If Newt is the roaster, is John Boehner the weenie?
John Boehner went all-in on the bailout bill, and got hosed. He failed to deliver more than 65 GOP votes, and looks like he can't whip worth a damn. Some are even questioning whether he could lose his leadership post to a more "conservative" conservative.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was working aggressively behind the scenes to defeat the Wall Street rescue plan minutes before he himself released a public statement in support of the package, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported on Tuesday.
Gingrich was whipping up votes for the opposition, Mitchell said, apparently without the knowledge of the current GOP leader, John Boehner, who was responsible for recruiting enough support from his caucus to help ensure the bill's passage. Ultimately, the GOP was only able to rally roughly a third of its members.
"Newt Gingrich," she said on MSNBC, "I am told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute, when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know, it was socialism -- and then at the last minute [he] comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place."
After the vote, Gingrich played the phony and lamented the non-passage of the bill. But not everybody was buying it, especially since Newt was one of the righties urging John McCain to kill the bill, and send out a press release... From the July 23 edition of The Hill:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that any lawmaker who votes for the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout package, which he called a “dead loser,” will face defeat in November.
Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he thinks Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is trying to scare lawmakers into passing the bailout plan quickly and without thorough study.
“I think what Paulson hopes to do is say, ‘If you don’t do exactly what I want you to do, the whole world’s going to collapse on Tuesday’,” Gingrich said.
The former Speaker, talking to reporters at a lunch, added that he expects Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) to back the plan. He predicted that, if Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) ends up opposing the administration proposal, there will be an overnight “emergence of a McCain/reform wing of the Republican Party.”
Gingrich said that occurrence would turn the election on its head, with Republicans running ads that feature Obama with President Bush on the same team in pushing for a “nightmare” bailout plan.
Newt also predicted, 6 days before the vote, that if the bill failed to pass on Friday, it would fail because lawmakers would read it on Saturday and cringe. How clairvoyant...
So what could Newty be up to? Is he preparing to run for president in 2012, as Mike Barnacle accused on "Morning Joe" yesterday? Could be. His big "Drill Here, Drill Now" gambit is heavily funded by the oil industry, whose money would also be useful in a national election, not to mention in key states like Louisiana, Florida and out West. If he runs, the scandal-plagued Gingrich would need to build a firewall on the libertarian right, to mitigate against any evangelicals who won't be able to force themselves to stomach him, as they are with McCain because of Sarah Palin. And he very much shored up that firewall with the 130 Republicans he denied to John Boehner. Now, they listen to Newt.
And Boehner? I'm sure Newt is saying, to hell with him. After all, they have a history:
House members are no strangers to political treachery either, although you need to go back nearly a decade to find a world-class example. To get rid of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a loosely organized band of co-conspirators proved less deft than their Roman legislative forebears did in mounting their secret scheme. Although the coup fell apart the day after it was launched, the reputations of almost all those involved -- including their intended victim -- never fully recovered.
A core group of rebels, drawn mostly from the large GOP class of '94, sought to find a way to oust the imperious speaker. But to do so, they needed help from the top Republican leadership. It soon came from Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas), Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Texas), GOP conference Chairman John Boehner (Ohio) and Rep. Bill Paxon (N.Y.), then a trusted Gingrich capo.
The plan was to have Armey, DeLay, Boehner and Paxon -- each an independent actor with his own power base -- confront Gingrich with a fait accompli: step down or face being voted out of office. Armey, however, backed out when it appeared that Gingrich wanted Paxon to succeed him. In the murky aftermath, DeLay confessed his role, which helped to rehabilitate his reputation. Armey never did. And Paxon -- who was to Gingrich what Brutus was to Caesar -- was out of a leadership job. After the 1998 midterm elections, waged by congressional Republicans as a (failed) referendum on impeaching President Clinton, Gingrich himself was soon gone. (after spending some time in political purgatory, the former Speaker has once more become a hot commodity.)
With Armey and DeLay long gone, could this be Newt's little payback for the fourth member of the wolf pack, while enhancing his own presidential / populist portfolio in the process? You've got to wonder...
McCain should take no credit for the bailout bill, before its time...
Is it just me, or has John McCain lost it? He's suspending his campaign ... he's not suspending his campaign ... he won't debate ... he will debate ... he's headed back to Capitol Hill to lead House Republicans to pass the $700 Bush bailout bill ... but he's also dining at a posh hotel restaurant while the work is being done ... he won't phone it in ... but he conducted his "leadership" on the phone ... he takes all the credit for the bailout bill, until it doesn't pass, in which case it's Barack Obama's fault ... (but of course, this is no time for partisanship. although that, too, is Obama's fault...)
It's exhausting just keeping up with the stunts, twists, turns, backtracks and utter, careening craziness of the McCain campaign. Can you imagine the hot mess he'd be as president???
"To a certain extent, I think John gets hurt by [the bailout bill's failure]," said Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor who worked on former Gov. Mike Huckabee's primary campaign earlier this cycle. "He obviously, at the end of the day, said he was for it. But more important than that, he said he was the one who would bring them to the table and to a certain extent he will be viewed now as not being able to do that."
And when it comes to McCain's "leadership," apparently it had better be bi-partisan, because it sure doesn't extend to his own party:
Rollins added, "McCain is our nominee and [congressional Republicans] will do everything they can to help him, but they are not going to go over the cliff for him. They did that for Bush, and they thought that this measure was just too dramatic for their constituencies."
The GOP strategist spoke to the Huffington Post just an hour after the House failed to pass the $250 billion bailout package by a margin of 205 to 228. Republicans in that body were quick to cast blame on Speaker Nancy Pelosi for giving a "partisan" speech earlier on Monday -- a doubtful assertion given the benign text of Pelosi's remarks. When it came to McCain's leadership qualities, however, Rollins argued that the last week has left much to be desired.
"I think the reality is, he made a big show coming in and at the end of the day it really wasn't realistic for him," he said.
Damn. Well who can this guy lead? Joe Lieberman? Hell, even Lindsey Graham is getting worn out!
I don't blame John McCain for not rounding up enough Republican votes to get this bailout bill through the House of Representatives--he's not a member of the House, he's never held a leadership position and therefore doesn't know how to whip votes and finally--well, uh--there is one tried and true method for getting members of Congress to vote aye and McCain opposes it: a sweetener, like say, funding for a bridge in their districts. That is one reason why we have earmarks. McCain is opposed to giving away baubles for the greater good.
I do blame McCain for his puerile histrionics and for dragging this issue--which should have been above partisanship--into presidential politics. Let's make no mistake about it: his various gimmicks had absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the issue.He doesn't know all that much about the substance of the issue. The gimmicks were a failed attempt to make it seem as if he had powers, and knowledge, he didn't have. Clearly, he was in a more difficult position than Obama--the populist conservative wing of House Republicans was unwilling to take responsibility for the fruits of the deregulation that they promoted--and that might have required a more aggressive effort to move votes on his part, but the flailing about only confused Republicans (was he for, was he against?) and made matters worse.
Geez. I sure wish we had someone in the campaign who would bring some calm, sober leadership to this messy situation...
Barack Obama told a crowd in Westminster, Colo., not to panic at the House of Representatives' failure to pass the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout bill.
"It's important for the American public and for the markets to stay calm,” Obama said, “because things are never smooth in Congress, and to understand that it will get done.”
