources.

So the next time you hear Newt Gingrich talking about his "grassroots movement," think oil-soaked grass in the Antarctic after all the snow melts from global warming ... think big, fat profits for the Big Six oil companies. But whatever you do, don't think of lower gas prices, 'cuz if the GOP's clients in the oil industry have it there way, they ain't coming.


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posted by JReid @ 8:29 PM  
Thank you, Justin Schaffer
Justin Schaffer, the 19-year-old son of conservative, "family values" Colorado Republican Bob Schaffer, who's running for the U.S. Senate, is in a world of hurt over his Facebook page. It seems the University of Dayton Class of 2011 student's page got mirrored by a site called, which allowed the world to take a peek into Justin's psyche. Among the items found rattling around in there:
... a plethora ofimages that mock Barack Obama -- painting him as Muslim, elitist, homosexual and a terrorist. One even goes so far as to compare the presumptive Democratic candidate for president to the cereal-box character "Count Chocula."

The page also includes several pro-gun images. One "bumper sticker" shows an image of Jesus holding an M-16 in front of a Confederate flag, with the words "What Would Republican Jesus Do?" Another features a bevy of different kinds of guns with the words, "Celebrate Diversity" underneath.
Oh, and let's not forget the sticker showing an image of Egyptian pyramids with the caption "slavery gets shit done." ...and he's a member of several Facebook groups, including one called "pole dancers for Jesus."

Cue the heartfelt/staff written apology:
"I do not agree with the sentiment or content of the offensive material, especially the 'bumper sticker' that references slave labor. It is clear that my actions were juvenile, disrespectful, and a mistake on my part.

"The offensive materials directly contradict the values that my parents taught me and are forbidden in my parents' home. My Facebook page is solely my responsibility, and I am saddened that my actions have reflected poorly on my sisters and parents."

His father spoke to 9NEWS on the phone after an event in Glenwood Springs Monday evening and said, "My wife and I have initiated a process of firm and severe discipline with our son."

Now, Schaffer faces "a process of firm and severe discipline with our son," which even as we speak is being "initiated" by his parents, which sounds really creepy and kind of explains a lot about Justin...
and he may even be disciplined by his school, where UD officials said :
... the Code of Conduct standard calls for students to respect all members of the community and the community at large.

Sister Annette Schmeling, vice president of student development and dean of students, said she will have an initial conversation with Schaffer about the postings and "explore the ways his Facebook page is not showing respect."

"We are addressing it and we expect to begin the adjudication process before classes start on August 20," Schmeling said in a written statement.
Punishment could include everything from a reprimand to actual expulsion. Harsh.

But here's the thing. I appreciate Justin's honesty, because I believe he represents a very real core of what passes for the conservative movement today. Sure, he seems a bit juvenile in his presentation, but people twice his age are running an entire presidential campaign on tire gauge props, Paris Hilton ads and Internet meme gimmicks designed to lure the ignorant into believing that Barack Obama is a) an undercover Muslim, b) a friend of "extremists" (read terrorists) and c) an "uppity," spruced up, elitist who "thinks he's better than you..." language which should sound familiar to any Black person who worked or lived in a majority white environment before around 1990. If you don't know what I'm talking about, rent the movie "The Great Debaters" and jump to the scene where Forrest Whitaker's professor character accidentally hits a white farmer's hog with his swanky automobile, and the dust-covered, redneck farmer makes him pay about 10 times what the hog is worth, and forces him to lift the carcas into his truck, saying, "these city niggers think they're too good to get their hands dirty..."

Stripped of their high school semantics, Schaffer's "stickers" reveal very real, commonplace beliefs that are held by most Rush, Hannity and Savage listeners, and others on the right:

1. Distaste for affirmative action
2. An extreme love of guns
3. A warped vision of Jesus as a gun-toting right winger
4. Admiration for the Confederate flag (and presumably the Confederacy)
5. A belief that slavery is overplayed (by African-Americans and liberals) as an objective evil, when it was actually a pretty good deal for Africans.
6. A belief that liberals are sissies, and therefore are most likely gay

etc., etc., (throw in a belief that torture is a.o.k. because Jack Bauer does it, and that we had to go to war with Iraq because of 9/11 somehow, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, plus tax cuts for the rich and anything Big Oil wants and you've pretty much summed up modern conservatism.)

Justin just made it plain, so we don't have to speculate.

For that, we shouldn't punish him, we should let him go right on publishing his thoughts, even if he later claims not to believe them.


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posted by JReid @ 4:24 PM  
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The FUBAR express
(Sigh.) How is this guy even close?
(NEWPORT, MICH.) – To show his support for nuclear power, John McCain toured the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant here today, comparing the safety of the plant to the Navy's warships he was stationed on.

"My experience with nuclear power goes back many years to being stationed onboard the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier," he said. "I knew it was safe then, and I know it’s safe now."

The plant, 30 miles outside Detroit, hasn't always had the best safety record. One of the reactors had a partial meltdown in 1966, and although there were no injuries or release of radiation, the accident allegedly led to the term “China syndrome,” after an engineer said the nuclear reaction “could go all the way to China.”


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posted by JReid @ 11:04 PM  
The redneck card
Harumphing wingers have taken to the airwaves, blogs and print pubs to express their outrage that anyone would dare suggest that they ... THEY ... would ever do or say anything racist regarding Barack Obama's candidacy!
[Pro-lynching country singer Toby] Keith has trained his sights on Barack Obama, attacking him in language that startled even the notoriously reactionary radio jock Glenn Beck. During Keith's appearance on the July 30 broadcast of Beck's show, he remarked, "I think the black people would say he [Obama] don't talk, act or carry himself as a black person."

"What does that even mean?" the audibly shocked Beck replied.

"Well, I don't know what that means," Keith drawled, "but I think that that's what they would say. Even though the black society would pull for him I still think that they think in the back of their mind that the only reason he is in [the general election] is because he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian." (Audio)

And I'm sure Keith knows that based on all the members of "the black society" that he's in contact with on a more or less daily basis whilst his grandpappy's stringin' em up, I reckon...


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posted by JReid @ 10:51 PM  
Paris Hilton hits back ... bitches
Paris Hilton issues a response to the wrinkly white haired guy from the olden days who featured her in an attack ad.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Apparently, the site, Funny or Die, is backed by Will Farrell.


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posted by JReid @ 10:30 PM  
Old man yells at crowd
Oh ... my ... god ... I feel SO sorry for John McCain's advance team. First, they have to find a venue where there are already going to be a lot of people (because a lot of people won't show up just to see John McCain.) Then, they have to get John and his wife onstage before the booing and the boredom start. Then, they have to make sure John has his talking points at least partially memorized, so he doesn't have to read EVERYTHING from those little note cards. And then ... they have to stand there and watch him sound like a very, very, very, very old man. Watch ... and roll...

Okay, that was the one with the hilarious soundtrack added, but come on, you laughed till you cried. Admit it... (You can find the version without the soundtrack here. The sad thing is, it's almost damned near as funny!)

Now, let's check out a news report from Sturgis, where 50,000 ... er ... "3 or 4,000 people" gathered to hear a concert ... um, and then they got John McCain:

Next, you have to prevent him from saying anything that could loosely be translated as: "take my wife, please!"

Cindy McCain forced by creepy husband to participate in topless biker chic contest so he can appear to be non-creepy "regular guy" ... shudder...

Meanwhile, the LA Times runs down John McCain's quest for (gasp) a little celebrity, among the bikers.


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posted by JReid @ 10:08 PM  
Suskind nails Bush on impeachable offense #1,939
Okay, maybe I'm making the number of impeachable offenses up, but this? This you can't make up:
President Bush committed an impeachable offense by ordering the CIA to to manufacture a false pretense for the Iraq war in the form of a backdated, handwritten document linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, an explosive new book claims.

The charge is made in “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, released today.

Suskind says he spoke on the record with U.S. intelligence officials who stated that Bush was informed unequivocally in January 2003 that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, his book relates, Bush decided to invade Iraq three months later — with the forged letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam bolstering the U.S. rationale to go into war.

Suskind talked to CIA agents who agree that former CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet was in on the scam:
“It was a dark day for the CIA,” Suskind told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday. “It was the kind of thing where [the CIA] said, ‘Look, this is not our charge. We’re not here to carry forth a political mandate — which is clearly what this was — to solve a political problem in America.’ And it was a cause of great grievance inside of the agency.”

The author writes that Bush’s action is “one of the greatest lies in modern American political history” and suggests it is a crime of greater impact than Watergate. But the White House is denying the allegations, calling the book “absurd” and charging that Suskind practices “gutter journalism.”

Former CIA director George Tenet also released a statement in which he ridicules the credibility of Suskind’s sources and calls the White House’s supposed directive to forge the document as “a complete fabrication.”

But Suskind stands by his work. “It’s not off the record,” he says. “It’s on the record. It’s in the book and people can read it for themselves.”