Howard Kurtz hints that, oh wait, there's MORE embarrassing Sarah Palin footage knocking around CBS. Teased Howie:
It may have been a turning point for Couric, who was persistent without being overbearing, in shedding early doubts about her ability to be a commanding presence in the CBS anchor chair. And the worst may be yet to come for Palin; sources say CBS has two more responses on tape that will likely prove embarrassing.
And Politico has details on one of the offending clips in its story about the latest Palin sit-down, in which she was joined on CBS by her dad ... I mean, by John McCain. Politico?
Palin was far more aggressive in another interview with Couric today, this aide said
Sitting with McCain for their first joint interview a week after the widely panned sit-down with Couric, Palin interjected when the CBS anchor brought up a report about the Wasilla Assembly of God, the governor's childhood church and one she still attends at times, seeking to pray gays away from homosexuality.
"Sarah Barracuda showed up today," the aide said, reprising the feisty former point guard's high school basketball nickname and one that has been largely forgotten since her post-convention cosseting.
"We're encouraging CBS to run entire thing," the aide said of today's session. "Run it end to end online."
Of concern to McCain's campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin's interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing.
The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.
After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.
There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.
Um ... just off the top of my head and without using "the Google" ... Brown v. Board of Education, maybe? I think my kids even know that one ... or Plessy vs. Fergusen? That's one evangelicals like to talk about ... Hamdan v. Rumsfeld? That's pretty recent on the whole "held for years without a trial thing..." ... I would say Boumediene v. Bush, but that would be showing off, so maybe, oh, I don't know ... BUSH v. GORE??? Jeez, Sarah... Watch part of the two-person interview here.
Meanwhile, did Sarah endorse Hamas? She may well have unless of course she doesn't...
a) Know what happened in Gaza; b) Know where Gaza is; c) Know who rules Gaza today; d) Care.
Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”
There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18, a respectable age for a bride — and the same age as Barack Obama’s pregnant mother when she married his Kenyan father. The Democrat has already declared Bristol’s private life off-limits as far as his campaign is concerned.
The selection of Palin, 44, the moose-hunting governor of Alaska, as his running mate was one of McCain’s biggest gambles. It paid off handsomely at first, but she could benefit from a fresh injection of homespun authenticity, the hallmark of her style, provided by her daughter’s wedding after appearing out of depth away from her home state.
Way to pimp that daughter, Sarah! Yup-yup! But I sure hope the f***in redneck really does want to marry Bristol... otherwise that's going to be one short, miserable marriage.
Who's really to blame for the mortgage and Wall Street Meltdown? Larry Kudlow and other conservatives blame the poor, minoritiesm and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Now, here's the rest of the story:
Maybe he shouldn't have bothered ... John McCain suspended his campaign and rushed back to Washington to make the bailout deal happen. Well, funny thing, that...
The bailout fails. Here's how the win-loss column looks:
First, the winners:
Conservative House Republicans -
They beat back not just their own president, but the Democratic majority, Barney Frank, and Henry Paulson. If nothing much happens, and the economy doesn't go completely into the ditch, they'll look like geniuses. If the bottom falls out of the market, and small businesses can't get basic credit, or we do go into a deep recession, they'll be the goats.
Liberal Democrats -
Led by Dennis Kucinich and several members of the Black Caucus, they defied their leadership and held out for more bennies for the little guy. They now have a platform for their preferred solution, which channels FDR: help for homeowners, a federal jobs through infrastructure investment program, and the like. But they also risk taking the blame if things go to hell.
The angry populace -
Angry Americans likely scared many members into voting against the bailout. Now, they'll feel empowered. Again, if nothing happens: they're the smartest kids in the room. If the sky falls, they'll be left holding the bag ... literally.
The media -
They get to talk about this for another week. Jim Cramer should do really well, as should CNBC.
Barack Obama -
By steering clear of the entire mess, Obama can now claim a healthy distance, not only from the process, but also from the failure. Staying cool in a crisis: priceless.
Barney Frank (semi-winner...) -
Frank is more winner than loser on this one. Even though he led the failed effort, Frank emerged as a leading voice in the process, and bought himself a national platform to become the chief "I told you so" if the markets crater. He also will have a strong hand in the next negotiation, if things go badly on Wall Street and Main Street. On the other hand, if nothing much happens, he'll look like Bush's bitch.
... now, for the much longer list: the losers (in the approximate order of their loseriness)...
President Bush -
He's the single biggest loser in this whole, messy affair. In short: nobody believes him anymore, not even when he says we're headed into the next Great Depression. His credibility has been so shot through, by his pushing around Congress for seven years, and mostly, by the lies attending the invasion of Iraq, that he can't even convince 70 Republicans to do as he asks. What a pathetic end to the War Presidency.
Hank Paulson -
Probably as a residew of Bush's unpopularity and lack of credibility, Mr. Goldman Sachs reached way too far with his two page grab for dictatorial power. His bill was so outrageously bad, so audacious, that he probably doomed the result as much as anyone. Even a fixed-up Paulson bill wasn't palatable to many of members who rose to microphone today.
John Boehner -
The Boner's leadership position can't be considered secure if he couldn't whip more than 66 votes for a bill he helped negotiate. Also, he's not the star of the ascendant right wing of his party today, he's the enemy. Look for a leadership fight in the minority.
Nancy Pelosi -
Even though Barney Frank was equally visible, Pelosi ultimately had the responsibility for getting the bill passed, and she failed to build the bi-partisan consensus needed to do it. Already, she's become the chief culprit in the public statements of the GOP. Apparently, they didn't like her speech or something ... (since when do Republicans care about "nice?")
John McCain -
He injected himself into what turned out to be a failed process, where bi-partisanship only happened to the extent that the most liberal and most conservative House members voted against the bailout bill. And McCain's own campaign narrative suggested that he swooped into Washington to bring conservative Republicans along. By that standard, he failed as utterly as Boehner did -- and in far more high-profile fashion.
Those in the center in both parties lost big in the vote today, and they will be wringing their hands and nervously watching "Power Lunch" every day until November 4th.
Wall Street -
They got soundly spanked in the House of Representatives today, and it seems that nobody really cares what happens to their cherished investment houses and banks. They'll have to find another way to survive, probably by merger, perhaps by international takeover. And no matter what happens, they will be blamed.
Main Street -
With no uncertainty in the market, the credit crunch will continue. And those who are feeling puffy chested over defeating the bailout today, might have trouble getting basic credit, or find their paychecks harder to cash, tomorrow. What will they demand then? Meanwhile, the likelihood of average mortgage holders getting anything close to a bailout of their own remain somewhere between "slim" and "none."
This is likely just the first round. There will be new negotiations, and both of the winning sides (liberal Dems and conservative Republicans, are already lining up to put their priorities on the table. They can't both win, however, since one side wants a "Main Street bailout" for individual Americans, and the other basically wants corporate tax cuts and very little more.
Barney Frank just rose to plead with his fellow liberals on the Democratic side "not to throw out" the bailout bill because "it doesn't have everything they like." He said he is only in Congress because of his commitment to poor people, and that he fought for everything he could for the disadvantaged, but he added that if the bill fails, they get nothing.