A bit more from the interview:
Suskind reports that the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, met secretly with British intelligence in Jordan in the early days of 2003. In weekly meetings with Michael Shipster, the British director of Iraqi operations, Habbush conveyed that Iraq had no active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

When Tenet was informed of the findings in early February, he said, “They’re not going to like this downtown,” Suskind wrote, meaning the White House. Suskind says that Bush’s reaction to the report was: “Why don’t they ask him to give us something we can use to help make our case?”

Suskind quotes Rob Richer, the CIA’s Near East division head, as saying that the White House simply ignored the Habbush report and informed British intelligence that they no longer wanted Habbush as an informant.

“Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the very first days he was in office. Nothing was going to stop that,” Richer is quoted in the book.

Suskind also writes that Habbush was “resettled” in Jordan with help from the CIA and was paid $5 million in hush money.

Suskind is a more than credible journalist, including his possession of Pullitzer prize. If he is correct, than Bush and Tenet committed a crime equivalent to mass homicide, committing more than 4,000 American lives to a task based on lies to Congress and the American people, and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (and forcing more than 2 million into refugee status.) By the way, the charges in Suskind's book are of a piece with those in other books, including Vincent Bugliosi's "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" (which I'm reading now.)

This case is becoming harder and harder to disprove, and it makes Nancy Pelosi and company's refusal to act on the evidence before them all the more ahameful.


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posted by JReid @ 3:32 PM  
Dana Milbank's life in the wilderness
Day 7 of the Milbank correction watch, and still no word from our intrepid snark reporter. And last night on "Countdown", we learned that he has banished himself from MSNBC
(Olbermann) Best Timing:

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, who notified us today that after four years appearing with us, he had accepted another television offer.

This saved your crack Countdown staff an increasingly difficult decision.

For nearly a week we'd been waiting for him to offer a correction or an explanation for his column from last week in which he apparently reported an Obama quote without a full context turned the meaning of the quote inside-out.

Then he called criticisms of his column "whines" even though the dispute was over whether Obama said the self-deprecating: "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" -- or only the part about "I have just become a symbol..."

We had decided not to have Dana on this news-hour again until this was cleared up, and, sadly after some very happy years, he's apparently chosen to make that cloud permanent.

Good luck, Dana.

Olbermann also explains his slow on the uptake reaction to Dana's hatcheting of Barack Obama:
Anybody who would come on television to talk about the Dick Cheney shoot-up, wearing an orange safety vest and a hunter's cap automatically gets my benefit of the doubt. But even that had a shelf-life, which was nearing, when he took any further decision-making out of our hands. It was quite a surprise conclusion, obviously, and I'll take it (before anybody tries to take it back).

We're still waiting for that correction out here in viewerland, Dana. And I'm guessing his new home is Fox News.


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posted by JReid @ 11:29 AM  
Morning notes: Bill Clinton's super-duper sour grapes
Man, that guy can hold a grudge! Bill Clinton is talking, and he still sounds awfully bitter about the primaries during an interview from Africa with ABC's Kate Snow on "Good Morning America":
over the past six days. On Monday, the former President will address the World AIDS Conference in Mexico.

At times, he appeared to grow testy as he discussed his wife's failed bid for the nomination and was asked if he deserves at least some of the blame for his wife's losses.

Clinton at first said he did not want to rehash events of the past year because it "interferes with the issue which is who should be elected in November." But then he offered a lengthy defense of his own role and chastized the media for its coverage.

When asked, "Do you personally have any regrets about what you did, campaigning for your wife?" Clinton, at first, answered, "Yes, but not the ones you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about."

But then he added, "There are things that I wish I'd urged her to do. Things I wish I'd said. Things I wish I hadn't said.

"But I am not a racist," he continued. "I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally."
He also described South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn as a "used to be" friend. Jeez.
And when asked whether Barack Obama is qualified to be president, the former POTUS didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement:
... asked if the Illinois senator is ready to be president, Clinton spun, "You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president." He went on to discuss how he learned things on the job, how the presidency is full of pressure. Clinton finished his evasive response by admitting that Obama can "inspire" and by observing in a a tone that sounded slightly condescending, "And he's smart as a whip, so there's nothing he can't learn."

Hug much?


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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Monday, August 04, 2008
McCain's Cuba libre
Could this be John McCain's first Florida whoopsie?
high-ranking campaign staffer for John McCain lobbied for years on behalf of a major corporation in favor of repealing economic sanctions against Cuba, a position that is directly at odds with McCain's position, according to lobbyist disclosure forms.

The staffer, John Green, who has held the key post of chief campaign liaison to members of Congress since early March, lobbied members of Congress extensively on behalf of French alcohol company Pernod Ricard, in their efforts to get sanctions weakened or repealed. In the process, according to the disclosure forms, he also did extensive work with members of Congress who favor repealing the Cuba embargo entirely, a position that is also strongly opposed by McCain.

... McCain has argued in favor of keeping all sanctions against Cuba in place until they undertake various democratic reforms. What's more, he has aggressively attacked Obama for not taking as hard a line on Cuba. Obama argues in favor of easing travel restrictions with the country, something McCain says would "send the worst possible signal" to Cuba's leaders by unilaterally dropping travel restrictions.

McCain's employment of a lobbyist who pushed for the lifting of Cuba sanctions could also prove to be a controversial issue in the critical swing state of Florida, where many in the large Cuban exile community favor a hard line against Cuba.

Much of Green's lobbying, which he did for a firm called Ogilvy Government Relations, has involved pushing for a proposed bill -- never passed -- that would repeal a 1998 U.S. law that disregards Cuban trademarks. Hard-liners on Cuba, McCain included, bitterly oppose repealing that law, because doing so would essentially recognize the legitimacy of Cuba's seizure of private property and businesses from way back when Fidel Castro first came to power. ...

Let's see if this one hits the streets in Miami...


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posted by JReid @ 3:01 PM  
Poll: Obama leads among low-wage workers
This is not a surprising finding, given that the competition is married to a woman rich enough to make him sign a pre-nup, but here it is:
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama holds a 2 to 1 edge over Republican Sen. John McCain among the nation's low-wage workers, but many are unconvinced that either presidential candidate would be better than the other at fixing the ailing economy or improving the health-care system, according to a new national poll.

Obama's advantage is attributable largely to overwhelming support from two traditional Democratic constituencies: African Americans and Hispanics. But even among white workers -- a group of voters that has been targeted by both parties as a key to victory in November -- Obama leads McCain by 10 percentage points, 47 percent to 37 percent, and has the advantage as the more empathetic candidate.

Still, one in six of the white workers polled remains uncommitted to either candidate. And a majority of those polled, both white and minority, are ambivalent about the impact of the election, saying that no matter who wins, their personal finances are unlikely to change.

More than disaffection drives these workers, according to the new national poll by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University
The survey also puts to rest some Pat Buchananisms that cropped up during the primary:
Their politics are shaped partly by their lot in the current economy: These voters are among the most severely hurt by rising prices, and many are insecure about their finances and lack jobs with basic benefits. Nevertheless, many are optimistic about the future even as they express deep suspicion about government.

The new poll included interviews with 1,350 randomly selected workers 18 to 64 years old who put in at least 30 hours a week but earned $27,000 or less last year. As a group, they are somewhat less likely to be Republicans than all adults under age 65 and are also less likely to be registered to vote. As many call themselves conservatives as liberal, and nearly four in 10 said their views on most political matters are "moderate."

The group, which accounts for nearly a quarter of U.S. adults, gives the Democrat the nod both as the more empathetic candidate and as the one who more closely shares their values. And while many express no opinion about who would do more to improve the economy or health care -- or the voters' finances -- Obama has the clear edge among those who picked a favorite on these core issues.

Obama's standing with the white workers runs counter to an impression, dating from the primary season, that he struggles to attract support from that group. McCain advisers have said for months that they think the Republican can win a significant share of those voters because of Obama's performance in the spring.

The survey suggests it will be difficult, but not impossible, for McCain to increase his appeal. Whereas Obama underperforms congressional Democrats by six points among low-wage whites -- 53 percent would prefer that the party control Congress -- McCain has a seven-point edge over congressional Republicans.

Sixteen percent of the white workers polled chose neither Obama nor McCain, saying either that they have no opinion or that they support someone else or that they do not plan to vote.
Meanwhile, the Gallup Daily crack hit has Obama up 3: 46%-43%, comporting with the now familiar "gallup" of the poll, which opens up for Obama at the top of the week and closes at the end of the week. 


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posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
Milbank correction watch: day 6
Still waiting for a correction from "Dr. Hubris," Dana Milbank, who apparently can diagnose arrogance without even examining the patient (or checking his quotes for accuracy.) No Washington Sketchy column today. Maybe tomorrow...