Now, John Boehner is making his pitch, saying the "risk of doing nothing is too great" not to act, and acknowledging "nobody wants to vote for this ... I didn't come here to do this, to vote for things like this ... but these are the votes that separate the men from the boys, and the men from the women. These are the votes that your constituents sent you here to vote on their behalf."
He challenged his colleagues to "ask what's in the best interests of the country." He said that his judgment is that the House must vote for the bill, "to keep ourselves from the brink of an economic disaster."
Both men received healthy applause after their statements, but it's not at all clear that there are enough votes -- given the defections on the left and the right -- to pass this bill.
On the day that Citigroup swallowed Wachovia before it too, failed, and as world financial markets are cratering, the debate is on in the House over the, I must say, much improved, bailout bill (details, text). The debate is shaping up as one of the clearest cut dichotomies between liberalism and conservatism in recent memory. Conservatives in the House, including Ron Paul, are railing against the bill on the floor, decrying it as a quick slide toward government ownership of capital and socialism. Some are calling for even less deregulation, and, surprise, surprise, more corporate tax cuts.
Liberals are also railing, some decrying the bill as too helpful to Wall Street, but the consensus on the Democratic side is generally pro-government intervention, in keeping with the liberal belief that the government represents the backstop against economic meltdown at both the macro, and micro level.
Interestingly enough, a number of Black Caucus members are ranting that the bill doesn't have enough help for individual homeowners and to stop predatory lending, and some, including Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, are urging a "no" vote.
But for the most part, most mainline Republicans and Democrats are indicating they will, however reluctantly, vote for the bill. Many are praising Rep. Barney Frank for creating a palatable compromise to Hank Paulsen's initial attempt at a massive power grab.
What's really interesting is the position of President Bush, who having pleaded for the bill's passage can now, clearly, finally, no longer call himself a conservative.
Located in the Portals project just east of the 14th Street bridge and overlooking the Washington Channel and its yacht moorings, the hotel is not convenient either to the marble corridors of Capitol Hill or the office buildings of downtown. The streets nearby are mostly deserted in the evenings.
The hotel's management seems to be counting on the draw of two high-profile restaurants to help to make the hotel a destination. The first, Café Mozu, the hotel's less formal restaurant, opened in March. The second, Cityzen, under the command of Eric Ziebold, formerly at the very highly regarded French Laundry under Thomas Keller, will open for dinner only in September.
Café Mozu belies the Washington rule that restaurants with views don't have very good food. The room is modern, serene, and full of light. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out--across a freeway--to the Washington Channel and the Jefferson Memorial. The hotel's Asian roots are alluded to in the restaurant's waiting area, built to evoke the veranda of a grand colonial hotel and furnished with white rocking chairs.
To run Café Mozu and serve as the hotel's executive chef, the Mandarin Oriental has hired Hidemasa Yamamoto, for many years chef of the Jockey Club on Massachusetts Avenue. Limited by the preferences of the Jockey Club's clientele--a coalition of politicians and cavedwellers who never got much beyond crabcakes, red meat, and chicken salad--Yamamoto never really had a chance to spread his wings. At Café Mozu, the menu is his own.
Yes, well it seems a satisfied palate is the best foundation for arms length deal-making. Even more about the fine dining establishment from the Mandarin Hotel website:
Lunch and dinner menus showcase irresistible selections such as Roasted five spices Duck, raisincouscous, orange scented curry jus”, Crispy Wild Salmon with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts and haricots verts, Braised Pork Belly with sweet potato puree, baby onions and goat cheese polenta and Black Sea Bass with bok choy, string beans, snow bean sprouts and aromatic lemongrass broth.
Heavenly desserts from our pastry department include a Bitter Chocolate and Passion Fruit Mousse, Flourless Poppy Seed Cake, Lychee Crème Brulee and Champagne-Verbena Parfait.
Mmm-mm. Pass the bailout, AND the fingerling potatoes!! Hey, did you say couscous? John McCain LOVES coucous! (It's very down-home...)
By the way, why did the completely "fair and balanced" Politico feel the need to scrub its references to McCain's dinner? Per the Huffpo:
Politico reports (update: Politico has updated the article and removed the reference to McCain's dinner, but as you can see in this Google search, the reference was there in the original article):
As his colleagues worked on the deal at the Capitol Saturday night, McCain and his wife, Cindy, dined with Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, at CityZen, one of Washington's best restaurants. [Note: they got the right hotel, wrong restaurant...]
Could it be that Roger Simon has pulled yet another Ron Fournier on behalf of McCain? After all, Simon was almost alone among the pundits not working for Fox News, in saying that McCain was the winner of Friday's debate...
To be fair, McCain did say of his whereabouts last night:
I was working on all of the other stuff that I was working on, and contacting people, and working away."
Yeah, working away on a $300 bottle of wine (after which even Joe Lieberman probably sounded interesting...)
Following up on his tour-de-force performance Friday (ahem) in which he spent much of the debate talking about Dwight David Eisenhower, John McCain in a stammery performance this morning on Stephanopoulos' show (in which he said he didn't return to Washington Saturday to vote on a key element of the bailout because, "I was working on all of the other stuff that I was working on, and contacting people, and working away" ... if that makes any sense to you...) managed to reference Teddy Roosevelt three times. Roosevelt became president in 1901 ... 1901, man! Saying, "I'm a Teddy Roosevelt Republican" may be a great way to get 90-year-olds excited, but it isn't going to resonate with anyone under, say, 90!!!
John McCain is already wicked old. Does he really have to go out of his way to SOUND old?
The New York Times editorial board writes that Obama won the discussion of the economy and that McCain seemed out of step with the current moment:
Mr. McCain fumbled his way through the economic portion of the debate, while Mr. Obama seemed clear and confident. Mr. McCain was more fluent on foreign affairs, and scored points by repeatedly calling Mr. Obama naïve and inexperienced.
But Mr. McCain's talk of experience too often made him sound like a tinny echo of the 20th century. At one point, he talked about how Ronald Reagan's "S.D.I." helped end the cold war. We suspect that few people under the age of 50 caught the reference. If he was reaching for Reagan's affable style, he missed by a mile, clenching his teeth and sounding crotchety where Reagan was sunny and avuncular.
Tom Shales sums up the night as 'McCain too nasty, Obama too nice':
Obama supporters must have been displeased, then, to hear their candidate keep agreeing with McCain, a case perhaps of sportsmanlike conduct run amok. Doesn't Obama want to win?[...]
Many of McCain's answers were preceded with belittling references to Obama as if he were talking to a college freshman way out of his depth.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board felt that McCain won on foreign policy while Obama won on the economy:
As planned by the commission on debates, most of the night was devoted to foreign policy and there we give the clear edge to Mr. McCain. This is the ground where the 72-year-old is most comfortable, and you could see it in his self-confidence, as well as his command of history and facts.[...]
Where Mr. Obama did score better was on the domestic front, where he tried repeatedly to link Mr. McCain to President Bush and to what he called a failed "economic philosophy."
Time's Joe Klein calls it a narrow victory for Obama:
Obama emerged as a candidate who was at least as knowledgeable, judicious and unflappable as McCain on foreign policy ... and more knowledgeable, and better suited to deal with the economic crisis and domestic problems the country faces.
And overall, bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change, his number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage...he could hold his own on national security, he did that tonight, he gets the win.