Milbank correction watch: day 2


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posted by JReid @ 2:33 PM  
Praying for Morgan Freeman
One of my favorite actors, and coincidentally, one of the finest in Hollywood, was seriously injured in a car accident. I'm sure that all of prayers are with him.


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posted by JReid @ 2:12 PM  
McCain 'honorable'? Not so much
Joe Klein takes all the nice stuff back... And check the comments below his blog. The key question most seem to be asking is: if John McCain is this malevolent, this erratic, and this malleable during the election, what the hell kind of president would he be?


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posted by JReid @ 2:01 PM  
Finally, Barack attacks! Plus: Obama gets RickRoved
At last, a genuine attack ad from the Obama camp. Reuters breaks it down:
CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama attacked Republican rival John McCain as a tool of big oil companies in a television ad released on Monday.

Seeking to tap into Americans' anger over soaring gasoline prices, Obama's ad opens with a shot of a driver pumping gas and refers to huge profits made by oil companies in the past year.

"Every time you fill your tank, the oil companies fill their pockets," a narrator says. "Now Big Oil's filling John McCain's campaign with $2 million in contributions."

The ad shows McCain standing next to fellow Republican President George W. Bush as the narrator says, "After one president in the pocket of big oil -- we can't afford another."

The ad touts Obama's plan to offer American families $1,000 tax breaks to help offset higher energy costs as well as the Illinois senator's proposal for a tax on windfall oil company profits. It accuses McCain, an Arizona senator, of seeking to give oil companies additional tax breaks.

Watch the ad:

Meanwhile, the candidates, and the parties, are slugging it out on the energy issue, including everything from clean energy (on the Obama side) to drilling (Big Oil's Republican minions in the House of Representatives are even threatening another good old fashioned government shutdown.) And the McCain people are reprising an anti-Kerry tactic, distributing tire gauges to mock Obama in the same way the same team, led by the same guy, Karl Rove protege Rick Davis, put out those purple bandages to mock Kerry's purple hearts:
McCain aides are distributing them to the campaign's travelling press corps and back at the HQ they're offering Obama tire gauges in exchange for donors who send in $25.

"John McCain says we need offshore oil drilling and we need it now," says campaign manager Rick Davis in an email to supporters. "Senator Barack Obama has consistently opposed offshore drilling - calling it a "gimmick." Senator Obama's solution to high gas prices is telling Americans to make sure their tires are inflated."

That's not his "solution" at all, and this latest gambit will surely bring yet more head-shaking disappointment from some quarters about McCain resorting to juvenile tactics.

But it seems increasingly clear that McCain is committed to the sort of aggressive and mocking campaigns that Republicans have been running against Democrats for years.

The battle in this election has been joined. The GOP is going to fight this thing on the basis of drilling, ironically, pushing the American people to side with the oil companies against the Democrats. They feel that they have a winner, and ironically, a hedge against rising gas prices. If they go up: the GOP can argue that we need to drill NOW. If they go down, Repubs will take credit, saying their call for drilling is having an impact.

How the Obama fights this will be a tough call. He can neutralize it by saying OK to the bi-partisan compromise that includes offshore drilling, and risk pissing off his base... He can stand fast against drilling and watch his state by state poll numbers slide, and continue to be RickRoved... or he can go on the offense, as he did in the new ad, by lashing John McCain to greedy oil profiteers, and the two oil men in the White House. I vote for number three, plus number one. But he's got to come hard, and get ugly.

It's not a comfortable look for the Democrats, but at least it takes the campaign off of the subject of race (though I'm sure not for long...)

UPDATE: Obama is now backing a plan to release 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a "short term fix" for high gas prices.


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posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
Sunday, August 03, 2008
The war for Iraqi oil
Check out this "secret history of the war over oil in Iraq." It's a fascinating presentation of the tug of war between the neocons who used to run George W. Bush's government, and the James Baker-led "realists" who literally represented the interests of Big Oil in U.S. foreign policy, and who attended those secret energy policy meetings organized by Dick Cheney (who apparently has favored both sides at different points in history, according to the author, investigative journalist Greg Palast.)

The bottom line: the Bush administration sought the invasion of Iraq from the time they stepped into office, and initially drafted a plan, in secret meetings with oil industry giants, and including "the late" Ken Lay, which included staging a coup to replace the inconvenient dictator of Iraq with an oil industry favorite, and maintaining the nationalized Iraqi oil industry under the control of U.S. and European firms. After 9/11, the neocons rolled out their own, alternative plan: to privatize Iraqi oil and use direct control over oil output to cut the throat of OPEC. The "secret history" outlines how the "realists" eventually came roaring back, scuttling the neocons plans and maintaining Iraq's state-run oil system, under American control, of course, including direct viceroyship by former U.S. oil executives, who were tapped to run Iraq's oil ministries, and boosting oil prices through the roof in the process. In the end, the U.S. sided with OPEC, including the Saudis and the Iranians, to let everyone get fat off U.S. leverage over Iraqi oil.

Meanwhile, Palast wrote this back in May:
In a hotel room in Brussels, the chief executives of the world’s top oil companies unrolled a huge map of the Middle East, drew a fat, red line around Iraq and signed their names to it.

The map, the red line, the secret signatures. It explains this war. It explains this week’s rocketing of the price of oil to $134 a barrel.

It happened on July 31, 1928, but the bill came due now.

Barack Obama knows this. Or, just as important, those crafting his policies seem to know this. Same for Hillary Clinton’s team. There could be no more vital difference between the Republican and Democratic candidacies. And you won’t learn a thing about it on the news from the Fox-holes.

Let me explain.

In 1928, oil company chieftains (from Anglo-Persian Oil, now British Petroleum, from Standard Oil, now Exxon, and their Continental counterparts) were faced with a crisis: falling prices due to rising supplies of oil; the same crisis faced by their successors during the Clinton years, when oil traded at $22 a barrel.

The solution then, as now: stop the flow of oil, squeeze the market, raise the price. The method: put a red line around Iraq and declare that virtually all the oil under its sands would remain there, untapped. Their plan: choke supply, raise prices rise, boost profits. That was the program for 1928. For 2003. For 2008.

Again and again, year after year, the world price of oil has been boosted artificially by keeping a tight limit on Iraq’s oil output. Methods varied. The 1928 “Redline” agreement held, in various forms, for over three decades. It was replaced in 1959 by quotas imposed by President Eisenhower. Then Saudi Arabia and OPEC kept Iraq, capable of producing over 6 million barrels a day, capped at half that, given an export quota equal to Iran’s lower output.

In 1991, output was again limited, this time by a new red line: B-52 bombings by Bush Senior’s air force. Then came the Oil Embargo followed by the “Food for Oil” program. Not much food for them, not much oil for us.

In 2002, after Bush Junior took power, the top ten oil companies took in a nice $31 billion in profits. But then, a miracle fell from the sky. Or, more precisely, the 101st Airborne landed. Bush declared, “Bring’m on!” and, as the dogs of war chewed up the world’s second largest source of oil, crude doubled in two years to an astonishing $40 a barrel and those same oil companies saw their profits triple to $87 billion.

In response, Senators Obama and Clinton propose something wrongly called a “windfall” profits tax on oil. But oil industry profits didn’t blow in on a breeze. It is war, not wind, that fills their coffers. The beastly leap in prices is nothing but war profiteering, hiking prices to take cruel advantage of oil fields shut by bullets and blood.

I wish to hell the Democrats would call their plan what it is: A war profiteering tax. War is profitable business – if you’re an oil man. But somehow, the public pays the price, at the pump and at the funerals, and the oil companies reap the benefits.

Indeed, the recent engorgement in oil prices and profits goes right back to the Bush-McCain “surge.” The Iraq government attack on a Basra militia was really nothing more than Baghdad’s leaping into a gang war over control of Iraq’s Southern oil fields and oil-loading docks. Moqtada al-Sadr’s gangsters and the government-sponsored greedsters of SCIRI (the Supreme Council For Islamic Revolution In Iraq) are battling over an estimated $5 billion a year in oil shipment kickbacks, theft and protection fees.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the surge-backed civil warring has cut Iraq’s exports by up to a million barrels a day. And that translates to slashing OPEC excess crude capacity by nearly half.

Result: ka-BOOM in oil prices and ka-ZOOM in oil profits. For 2007, Exxon recorded the highest annual profit, $40.6 billion, of any enterprise since the building of the pyramids. And that was BEFORE the war surge and price surge to over $100 a barrel.
Actually, during the second quarter of 2008, the profits swelled to an even higher $51,5 billion for the six biggest OilCos -- the highest EVER. Meanwhile, John McCain's flip-flop on oil drilling, and his almost obsessive promotion of "the surge," which again, is keeping oil profits high, has paid huge dividends for him:
Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his position on the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month - three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban - compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.

McCain delivered the speech before heading to Texas for a series of fund-raisers with energy industry executives, and the day after the speech he raised $1.3 million at a private luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club, according to local news accounts.