Appearing alongside him was George Will, who also said Obama came out ahead:
I think Barack Obama came out and looked comfortable and as though he belonged there. So, in a sense, the structure of the debate, indeed, the fact of the debate had to give a mild leg up to Barack Obama.
Not to mention the public, which clearly favored Barack, who did miss opportunities to attack mcCain, but who I also believe won the debate.
Not for nothing, but wasn't this the debate McCain was considered most likely to command, since it ostensibly focused on foreign policy? Even those in the media who are clearly pulling for him couldn't say McCain scored a knock down -- the best he got was Pat Buchanan and the other MSNBCers (except for Keith and Rachel) saying he "won on points." Well that's not good enough to move the needle when the race is stuck, with your opponent up about five points.
After tonight, it's going to be the economy, stupid, and McCain's chances of having a game changing event in his favor only go down from here -- especially with Hurricane Palin set to make landfall next Thursday. This race will not reset after tonight, and that's darned good news for Barack Obama.
BTW, for a great breakdown on how to judge a debate winner, check out Judd Legum's guest post at The Washington Note.
Ignore the commentariat. John McCain in the debate tonight came across as rigid, grumpy, and frankly, old. McCain indulged in several of his pet obsessions: repeating over and over "he doesn't understand," along with worn out phrases from his stump speeches like "I wasn't voted Miss Congeniality." He literally harped on "the surge," even when bringing it up was a non-sequitor, first saying Obama had acknowledged its success, and then insisting that Obama refuses to acknowledge its success. And while his stories may endear the crew on MSNBC, they make him look like a grandpa ... and a mean, grumpy one at that.
Obama, on the other hand, was better in this debate than in any of his meetings with Hillary Clinton, where his responses sometimes seemed to meander. Tonight, he was clear and focused, and at times, even threw an elbow or two. He clearly understood the issues, and appeared prepared and "grown up" enough to be president. Most importantly, his answers were keyed to a specific target: middle class voters, and he consistently repeated two themes: McCain's past wrong judgments (on the economy and Iraq) and his determination to give more tax cuts to the rich and to corporations. That's something the D.C. reporter class (whom I still think tend to tilt toward McCain) missed, big time, and it will resonate with voters.
On the downside, he could have scored more points, and indeed, he let several soft balls go right over home plate:
Obama could have hit McCain on the 60 lobbyists running his campaign during his long volley on how lobbyists push earmarks;
He could have hit him on Sarah Palin's earmarks, particularly when McCain himself made a reference to his runningmate.
He could have slammed McCain on the Boeing deal that McCain brought up, saying McCain killing that deal cost thousands of American jobs.
And he missed the opportunity to hit McCain on his failure to support the G.I. Bill, or his low ratings with veterans' groups when it comes to his voting record.
Lastly, Obama should never, ever, EVER again say the phrase "John McCain is absolutely right" (and he should instruct Joe Biden and if he can swing it, Bill Clinton and the other surrogates not to do so either.)
But by coming across as the bigger man -- literally and figuratively -- and by being both knowledgeable and congenial, (maybe he would win Miss Congeniality) Obama simply looked more presidential than John McCain, who for his part, looked tightly wound, surly, and even angry. McCain appeared to take Obama's criticisms personally, while Obama literally laughed McCain's off. And as the MSNBC team all pointed out tonight, McCain refused ... for the entire length of the debate ... to look at his opponent. McCain's physical, visible, obvious contempt for Barack Obama came through the screen like 3D. I suspect that most voters won't like it, or him.
My prediction at the end of the night was that whatever the commentariat said, Obama would win every online poll 60-40. So far, I've been right. Here are the first snap polls:
"Unfortunately, I think Obama won this debate," said Dick Morris on Hannity and Colmes.
"I don't know which debate you were watching, Dick," said Sean Hannity. "It was book knowledge."
Morris responded:"Obama showed himself to be more concerned about the average person, or at least acted that way."
Bottom line, debates aren't won on substance, per se. They're won on a combination of comfort with the issues, and on style. Obama may seem somewhat aloof and professorial, but he also seems like someone you'd be comfortable with in the White House. McCain, as Chris Matthews just said, comes off like a troll. At the end of the day, though I think the debate won't change many minds, and will only harden people's preferences, whatever they were before the debate. If anything, people who were leaning toward Obama but needing him to pass the experience threshold probably got what they needed tonight. I suspect that those who wanted to come away liking McCain enough to quell their doubts did not.
Best line of the night: Obama hitting McCain on not wanting to talk to the prime minister of spain, tied with his line about McCain singing "bomb Iran."
Sen. Barack Obama in Miami September 19th. Pictured to Obama's left, is Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. To Obama's right, is Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
On Friday, September 18, I had the opportunity, along with James T (of top Miami urban station Hot 105) to interview Senator Barack Obama.
The interview came a couple of hours after he held a rally with some 8,000 people at the University of Miami's Bank United Center, as part of the "Women for Obama" campaign. I did the interview on assignment for a few outlets, and it has already aired in total or in part on American Urban Radio Networks, Hot 105 FM Miami, and on "The James T Good Morning Show" in Atlanta and Valdosta, Georgia. We talked about whether black turnout was a certainty, even in this historic year, about what he'd do about the crashing economy, and about his overall political philosophy. Here it is:
How can you back down and agree to attend a debate you didn't want to attend, when in fact, you've already won? That's the scintillating question inquiring minds are asking John McCain.
Mac blinked today, announcing that yes, he will attend the debate at Ole Miss after all (as if the aides prepping the stage for him yesterday and the fact that HE'D BE AN IDIOT NOT TO SHOW UP hadn't already given him away ...
But now, for the really spooky part: it turns out tonight's debate isn't even necessary, since McCain has already won it...
... if you believe an Internet ad an astute reader spotted next to this piece in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal this morning.
"McCain Wins Debate!" declares the ad which features a headshot of a smiling McCain with an American flag background. Another ad spotted by our eagle-eyed observer featured a quote from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis declaring: "McCain won the debate-- hands down."
Here's the screenshot:
Meanwhile, a former McCain adviser explains the old Navy dog's dilemma:
"It just proves his campaign is governed by tactics and not ideology," said Republican consultant Craig Shirley, who advised McCain earlier in this cycle. "In the end, he blinked and Obama did not. The 'steady hand in a storm' argument looks now to more favor Obama, not McCain."
Shirley added, "My guess is that plasma units are rushing to the McCain campaign as we speak to replace the blood flowing there from the fights among the staff."
It's got to be clear to anyone but the extreme partisans and right wing radio hacks that John McCain is no longer a serious candidate for president. He's more like a drunken man careening through the crystal section at Macy's, side swiping dishes and dessert plates and candelabras as he stumbles between the tables, leaving flustered cashiers to race through the aisles catching breakable objects as they wobble.
Worse, he's a drunken man in the crystal section while Macy's is on fire.
Nothing says "I'm a desperate, unhinged candidate" like McCain's wild volley of stunts this week: supposedly canceling his campaign so he can fly back to Washington and screw things up. Except that one thing does say that even more clearly: his choice of the clearly inadequate Sarah Palin as the person who he would hand the nuclear football.
Palin's painful interview (part two here) with Katie Couric was the last straw for conservative columnist Kathleen Parker (hat tip to Jill Miller Zimon over at the Moderate Voice) who wrote:
Ms. Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Ms. Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.
Ms. Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage, and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example from her interview with Mr. Hannity:
“Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”
Parker's solution is for Ms. Palin to drop out of the race, for the good of Sen. McCain and her country. I don't see that happening. Having sworn that he selected her on the merits, McCain cannot now admit that he had no clue she would be so clueless. He's stuck with her, and so is the GOP.
Meanwhile, a guy calling himself Crunchy Con adds this:
Couric’s questions are straightforward and responsible. Palin is mediocre, again, regurgitating talking points mechanically, not thinking. Palin’s just babbling. She makes George W. Bush sound like Cicero….
... and describes Sarah as akin to a kid who didn't study for a big exam, and is just winging it on the way to an F.
Over at National Review, big time Palin defender Kathryn Jean Lopez admits to feelings of angst and says she refuses to watch another Palin interview, because as much as she likes the "hackey mam":
... I also watch these interviews and I cringe a little. That Russia answer with Couric. Oy. It was a loaded question to be sure. But I thought a certain governor of Alaska had told us this was a time for no blinking. For (Uncle) Sam’s sake. You’re Sarah Palin. You’re governor of Alaska. You’re the mom of five. You’re married to a tough guy. You can handle America’s Former Sweetheart. And yet, you didn’t. She may have come off catty, but you came off hesitant and unprepared. What happened to the pitbull? I see the lipstick.
I don’t know Sarah Palin. Having missed the last cruise to Alaska, I’ve actually never met her. National Review wasn’t on her list of stops this week in New York. So I can’t pretend to know what her wiring is all about. But I know I like a lot of what I’ve heard her say. I also know a lot of what I like about her could be projection. I’m not where my friend Kathleen Parker is — wanting her to step aside to spend more time with her family and Alaska — but that’s not a crazy suggestion. She's right to say that something’s gotta change.
My guess — based on nothing but hope for a change — is that Sarah Palin just needs some freedom. I don’t know who is holding her back but if John McCain wants to win this thing it had better not be him and his staff. When I watch these interviews, I see a woman who looks like she’s stayed up all night studying and is trying to remember the jurisprudential chronology of privacy vis-a-vis reproduction, the war on terror, and public figures (add 12 more things, described in the most complicated way possible, to the list to be more accurate). She looks like a woman who’s been cramming talking points and great Matt Scully lines and Mark Salter-McCain war stories and Steve Schmidt marching orders into her head since that first plane ride from Alaska. She looks like a woman who has ceased being the confident, successful executive who got herself elected mayor of Alaska without the full force of her party behind her and managed to have an approval rating of which most can’t even dream.
Back at the Mod Voice, Zimon herself adds:
A strong democracy requires that nominees for our highest office possess basic threshold competencies. This is because democracy means there will always be millions of people who will be governed by someone they did not vote for. But we stay intact as a government because we trust that even if we don’t agree with the political leanings and decisions of the winner, we trust that he or she will do what’s best for all 300 million of us.
There are tens of millions of voters, now, on both sides of the aisle, who find Sarah Palin to fall below this basic threshold for competence as a vice president or president of our country. And at least two of us are asking for her to step down.
Again, I don't see Sarah going anywhere, anytime soon. Not unless something untoward happens to Todd, courtesy of McCain's organized crime friends in Arizona... Therefore, the Republicans are stuck with her. Frighteningly, if enough Americans decide that their racial discomfort is more powerful than their economic discomfort, we all could be stuck with her after January 20, 2009.
On an up note, Slate's Christopher Beam has some advice from experts on how in the next interview, Sarah can rise above the "constant low hum of mediocrity." Bottom line: do more interviews.
John McCain finally stopped doing interviews and kibbitzing with folks at the Clinton Global Initiative to make his "emergency" return to Capitol Hill today, but the reporting suggests his presence wasn't exactly a profile in presidential-style leadership:
Senator John McCain had intended to ride back into Washington on Thursday as a leader who had put aside presidential politics to help broker a solution to the financial crisis. Instead he found himself in the midst of a remarkable partisan showdown, lacking a clear public message for how to bring it to an end.
At the bipartisan White House meeting that Mr. McCain had called for a day earlier, he sat silently for more than 40 minutes, more observer than leader, and then offered only a vague sense of where he stood, said people in the meeting.
In subsequent television interviews, Mr. McCain suggested that he saw the bipartisan plan that came apart at the White House meeting as the proper basis for an eventual agreement, but he did not tip his hand as to whether he would give any support to the alternative put on the table by angry House Republicans, with whom he had met before going to the White House.
He said he was hopeful that a deal could be struck quickly and that he could then show up for his scheduled debate on Friday night against his Democratic rival in the presidential race, Senator Barack Obama. But there was no evidence that he was playing a major role in the frantic efforts on Capitol Hill to put a deal back together again.
On the second floor of the Capitol on Thursday night, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of Mr. McCain’s closest confidants, complained to a throng of reporters that Democrats were using Mr. McCain as a scapegoat for the failure of the rescue package. But Mr. Graham was met with a barrage of questions on why Mr. McCain never explicitly said he favored the bailout proposal.
The situation was evolving so rapidly that it was all but impossible to judge the political implications; with the government under intense pressure to avoid another breach in confidence in the global financial markets, it was possible that a deal could be struck without further reshaping the campaign and that Mr. McCain could still be able to claim a role in a positive outcome.
Still, as a matter of political appearances, the day’s events succeeded most of all in raising questions about precisely why Mr. McCain had called for postponing the first debate and returned to Washington to focus on the bailout plan, and what his own views were about what should be done. Those political appearances are a key consideration for Mr. McCain less than six weeks from Election Day and at a time when some polls suggest he is losing ground against Mr. Obama, especially on handling the economy.
Meanwhile, the day gave Obama the chance to look presidential:
by nightfall, the day provided the younger and less experienced Mr. Obama an opportunity to, in effect, shift roles with Mr. McCain. For a moment, at least, it was Mr. Obama presenting himself as the old hand at consensus building, and as the real face of bipartisan politics.
“What I’ve found, and I think it was confirmed today, is that when you inject presidential politics into delicate negotiations, it’s not necessarily as helpful as it needs to be,” Mr. Obama told reporters Thursday evening. “Just because there is a lot of glare of the spotlight, there’s the potential for posturing or suspicions.”
“When you’re not worrying about who’s getting credit, or who’s getting blamed, then things tend to move forward a little more constructively,” he said.
So far, all John McCain has proved is that he has neither control nor influence over the right wing of his party, even having dangled the shiny (well, after that dreadful Katie Couric interview, somewhat less shiny...) Sarah Palin object in front of them. And he has no more influence over the process than does the lamest of lame ducks, President Bush. He exerted no leadership in the meeting, which in itself apparently helped blow up the process that had been well underway before McCain showed up. And now, right wing Republicans, led by the Boner, are actually proposing a regime of more tax cuts, and the complete elimination of regulations on Wall Street as their version of a fix, plus forcing banks to buy private insurance. Seriously.
In short, what leadership has McCain exercised, and how can his supporters argue that he has made things better, not worse?
Tonight, the WaPo's Chris Cilizza is reporting that a memo released by the suspended? but curiously still operable McCain campaign indicates that McCain won't be attending tomorrow night's debate. Okay, and his continued presence in Washington, given that he is on neither of the relevant Senate committees, Banking and Financial Services, and that his only chance to lead was a bust, what is it that he'll be doing?