"The timing was significant," said David Donnelly, the national campaigns director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan campaign finance reform group that conducted the analysis of McCain's oil industry contributions. "This is a case study of how a candidate can change a policy position in the interest of raising money."
What's interesting, is that McCain has surrounded himself with the neocons, including Joe Lieberman, whose oil policy lost out in Bush and Cheney's Iraq. Does that mean that as president, he would return to their "Plan A" for the country: privatizing its oil fields and attempting to cut OPEC out of the picture? With McCain's belligerence toward OPEC-member Iran, and the neocons' hatred for all things Arab, it's an important question, which the media unfortunately will never ask.

SIDEBAR: I think it's clear to most people who are not aparatchiks of the GOP that what we're seeing in Iraq is the future of global resource wars -- a push for direct corporate control over entire governments, whether it's Dole in Latin America or Big Oil in LatAm, Africa and the Middle East, complete with private or government armies to maintain corporate interests. It may sound far fetched, but that's what's happening today, in Iraq, Colombia and elsewhere (the Bushies tried to make it happen in Venezuela, too, and would love to do so in Iran.) Americans aren't vigilant enough to ask questions, and the national security state is growing so quickly here, without much opposition from a public that's become accustomed to the existence of cameras and "reality show" surreal lives, that perhaps in the near future, many, if not most, will be unable -- or afraid -- to do so. (Those who do pay attention are frequently written off as paranoids or kooks, or even "un-American" by those on the right.)

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posted by JReid @ 2:25 PM  
He said it
And now, a word from the "reality-based community"...

Something about the Britney/Paris video has been nagging at the back of my mind, and I finally figured out what it was. Comparing Obama to them is wrong because they're fading stars and he's a rising star. The Britney/Paris analogue in the race is McCain: he, like they, got rather far on extremely limited talent and huge amounts of marketing, and is now desperately trying to cling to celebrity with more and more extreme antics that get him ink but offend and sadden his fans.

And that explains the raw hatred that McCain and his handlers display towards Obama: it's the hatred of the has-been (especially a has-been who never was much in the first place, a mere celebrity, like Britney rather than an actual star...


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posted by JReid @ 1:38 PM  
Is the new McCain ad suggesting Obama is the Antichrist?
It sounds absurd, but consider this:

Some evangelical leaders are hinting at exactly that, as the HuffPo points out:
... several blogs have noted a growing number of conservative evangelicals alleging that Obama is the anti-Christ, or at least a precursor to that end-of-days figure. For example, Hal Lindsay, a prominent evangelical writer, charged in a recent WorldNetDaily article:
Obama's world tour provided a foretaste of the reception he can expect to receive.

He will probably also stand in some European capital, addressing the people of the world and telling them that he is the one that they have been waiting for. And he can expect as wildly enthusiastic a greeting as Obama got in Berlin.

The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance.
Much of the fear mongering about Barack has been directed at Jews: prominent neocons and assorted right wingers, including Charles Krauthammer and Ben Stein, openly compared Obama's Berlin speech and proposed Denver acceptance speech to the rantings of Adolph Hitler, implying that he is, if not the Antichrist himself, and evil prophet of doom for the Jewish people. But the push to scare evangelical Christians about Barack has been well under way for some time. It appears the McCain squad simply picked up on it.

Winger blogs routinely refer to Obama as the "Obamessiah," a derision designed to imply that his supporters (and the media) are being mesmerized by a kind of modern day political cult (which should sound familiar to Bush II loyalists, who literally worshipped the current president after 9/11...) but one which some evangelical extremists might take very seriously. Take this sample of letters to The American Spectator, for example, entitled "The Good News According to Barack":
... As for these evangelicals who're falling for Obama, they need to reexamine whether they really have a genuine relationship with Jesus the Christ. Maybe they, like Obama, are not what they say they are?

For them to even entertain supporting him, they have to turn their backs on Jesus. That means, among other things, joining Obama's lies to then support things such as infanticide, homosexual marriage and, generally, his character flaw of lying as he does.
As for Rick Warren's actions?

Someday he'll have to answer to the Highest Power as to why, given the visibility and influence he has been granted, he will have given his apparent imprimatur to one of such character as Obama -- and, thus, influenced others to do the same.

Also, he'll have to answer for how, whether intentional or not, he has given Obama and his devotees reasons to condemn and ridicule Christians who have the discernment, courage and love of Christ Jesus and what He represents to see the falsity of what Obama and Warren are doing -- and to say so.

For Warren and Obama, I pray that they realize, sooner than later, that there are consequences far graver and eternally life-changing than losing an election or having your face on television and in the news.

I pray that they -- and those Christians, Catholic or Protestant, who now allow themselves to be deceived by Obama -- come to their senses and realign their lives with the real Messiah in whom they all profess to believe.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia
(The reference to Warren was about his invitation to Obama to speak at his church. He has also invited John McCain)

Again, this from a cadre of evangelicals who literally worshipped President Bush, and taught their children to do the same:

This as we come to the end of the presidency of a man who said out loud that God chose him to be president, and that God told him to invade Iraq. This from evangelical nuts who believe that Bush's wars in the Middle East will bring on the Armageddon. Now they've turned that argument completely on its head, begging the question: if the idolatrous worship of George W. Bush was proper, than mustn't the supposed worship of Barack Obama be the worship of the Antichrist?

From Beliefnet's Mara Vanderslice, co-founder of the Matthew 25 Network, a Christian group that supports Obama:

I don't know about you- but I found this McCain campaign ad "The One" to be one of the most offensive ads we have seen in American politics to date.

At best, this ad implies that those who plan to support Senator Obama are looking for a new savior or a replacement Messiah. But many are reading it even more darkly as an attempt to portray Obama as an anti-Christ figure.

A vote for Senator Obama is a vote for the man we think will make the best President, not for a new Messiah. As Christians, we have one Lord And Savior. Jesus Christ. It is blasphemous to suggest otherwise.

And it is beyond offensive to suggest that Senator Obama is a false Messiah or the anti-Christ himself. How low can we go? It shows the McCain campaign is willing to make a mockery of our faith to feed people's fears. Christians need to reject this out of hand....
Beliefnet is starting an email campaign calling on McCain to pull the ad.



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posted by JReid @ 12:43 PM  
From the desk of: Kathy Hilton
McCain contributor Kathy Hilton (mother of Paris) speaks out on the attack ad featuring her daughter and Britney Spears:
I've been asked again and again for my response to the now infamous McCain celebrity ad. I actually have three responses. It is a complete waste of the money John McCain's contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country's time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States.


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posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
No accident
The breathtakingly negative presidential campaign being waged by John McCain is no accident, and not the result of bungling by young aides. It's a very deliberate strategy by a group of people imported directly from the 2004 campaign, in which John Kerry was stripped of his war record and turned into a windsurfing girlie man (no wonder he's become a lead attack dog for Obama... as was clear on MTP today as he sat steaming next to Joe Lieberman, and accusing the GOP of character assassination... this is personal.) From The Guardian:
McCain's aggressive strategy is a deliberate and well-thought-out ploy. It was developed and implemented by a coterie of advisers brought in last month who are protégés of the Republican political guru Karl Rove. Schmidt, who learnt his trade with Rove, heads the group and is now guiding the campaign.

The strategy is intended to turn McCain's ailing presidential bid around and give it a firm focus: one mostly fixed on attacking Obama. Schmidt and others believe they can do to Obama what the Republicans did to John Kerry in 2004.

'They know how to win a presidential election. If you can show a candidate's basic flaws, that is one way to win,' said Steve Mitchell, a Republican political adviser and chairman of Mitchell Research. McCain's new advisers believe they can define Obama in their own terms and leave him as damaged goods in the eyes of the electorate. If that sounds like a hard-headed, unpleasant, negative strategy, that is probably because it is. But Schmidt and his allies have also started to give Republicans the one thing that Obama had seemed to be monopolising - hope of winning.

Steve Schmidt is known as 'The Bullet'. Part of that is to do with his bald-headed appearance, but it is also as much to do with his hyper-aggressive political style. He was promoted to run McCain's campaign at the beginning of last month, after he and several other aides went to McCain and warned him that his presidential bid was in dire trouble.

McCain took the warning to heart and placed Schmidt in charge of the day-to-day running of his campaign operation. It was a bold move, but Schmidt is one of the rising stars of Republican politics. The New Jersey native cut his teeth under Rove and in the Bush White House. He ran the 2004 Republican war room that was responsible for taking down Kerry. He also worked hard on getting conservative judges through the process of appointment to the Supreme Court. Then he guided the re-election campaign of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to victory.

Schmidt has been joined by other key figures from the Rove-era Bush White House. They include the formidable figure of Nicole Wallace, a Bush campaign spokeswoman in 2004, and Greg Jenkins, a former Fox TV journalist who once worked for Bush's campaign. The group has sought to tighten an operation that was floundering under its previous leadership. They have also given it a sharply negative edge.
And whatever braying there is right now about Obama "playing the race card," count on the fact that a race-based attack, not overt, but very real, is coming:
any Republicans believe that the controversy surrounding the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, will return to haunt him. That would inject race into the campaign in ways that were hinted at last week. When McCain's camp recently accused Obama of playing the race card, it was the first time the subject of his skin colour had directly come up. Many Republican strategists believe that McCain is most likely to benefit from that. 'The more race comes into the debate, the less likely it is that Obama will win,' said Mitchell.

That contention is not proven. But prominently airing the Wright issue in the final month of the campaign would surely test that theory. McCain's camp is unlikely to bring up the Wright issue, but there are many Republican surrogates who will probably do that job enthusiastically. Again, the echoes of the campaign that derailed Kerry are troubling for Democrats. 'Come October, Wright's name recognition is going to be 99 per cent,' said Mitchell.
The pre-emptive strikes clobbering Obama for even bringing up race are likely meant to blunt any complaints from his camp once the racial stuff begins.

Of course, the strategy is also certain to permanently damage John McCain's stature and image, as I and many others have said before. But again, the new McCain team doesn't care about that. This is the 50 percent plus one crowd -- the ones whose goal is to push their guy into the White House, reputation be damned, and then force the other 49.9 percent of Americans to deal with it. They don't care if McCain becomes the second most hated president in American history (Bush II being the first) so long as he's president. And if the country falls apart after that? Sorry for ya. Worse, the fact that McCain is being diminished by the nonsense ads and smarmy tactics will only make them more desperate to win, because otherwise, McCain will be left with absolutely nothing.

I'm assuming that the Obama team knows all of this. What I hope, is that they are prepared to respond to it more forcefully than they have so far. And I think this makes the veep choice all the more important. What Obama needs in a partner in this election is not a sympatico, or someone he's "comfortable with." He needs an attack dog. He needs someone who can go out and clobber John McCain and his running mate, and who's not afraid to do so.

Otherwise, we're in for four years of war, a shitty economy, oil spills off the coast of Florida, and a world scratching its heads at how so many millions of Americans could be so stupid.



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posted by JReid @ 12:19 PM  
The FBI's anthrax problem
Demands for the FBI to show what it's got on the supposed, and now deceased, anthrax suspect, are growing:
(New York Daily News) WASHINGTON - FBI officials had been ready to "completely overwhelm" anthrax suspect Bruce Ivins with the evidence against him when he killed himself, but his former boss is dubious that agents really had a case.

After years of bungled leads and investigative missteps - including the $5.8 million it cost feds to settle a lawsuit with an earlier target of suspicion, Ivins' colleague Steven Hatfill - the FBI and federal prosecutors took their time to build a damning file on the anthrax vaccine specialist.

"The agents kept this close-held," a U.S. counterterrorism official briefed on details of the Ivins probe told the Daily News on Saturday. "They took their time until they had enough evidence to completely overwhelm Ivins, and they expected him to plead guilty."

After Ivins committed suicide, the Justice Department acknowledged "developments" in the "Amerithrax" attacks that killed five people in the months after 9/11. It did not mention Ivins.

Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, whose office received a poisoned letter in 2001, said Saturday that it was time for answers.

"It's been seven years; there's a lot of unanswered questions, and I think the American people deserve to know more than they do today," he said.

The former head of the Fort Detrick lab where Ivins worked also says it's time for the FBI to lay its evidence on the table.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Adamovicz told The News that the FBI's probe into the 2001 anthrax killings had upended the work of the lab by turning scientists into suspects - and pushed his pal over the edge.

"I just cannot see that Bruce would in any way, shape or form be responsible for something like that," he said. "I'd like to see these charges substantiated, because just like [with] Dr. Hatfill, there could be nothing to these allegations."

He said the FBI has created a psychologically toxic atmosphere for scientists at Fort Detrick.

"We were there processing information for agents and then one day they turned around and treated us all like suspects," he said. The agents' criteria for additional suspicion was "who's working the most overtime," said Adamovicz, who also was questioned by the feds.
Meanwhile, the Daily News also has reports on an allegation that then-FBI Director Robert Mueller was pressured by the White House to pin the anthrax attacks on al-Qaeda:
After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was "beaten up" during President Bush's morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.

"They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East," the retired senior FBI official told The News.

On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, "There may be some possible link" to Bin Laden, adding, "I wouldn't put it past him." Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden's henchmen were trained "how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together."

But by then the FBI already knew anthrax spilling out of letters addressed to media outlets and to a U.S. senator was a military strain of the bioweapon. "Very quickly [Fort Detrick, Md., experts] told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with," the ex-FBI official said. "They couldn't go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next."
No word in the piece about whether the White House also pushed the FBI to pin the attacks on Saddam Hussein.

ABC News doesn't comment on that either, or on their own role in pushing the anthrax-Iraq line, but they do play up Daschle's doubts about the investigation:
Daschle said the FBI has not given him any new updates. He also raised questions about the quality of the investigation, noting that the government recently paid out almost $6 million to a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who accused authorities of unfairly targeting him in the anthrax case.

"From the very beginning I've had real concerns about the quality of the investigation," Daschle said in a broadcast interview. "Given the fact that they already paid somebody else $5 million for the mistakes they must have made gives you some indication of the overall caliber and quality of the investigation."

As for the death of Bruce Ivins, the government scientists now accused posthumously in the case:
"Unfortunately, it doesn't bring anything to closure," Daschle said. "This probably further complicates their ability to get to the facts."

He said he did not know if the investigation involving Ivins "is just another false track and a real diversion of where they need to be. We don't know and they aren't telling us."

And last but not least, Bloomberg reports that the California medical examiner did not plan to do an autopsy on Ivins' body.



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posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
Whom they serve
This morning on "This Week," George Stephanopoulos demanded of Nancy Pelosi, at least eight, ten times, to know whether she would bring a vote on offshore drilling to the floor of the House. Why wouldn't she do it? Would she do it as part of a "comprehensive package?" "Why NOT allow an up or down vote on offshore drilling?" "Didn't you promise to bring votes to the floor?" "Why, why, why, won't you let the Republicans bring a drilling measure to the floor?"

Right after the Pelosi segment, George threw to break. The first advert? Chevron. Later in the program? It was the American Petroleum Institute's turn. (There was also an ad by T. Boone Pickens for his "alternative energy" plan.)

Telling. In radio, on-air personalities are always very much aware of who the advertisers and sponsors are, and management is very skittish about hosts dissing those advertisers. There's always a tug of war between the sales and programming departments about how much deference should be paid. Don't think for a moment that it's not much the same in television.

Chevron began its advertising push last September with a spashy ad intended to portray the company as a good global citizen. The current spot attempts to do the same thing, portraying the company as a leader in clean energy technology. The API ad attempts to convince the viewer that the oil industry makes much smaller profits than other industries, and invests billions in finding new sources of energy for America's moms and dads. The API isn't just going on the air, they're also taking it to the streets, with "educational programs" designed for America's classrooms, in which they enlist elementary school teachers as on the ground surrogates for the industry. Seriously. Both Chevron (and its friends, like Exxon-Mobile) and the API are also engaged in efforts to combat, not global warming, but the notion that it exists.


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posted by JReid @ 11:18 AM  
Saturday, August 02, 2008
When they seize your laptop...
My husband asked me tonight what it will take for Americans to get exercised about the loss of civil liberties in this country (he's British, but raised mostly in the U.S.) I said in my opinion, it will take government agents knocking on the doors or ordinary right wingers and sitting their families down in a room at gunpoint while they search their homes -- just like we do in Iraq. This one's for those wingers, who will probably find this policy perfectly acceptable:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A key US national security agency on Friday defended the right of border officials to seize laptops from travelers even if they are not suspected of criminal activity, as lawmakers and rights activists slammed the policy as unconstitutional and alarming.

"Since the founding of the republic, we have had broad authority to conduct searches at the border to prevent the entrance into this country of dangerous persons and goods," Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told AFP.

"In the 21st century, the most dangerous contraband is most often contained in electronic media, not on paper. The age of micro-fiches and paper files is long over," she said.

The DHS last month made public policy documents, one of which authorizes border officials to "detain documents and electronic devices, for a reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search ... on-site or at an off-site location."

"In the course of a border search, and absent individualized suspicion, officers can review and analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States," said the document, which is available online.

Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called such seizures unconstitutional.

"It's a seizure without developing probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed. The Customs and Border Protection Division of the DHS is trying to turn the US border into a constitution-free zone," he said.

And why won't the wingers care?

"Almost all business travelers possess a Blackberry, a zip-drive, or a mobile phone, so how is it exactly that they are selecting the individuals whose devices are searched and seized?" he asked.

"That is the unknown question and it smacks of discrimination."