Of course, it is possible (and in my opinion, somewhat likely) that the Bush administration is overstating the crisis, in order to make one last grab for power, and for a last dash at emptying what's left in the treasury on behalf of their fat cat friends -- sort of a "shock doctrine" applied to finance, as it was to war. That could be. But with Washington Mutual going under on Thursday, no one in Washington is going to want to be blamed for an economic meltdown, should it turn out the Bushies aren't lying for once.
McCain's boisterous intervention -- and particularly his grandstanding on the debate -- was less a presidential act than the tactical ploy of a man worried that his chances of becoming president might be slipping away.
John McCain has mastered the rhetoric and appearance of bi-partisanship. But at this point, the only evidence of it is his constant sidekicking with Joe Lieberman (isn't that "tripartisan?") If McCain claims to be the king of bipartisan leadership, he should start by leading his own caucus. If he can't do that, then he should do us all a favor and just go to Ole Miss.
Thursday's seizure and sale is the latest historic step in U.S. government attempts to clean up a banking industry littered with toxic mortgage debt. Negotiations over a $700 billion bailout of the entire financial system stalled in Washington on Thursday.
Washington Mutual, the largest U.S. savings and loan, has been one of the lenders hardest hit by the nation's housing bust and credit crisis, and had already suffered from soaring mortgage losses.
Washington Mutual was shut by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp was named receiver. This followed $16.7 billion of deposit outflows at the Seattle-based thrift since Sept 15, the OTS said.
"With insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations, WaMu was in an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business," the OTS said.
Customers should expect business as usual on Friday, and all depositors are fully protected, the FDIC said.
Apparently, news leaks forced an early announcement. Usually, these things are done on Friday, so the auditors can spend the weekend going through the books. The bank has $307 billion in assets and $188 billion in deposits. What's also on tap here? Mega consolidation of U.S. banks:
... The largest previous U.S. banking failure was Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust, which had $40 billion of assets when it collapsed in 1984.
JPMorgan said the transaction means it will now have 5,410 branches in 23 U.S. states from coast to coast, as well as the largest U.S. credit card business.
It vaults JPMorgan past Bank of America Corp to become the nation's second-largest bank, with $2.04 trillion of assets, just behind Citigroup Inc. Bank of America will go to No. 1 once it completes its planned purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.
John McCain goes to Washington, tries to look busy...
An unwittingly hilarious account of John McCain's "wince-worthy" return to Capitol Hill to "shepherd" the bailout process (and the lame attempts by Republicans to make him look relevant):
Sen. John McCain returned to Washington on Thursday after declaring that he has suspended his campaign, but he appeared largely detached from the flurry of negotiations on a $700 billion economic rescue package that appeared to be headed to a successful conclusion.
McCain's "Straight Talk Air" landed at National Airport just after noon, and McCain's motorcade sped toward the Senate. But by then, senior Democrats and Republicans were already announcing that a deal in principle had been reached.
That news appeared to be somewhat premature as House Republican leader John Boehner told his members that "no deal" had yet been reached. McCain arrived at 3:40 p.m. at the White House, where he and his rival, Sen. Barack Obama, were scheduled to meet with President Bush and congressional leaders at 4 p.m.
The leading Democratic negotiator on the Bush administration's $700 bailout plan accused John McCain of undermining the proposal and prodding House Republicans to lay out a wholly different approach that is opposed by the White House.
"This is the presidential campaign of John McCain undermining what Hank Paulson tells us is essential for the country," said Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. "This is McCain at the last minute getting House Republicans to undermine the Paulson approach."
McCain really, really wants to help out ... I mean REALLY...
But for most of the afternoon, McCain has not visibly been part of the action on the issue. He was not present when House and Senate negotiators emerged from a two-hour meeting to declare success. That announcement was made by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Robert F. Bennett (Utah) and Frank.
McCain, by contrast, spent some time in his office with several Republican colleagues, briefly stopped at Boehner's office, then left for lunch at the Capitol's Mansfield Room before returning to his office in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.) said he had spoken to McCain yesterday, had breakfast with two McCain advisers this morning and spoke to McCain again immediately after today's meeting. But, Bachus said, "John's not trying to call the shots for the House caucus, I can tell you that. He's just opposed to the plan in its present form."
Frank reacted angrily to Bachus's statements, insisting that lawmakers were well on their way toward an agreement they could put to a vote, and that this afternoon's meeting at the White House was largely irrelevent.
"We'll be glad to go and tell them there really isn't that much of a deadlock to break," Frank said. "But I'm always glad to go to the White House."
McCain aides expressed cautious optimism, saying that there is "no deal until there's a deal," but McCain made no comments to the reporters trailing him around the Capitol.
Maybe he should just find a Starbucks and wait till someone calls ... DOH! Not computer literate, so WiFi availability not enticing...
So, yes, apparently there is a deal ... and all before the presidential candidates even got to shoot the shizznit with Dubya...
The leaders of House and Senate banking committees reached a bipartisan agreement Thursday on the framework for legislation authorizing Treasury’s ambitious $700 billion rescue plan for the financial markets.
The final language of the bill must still be negotiated with Treasury, which watched nervously from the outside as the closed-door meeting ran close to three hours in the Capitol. But the announcement gives renewed momentum to the massive government intervention, which the administration badly wants approved before the markets open next week.
The plan would phase in the bailout, but still give Paulson virtually free reign with the first $350 billion. Also:
There is a greater emphasis on efforts not just to relieve Wall Street firms of their bad debts but also to help homeowners threatened by foreclosure. Companies that benefit from the plan would be expected to limit pay and severance packages for their executives, and community banks are expected to benefit from a new $3 billion tax break as a result of their stock losses in the government takeover of the two mortgage finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The announcement came just hours before a White House meeting planned for Thursday afternoon, at which President Bush and the two presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, are expected to meet with congressional leaders as well as some of the same lawmakers from the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees.
Nice picture, but where is our captain, John McCain??? Oh right ... the meeting... hope it helps!
Has John McCain really suspended his campaign, or is he just taking it with him to Washington? According to Politico, the list of attendees at today's meet and greet with President Bush include McCain, Sen. Obama, "the four Senate leaders and their chiefs of staff, and some five policy aides to the president, and White House press secretary Dana Perino according to the list." Accompanying Obama will be his legislative counsel, Ian Solomon. Hanging with McCain will be a campaign aide: economic adviser (and BlackBerry invention credit reassigner) Douglas Holtz-Eakin.
Well I guess if the campaign is suspended and he's got nothing else to do... Full list of attendees here.
Just one of the reasons why I love Thom Hartmann's show. Today, he read from an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post on February 14 -- Valentine's Day -- and written by then- New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, about the origins of the mortgage crisis. I'll reprint the entire piece, since it's important that you take in the entire thing:
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers
By Eliot Spitzer Thursday, February 14, 2008; A25
Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.
Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.
Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices.
What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.
Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.
Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.
In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.
But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.
Throughout our battles with the OCC and the banks, the mantra of the banks and their defenders was that efforts to curb predatory lending would deny access to credit to the very consumers the states were trying to protect. But the curbs we sought on predatory and unfair lending would have in no way jeopardized access to the legitimate credit market for appropriately priced loans. Instead, they would have stopped the scourge of predatory lending practices that have resulted in countless thousands of consumers losing their homes and put our economy in a precarious position.
When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers.
One month later, Spitzer was splashed across the tabloids as "Client 9" in the now notorious prostitution scandal. A sealed affidavit concerning his illicit activities was leaked on March 10. He resigned his governorship on March 12. Even at the time, more than a few people wondered whether Spitzer was being paid back for something he had said or done as governor, or as attorney general of New York. As the Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp" blog surmised:
Is it just me or does the complaint implicating New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in a frolic with a call girl read like it was written by people with a very large axe to grind with the now former rising star of the Democratic Party?
Charging documents like this one typically contain the absolute minimum necessary to sustain the accusations.
Prosecutors act as though they'd rather be waterboarded than give up anything beyond what they like to call "the four corners of the complaint."
Not to worry. There was journalistic catnip larded throughout the complaint, enough to stoke the media frenzy for days. Of particular note is the heavy involvement of "Kristen", Spitzer' Valentine eve tryst partner. (Helpfully described as "American, petite, very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds.)
...Yeah, conceivably there's some value in broadly hinting at kinky predilections in case Spitzer wants to claim that the financial transactions were unconnected to sex. Maybe it's a warning to him that if he struggles too much, the contents of the sock drawer where the sex toys are stored will be strewn on the carpet.
But it also has the feel of a pile-on -- some payback, a come-uppance for a guy who made a lot of enemies in prosecutions of Wall Street crooks and was seen by some to overplay his hand, to needlessly embarrass his quarry.
Another indicator of an "I'll fix your wagon" flavor to L'Affaire Spitzer is the speed at which the whole thing has unfolded.
The charging affidavit which, remember, doesn't refer to Spitzer by time or other even vague identifier like 'prominent government official', was unsealed last Thursday and by 2 p.m. or so on Monday, when the New York Times posted its first story on the scandal and the governor effectively was toast.
While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.
Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.
This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.
Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.
Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.
Spitzer was, by the way, taken down by the very domestic surveillance powers grabbed by President Bush after 9/11. Coincidence? Maybe.
Hartmann also reminded listeners about President Bush's push in 2002 for the "ownership society" -- and his grandiloquent desire for every American to own their home, their health insurance policy, and on and on. At the time, Bush said that just because a person is low income doesn't mean they shouldn't own a home that's "just as nice as anybody else's." Far from the moves by Andrew Cuomo's HUD agency to reverse redlining, Bush's HUD allowed banks to stretch the boundaries of lending propriety to their limits, and Bush's scandalized HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, was one of the administration officials who pushed back against attempts to reign in the industry. Here's how the administration described the home ownership plank of the "ownership society" on the White House website in 2004:
Expanding Homeownership. The President believes that homeownership is the cornerstone of America's vibrant communities and benefits individual families by building stability and long-term financial security. In June 2002, President Bush issued America's Homeownership Challenge to the real estate and mortgage finance industries to encourage them to join the effort to close the gap that exists between the homeownership rates of minorities and non-minorities. The President also announced the goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families before the end of the decade. Under his leadership, the overall U.S. homeownership rate in the second quarter of 2004 was at an all time high of 69.2 percent. Minority homeownership set a new record of 51 percent in the second quarter, up 0.2 percentage point from the first quarter and up 2.1 percentage points from a year ago. President Bush's initiative to dismantle the barriers to homeownership includes:
American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which provides down payment assistance to approximately 40,000 low-income families;
Affordable Housing. The President has proposed the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which would increase the supply of affordable homes;
Helping Families Help Themselves. The President has proposed increasing support for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunities Program; and
Simplifying Homebuying and Increasing Education. The President and HUD want to empower homebuyers by simplifying the home buying process so consumers can better understand and benefit from cost savings. The President also wants to expand financial education efforts so that families can understand what they need to do to become homeowners.
First of all, that doesn't sound much different than the right wing's snide accusations about the "affirmative action lending" programs of the Clinton administration. But it also fails to describe the Bushies' preferred method of achieving success: relaxed lending standards that pushed more "entrepreneurs" into the lending and brokerage market, with ever riskier "financial products" that wound up sold off as securities on Wall Street. Hence, our current problem.
Meanwhile, few would recall that Bush's push for relaxed lending standards was actually fought by the very builders who were profiting from the real estate boom. From CNN Money, back in June 2004:
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Home builders, realtors and others are preparing to fight a Bush administration plan that would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase financing of homes for low-income people, a home builder group said Thursday.
The National Association of Home Builders, along with the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association, are drafting a letter to Alphonso Jackson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), arguing that middle-income home buyers are the ones that will get hurt by the proposed plan, the NAHB told CNN/Money.
In April, the HUD proposed new rules that would raise the percentage of loans bought by the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that finance borrowers whose incomes are at or below the median for their area, according to the Wall Street Journal .
But the groups will warn in the letter that the proposed rules requiring the two GSEs to finance more "affordable housing" may have "unintended consequences," hurting some poor and middle-income people struggling to afford houses, the Journal said.
Fannie and Freddie, which use their ability to borrow cheaply in the government agency bond market to help middle-to-low income people buy homes, would be compelled to provide more funds to low-income home buyers by slashing their financing of middle-income home buyers, David Crowe of the NAHB told the paper.
The points being raised by the groups have also mirrored objections raised by Fannieand Freddie. Both GSEs said they favor more efforts to promote affordable housing, but say HUD has made some unrealistic assumptions about how much more the GSEs can do over the next few years, the Journal said.
The Limbaugh crowd seeking to blame the Clinton administration for the current crisis must be made to answer for the "ownership society," Bush's HUD, and the administration's further relaxation of lending standards (and their promotion of predatory lending) long before we start blaming minorities and the poor for our troubles.
McCain and Obama meet with Dubya today. Meanwhile, via an astute Politico commenter, a new SurveyUSA "snap poll" of 1,000 Americans finds little support for John McCain's debate delaying "time out" for his campaign. Key findings from the poll:
Should the debate be delayed? -- 50% say hold it as scheduled. -- 36% say hold as scheduled but make the focus of it the economy. -- 10% say delay it. -- 4% say they aren't sure.
Should the Presidential campaigns be suspended? -- 31% say continue campaigns as is. -- 48% say continue campaigns but focus on the economy. -- 14% say suspend campaigns. -- 7% say they aren't sure.
If Friday's debate is delayed, is that good or bad for America? -- 14% say good for America. -- 46% say bad for America. -- 35% say no difference. -- 6% say they aren't sure.
Going inside the tabs, it turns out those who support delaying Friday's debate tend to think McCain would win a debate with Obama, while those who support going forward, either as is or with a changed focus, think Obama would win. So again, the reactions are mostly partisan. Not exactly a win for McCain.
Mr. Coulter strikes again. His/her latest column? You're going to love the title:
They Gave Your Mortgage to a Less Qualified Minority
Yup yup. That's her headline. After that, s/he takes a moment to exonerate John McCain in the 1980s S&L crisis before getting to her point:
Even if McCain had been implicated in the Keating Five scandal -- and he wasn't -- that would still have absolutely nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis currently roiling the financial markets. This crisis was caused by political correctness being forced on the mortgage lending industry in the Clinton era.