Last month, the ACLU accused the DHS of endangering "US citizens' privacy and civil liberties without increasing security" through its policies and programs, including a terrorist watchlist which the rights group claims has grown to more than one million names.

The ACLU also accused US border agents of unfairly targeting US citizens of Asian or Arab origin and of racially profiling Latino residents of the United States at immigration checkpoints.

What ever it takes to win the "war on terror" right?

posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
Friday, August 01, 2008
Death by Anthrax
If you believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this is the anthrax killer, the man who, a month after 9/11, mailed anthrax-laced letters, first to the building that houses the Sun and National Enquirer tabloids in Boca Raton, then to Democrat Tom Daschle, the then Senate Majority Leader and and Democrat Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to both NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and ABC News, killing five people including postal workers and a Sun photo editor, causing widespread fear of the mail, and nearly shutting down the U.S. Postal service in several cities. The anthrax attacks spooked a country already rattled by the terror attacks, and were used by the Bush administration and their allies to push for "the next phase" -- a war with Iraq. "Countdown" tonight played some interesting video of a certain Senator from Arizona, who was a close ally of Ahmad Chalabi and a leading promoter of an Iraq invasion dating back to the 1990s. More on that later.

Back to the anthrax killer, who the FBI has now identified as 62-year-old Bruce E. Ivins, a government scientist who worked for an "elite" biodefense facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and who actually had been called on to analyze the anthrax samples from the attack. Oh, and he's also dead:
(Los Angeles Times) Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washing

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI.
Curiously, the death comes two months after the government settled with the previous anthrax suspect, former government scientist Steven Hatfill, for $5.82 million for wrongly accusing him.

The FBI is claiming that the breakthrough came because of ... science!
The FBI's new top investigators -- Vincent B. Lisi and Edward W. Montooth -- instructed agents to reexamine leads or potential suspects that may have received insufficient attention. Moreover, significant progress was made in analyzing genetic properties of the anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two senators.

The renewed efforts led the FBI back to USAMRIID, where agents first questioned scientists in December 2001, a few weeks after the fatal mailings.

By spring of this year, FBI agents were still contacting Ivins' present and former colleagues. At USAMRIID and elsewhere, scientists acquainted with Ivins were asked to sign confidentiality agreements in order to prevent leaks of new investigative details.

Ivins, employed as a civilian at Ft. Detrick, earlier had attracted the attention of Army officials because of anthrax contaminations that Ivins failed to report for five months. In sworn oral and written statements to an Army investigator, Ivins said that he had erred by keeping the episodes secret -- from December 2001 to late April 2002. He said he had swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas that he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician.
The whole thing is just odd. Suddenly, the FBI has a suspect, and on the same day we hear his name, he's DOA.

Ivins had apparently been depressed ever since the Hatfill settlement, was running out of money for his defense, and was contemplating suicidal, and was even committed to a mental facility for a time. He was described by his own brother as considering himself to be "omnipotent," and on "Countdown" tonight, the LAT reporter who broke the story said Ivins' former therapist thought him to be homicidal, and so dangerous that she took out a restraining order against him.certainly the kind of guy you could see secreting some anthrax from the lab and mailing it out to people he perceived as political enemies (another winger on a bender...)

But ...

There is that settlement, and the question of why the government wasted so much time and effort on Hatfill. And there is the timing of the attacks themselves, and the targets: Democratic Senators, a member of the "liberal media," and for some reason, a tabloid. And there's the timeline, compiled from various sources including the Baltimore Sun, Palm Beach Post, Los Angeles Times and

2001 -

Sept. 19: National Enquirer photo editor Robert Stevens opens a mysterious letter that came through the mail. He begins feeling ill Sept. 27.

Oct. 2: Stevens is admitted to JFK Hospital, five days after first feeling ill. He is diagnosed with anthrax Oct. 4 and dies Oct. 5.

Oct. 7-10: Investigators discover anthrax spores on Robert Stevens' work keyboard. The Boca Raton building is sealed. Mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco, and a third employee are diagnosed.

Oct. 15: The U.S. Congress, ABC News and NBC all find evidence they've been mailed anthrax:

The letter to Daschle was dated "09-11-01."

"We have this anthrax. You die now," it said. "Allah is great."

President Bush said the letters might have been sent by accomplices of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist who launched the Sept. 11 attacks, although he admitted that he had no direct evidence.

Glenn Greenwald reveals the contents of the others, including a pic of the Brokaw letter, which read: "This is next. Take penacilin now. Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great." Clearly, the perpetrator wanted the public to believe the attacks originated among foreign Muslims, maybe even Muslims in Iraq. Which brings us to this:

Oct. 18 - Sen. John McCain appears on "The David Letterman Show" and drops this interesting non-sequitor:

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN: I think we’re doing fine …. I think we’ll do fine. The second phase — if I could just make one, very quickly — the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?

MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that’s when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made. (video here)

This was a ful year before the Congressional authorization for war, and well before Bush was even admitting that the administration was considering invading Iraq. Why did McCain go there so soon after 9/11 if it wasn't in discussion on Capitol Hill?

Oct. 21: The Mac and Joe show... John McCain and Joe Lieberman appear on "Meet the Press" and McCain has a very interesting verbal slip ... again...

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, let me pick up on your point about a post-Taliban regime in Afghanistan. There is a lot of discussion, concern on the ground whether that's feasible. And some are suggesting our military campaign is being limited until we get a post-Taliban regime in place. How do you see it?

MCCAIN: I think that might be partially the case from the reports that we have that there has not been the kind of air attacks in the areas where the Northern Alliance are fighting the Taliban forces.

I'd be a little reluctant to not to pursue this conflict as vigorously as possible.

MCCAIN: We were worried about the departure of Saddam Hussein that there might be chaos might ensue. I think most of us, in retrospect, would have liked to have seen Saddam Hussein gone. So I think we ought to overthrow them as quickly as possible.

I don't believe there's any such thing as a moderate Taliban, although I would be interested to hear from one.

Them? Recall that the question was about Afghanistan, and the prior discussion was about Osama bin Laden. Unbelievably, Russert didn't pick up on the switch from Afghanistan to Iraq. Later in the discussion, the Senators get right to the point, calling for an invasion of Iraq:

RUSSERT: Senator Lieberman, should we include Iraq as a military target in this war against terrorism?

LIEBERMAN: Well, of course, I feel that so long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq, the United States is in danger. And I think if you look at the words of the president's statement to Congress, again, the war against terrorism, it says, we're not going to be safe until we rid the world of people who have the capacity and the intention to strike at civilians to achieve political ends.

There is some evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein may have had contact with bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, perhaps even involved in the September 11 attack. That raises my suspicions.

But the more important point is, we know that Saddam would like to do us the worst kind of ill. We know that he has worked on chemical and biological weapons and, in fact, has used them against his own people and against the Iranians. In my opinion, therefore, Saddam is a terrorist.

And, therefore, we should--it should be a centerpiece of our policy after we finish the business in Afghanistan and bin Laden to end that regime. It begins for me by supporting the Iraqi opposition, the people within Iraq that want to get rid of him. But then, ultimately there has to be an American and, I hope, allied military component to that. Because as long as Saddam is there, our lives are threatened.

RUSSERT: Would you have any problem expanding President Bush's orders to the CIA to go after Osama bin Laden to include Saddam Hussein?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I leave that to the president. But as a matter of principle and morality, of course not.

RUSSERT: Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: I think Joe's right.

And a bit later:

RUSSERT: But after Afghanistan, you'd have no problem going after Saddam Hussein?

MCCAIN: If Saddam Hussein continues to develop weapons of mass destruction, the means to deliver them, there are ties to terrorist organizations, then we have to give him his choice. We have to give the Syrians a choice. We have to give other countries a choice. Because we've got to--if anyone thinks that, just by taking care of bin Laden, we've taken care of the problem, they obviously are not aware of the extent of the challenge we have.

RUSSERT: If Saddam refuses to allow inspectors into his country, is that enough for us to say, either give us inspectors or face military action?

MCCAIN: I can't know those kind of details, and there are other ways, diplomatic, economic, many other ways, we can put pressure on the Iraqis. So it would depend on the situation and the time. But I think we're going to be steadfast.

You start to see why Lieberman is backing McCain for the presidency. The two have been partners in the neocon cause for a long, long time... Back to the timeline, which picks up on the same Sunday...

Oct. 21-22: Two postal workers die and two others are hospitalized from anthrax exposure. Thirty are exposed in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC. The anthrax-laced mail targeted then-Senate President Tom Daschle; D-S.D. and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. as well as the New York Post, NBC, ABC and American Media.

The following week, a reporter at one of those victimized news outlets, ABC, gets some "hot tips" on the anthrax case, which Glenn Greenwald recalls today:

By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources" fed them information that was completely false -- false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein. And look where -- according to Brian Ross' report on October 28, 2001 -- these tests were conducted:

And despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.

In other words, Ross' "well placed sources" may well have had intimate knowledge of the investigation into the attacks. Hell, one of them may well have been Ivins. And the perpetrator clearly shared with those "sources" the goal of making Americans believe the attacks were perpetrated by foreign Muslims, and specifically, by Iraq. This after President Bush initially told the public that the attacks could have been a continuation of Bin Laden's attack. He quickly discarded that line, and by mid October...

Oct. 29: ABC News runs this story (h/t to Atrios)

MORE INVESTIGATIVE NEWS: • Atta Met Iraqi Official in Prague

Four well-placed and separate sources told ABCNEWS that initial tests detected bentonite, though the White House initially said the chemical was not found.

The first battery of tests, conducted at Ft. Detrick, Md., and elsewhere, discovered the anthrax spores were treated with the substance, which keeps the tiny particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together — making it more likely that they could be inhaled.

The inhaled form on anthrax is far more deadly than the skin form.

As far as is known, only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons, but officials caution that the presence of the chemical alone does not constitute firm evidence of Iraqi involvement.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had denied that bentonite was found on the letters, but another senior White House official backed off Fleischer's comments, saying "at this point" there does not appear to be bentonite.

The official said the Ft. Detrick findings represented an "opinionated analysis," that three other labs are conducting tests, and that one of those labs had contradicted the bentonite finding. But, the official added, "tests continue."

Fleischer added that no test or analysis has concluded that bentonite is present in the Daschle anthrax, and "no other finding contradicts or calls into question" that conclusion.

Reading from what he said was a sentence from the report prepared by scientists at Fort Detrick, he told ABCNEWS, "It is interesting to note there is no evidence of aluminum in the sample." Aluminum, Fleischer said, would also be present if bentonite was.

Oct. 31: Kathy T. Nguyen dies of inhalational anthrax three days after falling ill.

Nov. 21: Ottilie W. Lundgren dies from inhalational anthrax.

Dec. 9: Dick Cheney appears on "Meet the Press," and says this:

Russert: Do you still believe there's no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?

Cheney: Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that--it's been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.

Cheney would repeat that allegation again, and again, in the lead up to the Iraq war. And the ABC report became the basis of repeated neoconservative rants goading America to attack Iraq, as Greenwald also points out:

The Weekly Standard published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report -- insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks. In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:

On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give credit to the ABC website,, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type -- is behind the germ warfare.

2002 -

January: Hart Senate Office Building reopens after the federal government spends $27 million to decontaminate the building.

Jan. 2: President Bush gives his state of the union speech, declaring Iraq, Iran and North Korea to be part of an "axis of evil," and mentioning the following about Iraq:

The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.

Bush made no other references to the anthrax attacks that had happened just months before.

July 23: The Downing Street Memo is written, in which British intelligence said "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD."

August: Law enforcement officials and Attorney General John Ashcroft call Steven J. Hatfill, a biowarfare expert, a "person of interest" in the investigation. The White House Iraq Group formed.

June: FBI is scrutinizing 20 to 30 scientists who might have had the knowledge and opportunity to send the anthrax letters, a U.S. official says.

August: Law enforcement officials and Attorney General John Ashcroft call Steven J. Hatfill, a biowarfare expert, a "person of interest" in the investigation.

September: The WHIG strategy shifts from scaring Americans with bioweapons claims to nuclear threats. From Wikipedia:

  • September 7-8: Bush and nearly all his top advisers blanketed the airways, talking about the dangers posed by Iraq:
    • On NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Dick Cheney accused Saddam of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons over the past 14 months to add to his stockpile of chemical and biological arms.
    • On CNN, Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that "there will always be some uncertainty" in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
    • On CBS, Bush said U.N. weapons inspectors, before they were denied access to Iraq in 1998, concluded that Saddam was "six months away from developing a weapon." He also cited satellite photos released by a U.N. agency Friday that show unexplained construction at Iraq sites that weapons inspectors once visited to search for evidence Saddam was trying to develop nuclear arms. "I don't know what more evidence we need," Bush said.
  • September 7, 2002: Judith Miller of The New York Times reports Bush administration officials said "In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."

October 2: Congress passes a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The resolution is authored by Joe Lieberman.

October 14: Bush says of Saddam "This is a man that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army."


Jan. 21: Bush says of Saddam "He has weapons of mass destruction -- the world's deadliest weapons -- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies."

Feb 5: Colin Powell addresses the United Nations, asserting that there was "no doubt in my mind" that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons.

March 20: The US invades Iraq

June: FBI drains pond in Frederick, Md., in search of anthrax-related evidence. Frederick is the home of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, one of the nation's main anthrax research centers. Nothing suspicious is found.

August: Hatfill sues Ashcroft and other government officials, accusing them of using him as a scapegoat and demanding that they clear his name.

December: Postal workers begin moving back into Washington's main mail center, almost two years after anthrax-laced letters killed two employees. The Brentwood facility underwent more than $130 million worth of decontamination and renovation.


February: A white powder determined to be the deadly poison ricin is found in an office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. No one is hurt and no arrests are made.

August: FBI searches homes of Dr. Kenneth M. Berry, who founded a group to train medical staff to respond to biological disasters, as part of anthrax investigation. No charges are filed.

July 11: BioONE, a company founded by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, begins fumigating the former headquarters of The Sun, the Florida supermarket tabloid that was the first target in the anthrax attacks.

July 12: Testing determines The Sun's former headquarters is free of anthrax.

July 13: Hatfill sues The New York Times for defamation, claiming the newspaper ruined his reputation after it published a series of columns pointing to him as the culprit.

And fast forward:


June 27: The federal government awards Hatfill $5.8 million to settle his violation of privacy lawsuit against the Justice Department.

July 31: Bruce E. Ivins, 62, dies of an apparent suicide at a hospital in Frederick, Md., the Los Angeles Times reported, after being informed by the FBI that charges likely were being brought against him in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Greenwald, who I think has the definitive piece on this story today, comes to some damning conclusions, including about ABC:

We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government -- from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.

Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside of the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.

ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.

He's right, and ABC has some explaining to do, as do four "highly placed sources" in the Bush administration.

One last piece of the time line, which I left out above but which is, in light of Greenwald's reporting, and ABC News' curious dealings, more than a little relevant:


March 27: The Supreme Court declines to block Hatfill's suit against the Times.

April 11: It's reported that Hatfill's lawyers have questioned at least two journalists and are subpoenaeing other reporters, seeking the identities of their confidential government sources.

Oct. 23: A federal judge orders The New York Times to disclose a columnist's confidential sources as part of a libel lawsuit filed over the newspaper's coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Dec. 2: The New York Times asks a federal judge to dismiss Hatfill's lawsuit.


Jan. 12: A federal judge dismisses libel lawsuit filed against The New York Times by Hatfill.

Feb. 2: Explaining his ruling, the judge says a New York Times columnist did not act with malice when writing about whether a Hatfill was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Aug. 13: A federal judge says five journalists must identify the government officials who leaked them details about Hatfill.

Oct. 2: Hatfill asks a federal judge to hold two journalists in contempt for refusing to identify the government officials who leaked details about the investigation into the attacks.


March 7: A federal judge holds a former USA Today reporter in contempt and orders her to pay up to $5,000 a day if she refuses to identify her sources for stories about Hatfill.

March 11: A federal appeals court blocks the fines.

June 27: The federal government awards Hatfill $5.8 million to settle his violation of privacy lawsuit against the Justice Department.

That payoff looks a lot more interesting now, no?


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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
Wal-Mart speaks

Fils this one under WTF???

How stupid is it for senior managers at a major American corporation to tell employees who to vote for, and not expect themselves to wind up starring in a viral Internet story? This week's player: Wal-Mart:

From the The Wall Street Journal (via the Huffpo):
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise ...

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.

Wal-Mart is now denying that it told employees who to vote for, but the company admits that it has a problem with a bill Barack Obama supported in the Senate:
The measure, called the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret ballot elections. It was co-sponsored by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, and opposed by John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar told The Associated Press that the company did discuss the bill with its employees, including what it sees as the negative impact, and noted that the company's stand on the legislation is no secret.

"We believe the Employee Free Choice Act is a bad bill and we have been on the record as opposed to it," he said.

But he said the company wasn't advocating that its employees vote against backers of the legislation.

"If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression... they are wrong and acting without approval," said Tovar. In fact, he said that Wal-Mart has been working with both Republicans and Democrats.

"Half of our (political action committee) contributions are to members of each party," Tovar said. "We regularly educate our associates on issues which impact our company, and this is an example of that."

Need I remind you that Wal-Mart is America's biggest employer... It's also one of the most vehement opponents of unions in the U.S. (and probably cautions its workers from ever talking to anyone who works at Costco, where workers make a lot more money and have benefits...) Writes Kevin Drum:
This is par for the course. Few companies are as rabidly anti-union as Walmart, and there was never any doubt where their sympathies lie on this issue. They have a habit of firing workers who try to organize their stores, closing down stores that vote to organize anyway, and outsourcing entire departments when multiple stores vote to organize. (See T.A. Frank's "Everyday Low Vices" for more.) Bottom line: For these guys, warning people to vote against Barack Obama hardly even rates on the fear-o-meter. It almost warms my heart that they're taking a Democratic win this seriously, to tell you the truth.

BTW, the last time I looked, labor costs were about 10% of revenues for Walmart. (Or is it Wal-Mart? Their own website can't make up its mind.) If their "associates" did vote to join a union and fight for higher wages and benefits, the result would probably be an average increase in prices chain-wide of about 1-2%. Not exactly a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.


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posted by JReid @ 8:13 PM  
Six degrees of stupid: A half dozen reasons why the new McCain ad is dumb (in addition to it just being dumb)
Maybe it's because it's summer. Or maybe John McCain's communication team is using a lot of college sophomores, but first the Paris Hilton ad, and now the new iteration of the Mac attack, run the risk of coming off as silly, petty, and just plain weird to a public that's trying to do something quite serious: pick a president. First, take a look at the new McCain attack ad, called "The One" (hint, they used Charlton Heston's Moses this time, instead of Paris and Britney... and thanks to Dana Milbank, it also uses the cropped misquote of Obama's statement to House lawmakers this week.)

The ad may be the McCain camp's lame attempt to have some fun, as the candidate insisted today, but there are at least six pretty significant problems with it for McCain.

1. It looks frivolous. McCain has been looking desperate for quite some time, so this is probably the least of his problems. But now, with these new ads, he's starting to look like a man who's wasting the public's time and money, because he doesn't seem to really know what he wants to say. The campaign literally changing the attack message on a daily basis is so jarring, and so confusing and incoherent, that it's hard to take any of the attacks seriously, let alone find any substance in them. Over time, the idea could become ingrained in the public mind that McCain is little more than a desperate old man frittering away millions of dollars on silly, desperate ads. Not exactly the steady and heroic war veteran stamping out pork barrel spending and reforming Washington that McCain wants us to buy into.

2. The relentless attacks could turn off independent voters. By being so relentlessly negative, literally every day, without putting forward a positive agenda of his own (apparently, his only agenda is drill, drill, DRILL!!!! (and rake in the Big Oil campaign cash...) McCain risks looking like a man who will literally say anything to become president. Many analysts say that's not a good idea in a year when voters want a change in the way Washington business is done.

3. It's not presidential. As they begin to pile up, the sophomoric, random and erratic nature of the relentless McCain attacks are making him looking more and more un-presidential. Far from mounting a coherent, relentless attack on his opponent, McCain seems to be careening wildly from angry swipe to juvenile taunt. He seems unclear which tack to take, so he basically takes them all. Whether or not his campaign is simply trying to have some fun, as the candidate insisted today in Florida, the truth is that picking a president is serious business, and man of John McCain's age and supposed gravitas shouldn't be associating himself with ads that look like something that was produced in a college dorm. It's beneath the dignity of a U.S. Senator, let alone a 72-year-old man. The ad is so juvenile, one blogger at the Dallas Morning News actually thought it was a fake.

4. The ads highlight Obama's strengths/span> (without highlighting any of McCain's.) Both of the latest McCain ads do something you're really never supposed to do in advertising: they highlight the positives and appeal of the competition. In the Paris Hilton ad, Obama is shown being adored by hundreds of thousands of people. In the latest, he is shown making inspirational speeches, and then compared directly to Charlton Heston as Moses (two people most Americans probably don't not like.) Wouldn't it be smarter to show Barack falling down, or looking silly (or for you Republicans out there, "scaaaaaary?") I know Barack doesn't do silly looking things, but if you can't find video of him looking bad, here's an idea: don't use video of him at all. Next, these clods will put out a Youtube spot showing Obama sinking that 3-point shot in Kuwait with the troops, with a mean sounding voiceover. Earth to McCain: Americans LIKE celebrities. Case in point: ask your new campaign chief strategist about his former client, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I hear he's got a great new job in Caleefornia.

5. Bad timing. The McCain camp released their bad SNL knock-off on the same day the new jobless numbers came out, showing the U.S. economy shed another 51,000 jobs last month, making it seven straight months of payroll declines, something the Obama camp didn't waste time pointing out:
"It's downright sad that on a day when we learned that 51,000 Americans lost their jobs, a candidate for the presidency is spending all of his time and the powerful platform he has on these sorts of juvenile antics," said spokesman Hari Sevugan. "Senator McCain can keep telling everyone how 'proud' he is of these political stunts which even his Republican friends and advisors have called 'childish', but Barack Obama will continue talking about his plan to jumpstart our economy by giving working families $1,000 of immediate relief."

Last, but certainly not least:

6. The ad highlights McCain's problem with evangelical voters.
This may be the biggest problem of all, though it might not make sense to the more casually religious. Even among those who support McCain, some Christians are going to find this ad offensive. Yes, yes, we all know that Charlton Heston isn't really Moses, but he was playing him in "The Ten Commandments," the film that was shown. Comparing Barack Obama to Moses, and doing so mockingly, at that, is probably the stupidest thing you can do if you're John McCain, and evangelical voters already don't trust you. McCain launched his national political stardom in 2000 in part by attacking two pillars of the evangelical movement, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, as "agents of intolerance." He has wavered about being and Episcopalian, and then a Baptist. He took on two new evangelical friends this election cycle, only to toss them under the bus when they said some ... um ... inconvenient things. And then today, responding to criticism of the mocking use of a revered religious figure in his silly, sophomoric ad, McCain, today, said this:
“This is a very respectful campaign. I’ve repeated my admiration and respect for Sen. Obama. That clip is of Charlton Heston. It’s a movie…I really appreciated the movie and I appreciated Charlton Heston’s magnificent acting skills as I saw it, but it’s a movie.”

Yeah? Really? Well here's a sampling of comments on the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog thread about the ad. Keep in mind that most of the readers of the Murdoch-owned Journal, are Republicans:
As a Christian, I find this ad OFFENSIVE! It is NEVER HUMOUROUS to compare ANYONE to the Lord.

McCain has lost my vote, THIS has gone TOO far!
Comment by carol - August 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm


Not to mention blasphemous.

I am in disbelief. This ad makes me want to throw up.

McCain better start praying for forgiveness.
Comment by Jennie - August 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm


especially, another Christian!

I am speechless.
Comment by carol - August 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm


As a believer of God, I must say that this is not funny at all for the Christian community. The Lord is not a game!!!
Comment by Carl29 - August 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm


Absolutely disgraceful.

McCain should apologize immediately, not only to Obama, but to the millions of Christians who have seen their sacred beliefs mocked for political purposes.
Comment by Andrew - August 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm


As a Christian I am horrified that even McCain and his disciples of dirt would stoop this low.

Whose religion, will he mock next? Do you want to give him the power to inflame a possible world crisis with his frat-boy Humor?
Comment by Mary Mc - August 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Now, of course, there were lots of positive comments about the spot as well, but I wouldn't be surprised if McCain winds up pulling this ad, not because of media criticism or criticism from the Obama campaign, but because it winds up hurting him with the Christian base.

Meanwhile, over at the Observer, writer Steve Kornacki has a different view:
In short, the McCain of 2000 no longer exists, and thanks to issues like Iraq, couldn't exist even if his campaign made a conscious effort to resurrect him. Running a 2000-like campaign would preserve McCain's reputation and win him plenty of favorable post-election write-ups from his old media friends -- but it can't win him the election.

What can win him the election, as sad as it is to say, is the kind of campaign he is now resorting to. McCain's aides have privately told the press that they see the fall race as a referendum on Obama. They are right. This campaign is not about hordes of undecided voters weighing the pros and cons of McCain and Obama; it is about hordes of undecided voters who are inclined -- both because of his party label and his personality -- to vote for Obama, but who still have trouble imagining him as America's commander in chief. If Obama can remove their doubts, he will win going away -- just as Ronald Reagan did in 1980, when he won the masses over in a debate a week before Election Day. If he can't, then those voters will default to McCain, the "safe" old warrior. And it will have little to do with whether they approved of the tone of his advertising.

McCain has clearly figured that if he emerges victorious in an election that is Obama's to lose, he will have his entire presidency to repair whatever damage is done to his reputation. He has also determined that his current strategy is his only chance of winning. He's probably right on both counts.

For the record, I agree that running negative is McCain's only option. But there's negative, and then there's negative... The kind of campaign McCain is running is nasty, without being coherent, focused, presidential, or smart. If he wins the election, it won't be because of silly ads like these. It will be because a majority of Americans simply can't bring themselves to vote for Barack Obama, and that, I think, sadly, will come down to the two things the candidates both claim they don't want to talk about in this campaign: age, and race.


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posted by JReid @ 6:49 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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