Before the Democrats' affirmative action lending policies became an embarrassment, the Los Angeles Times reported that, starting in 1992, a majority-Democratic Congress "mandated that Fannie and Freddie increase their purchases of mortgages for low-income and medium-income borrowers. Operating under that requirement, Fannie Mae, in particular, has been aggressive and creative in stimulating minority gains."
Under Clinton, the entire federal government put massive pressure on banks to grant more mortgages to the poor and minorities. Clinton's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo, investigated Fannie Mae for racial discrimination and proposed that 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low- to moderate-income borrowers by the year 2001.
Instead of looking at "outdated criteria," such as the mortgage applicant's credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named "Caylee."
Threatening lawsuits, Clinton's Federal Reserve demanded that banks treat welfare payments and unemployment benefits as valid income sources to qualify for a mortgage. That isn't a joke -- it's a fact.
When Democrats controlled both the executive and legislative branches, political correctness was given a veto over sound business practices.
In 1999, liberals were bragging about extending affirmative action to the financial sector. Los Angeles Times reporter Ron Brownstein hailed the Clinton administration's affirmative action lending policies as one of the "hidden success stories" of the Clinton administration, saying that "black and Latino homeownership has surged to the highest level ever recorded."
Meanwhile, economists were screaming from the rooftops that the Democrats were forcing mortgage lenders to issue loans that would fail the moment the housing market slowed and deadbeat borrowers couldn't get out of their loans by selling their houses.
A decade later, the housing bubble burst and, as predicted, food-stamp-backed mortgages collapsed. Democrats set an affirmative action time-bomb and now it's gone off.
The sad thing is, Coulter's racist views are shared by a broad swath of her party. The rest of them just don't have the balls this guy does, to put it in print. Even sadder: her attempt to inject racial hatred into the public's attitudes on the financial crisis will work with a fair number of people. Never mind the fact that most of the people I know here in Florida who have had to short sell were not "welfare recipients with a good jump shot," they were high income individuals who either got laid off (or had a spouse get laid off,) or who, in that middle American "get rich quick" dream kind of scenario, tried their hand at "flipping," but started the game too late.
Most of the homes here in South Florida that were bought at inflated prices were purchased by middle class folks who spent their Hurricane Andrew insurance settlements to get out of Miami-Dade County and build a brand new home in the Broward burbs. Many of them used too little of the cash for their down payment, kitting out their homes instead, and then got in trouble via multiple refinancings.
In fact, refinancing is a key component of this crisis, and I doubt that Section 8 holders were the ones using their homes like a piggy bank. Regular middle class folks leveraged their home values to the hilt, pushed by appraisers who were willing to value homes at two, three times the real value. If Coulter is correct, then how can it be that housing advocates have been screaming all these years about a low income housing crisis, as condos and expensive homes went up all over the sunbelt, while nothing new was built in the inner city? Both things cannot be true -- that "welfare queens" bought all these homes and that people on welfare had no homes available to them.
Coulter's rant also presumes, as so many of her ilk do, that all or most black and brown folks are poor. In fact, prior to Andrew Cuomo taking the helm at HUD, even middle class African-Americans faced red-lining into "certain neighborhoods" and higher interest rates even if they had comparable, or even higher credit scores than their white counterparts (my mother sold real estate in the 1980s, and quit doing it because of her disgust with the practices.) Outside of income, minorities haven't substantially increased their homeownership stake since the S&L crisis:
Per the U.S. Census bureau:
Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity of Householder
American Indian, Aleut, Eskimo
Asian or Pacific Islander
From 1999 to 2007, white homeownership jumped 2 percent, while black homeownership went up 1 percent -- meaning that the white race increased twice as quickly, if you're following "the math." and since fewer than half of blacks and Hispanics own homes, versus 75 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and combined, blacks and hispanics make up about one quarter of the U.S. population, it's statistically impossible for minorities to constitute the majority of delinquent homeowners, even if you're math skills are on the level of ... Ann Coulter.
(By the way, just as a sidebar, in 2006, some 9.8 million Americans received food stamps. Another 3.3 million received some form of public assistance. That included 3.4 million black people getting food stamps and 1.2 million receiving public assistance out of the approximately 11 million blacks classified as "in poverty" by the federal government. It included 5.5 million whites getting food stamps and 1.7 million receiving other public assistance, out of 56 million classified as at or near the poverty line.) Around 2.5 million white and non-white Hispanics received food stamps, plus another 980,000 who got public assistance (the numbers exceed 100 percent because Hispanics cross both racial lines.) All told,
Mr. Coulter also conveniently omits the fact that had there not been a junking of federal regulation in 1999 at the behest of John McCain's chief economic adviser Phil Gramm, even tens of thousands of bad loans wouldn't have infected the entire system, because there would have been no chop-shop derivatives flooding Wall Street; no loan selling and packaging, no appraisal hustling craziness. And the people shop and swapping those derivatives weren't a bunch of low income black people.
Coulter is clearly making a play to racialize the problem, the better to help the mostly white, mostly non college graduate, right wing talk radio consuming GOP base get excited about voting against the nigg... I mean, the "Democrat." She is one of those old-fashioned race baiters you read about in the history books, only Ann has the added cache of also being a hermaphrodite. Clever positioning.
Either way, Republicans who might wish to marginalize such a person have to contend with the fact that her view, in nearly as crass terms, has recently been articulated by such "mainstream" Republicans as Larry Kudlow and Neil Cavuto.
By the way, how anybody black can be a member of a party that contains Ann Coulter and her ilk, is beyond me.
A clip from Sarah Palin's painful, painful interview with Katie Couric.
I mean, when an interview makes Katie Couric look like Dan Rather back in the day, the moose, my friends, has wandered into the pipeline...
UPDATE: Turns out the McCain camp would like to postpone the VP debate, too, by moving the main event to Sarah and Joe's day, and suspending the veep contest ... indefinitely. Wonder why that could be...
Oh, and if you don't have them yet, here are your official "John McCain is suspending his campaign to put country first" talking points. Use them wisely. Just for fun, let's take a look and see if Redstate got theirs...
The Obama campaign finally comes out with that joint statement, more than 12 hours after Obama contacted John McCain privately, to suggest they put one out, and nearly eight hours after McCain double-crossed him by rushing before television cameras to try his "suspend the campaign!" stunt. Here's the statement:
Joint Statement of Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain
“The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis. No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.
“Now is a time to come together – Democrats and Republicans – in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.
This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.”
And in a smart move, I think, the campaign has taken a cue from McCain, and gone their own way, with Obama releasing the following statement on his own:
Speaking for himself, Senator Obama outlined the following principles that he calls on Senator McCain to support:
I believe that several core principles should guide this legislation.
First, there must be oversight. We should not hand over a blank check to the discretion of one man. We support an independent, bipartisan board to ensure accountability and complete transparency.
Second, we need to protect taxpayers. There should be a path for taxpayers to recover their money, and to turn a profit if Wall Street prospers.
Third, no Wall Street executive should profit from taxpayer dollars. This plan cannot be a welfare program for CEOs whose greed and irresponsibility has contributed to this crisis.
Fourth, we must help families who are struggling to stay in their homes. We cannot bail out Wall Street without helping millions of families facing foreclosure on Main Street.
Fifth, we both agree that this financial rescue package should move on its own without any earmarks or other measures. We have different views about the need for other action, but this must be a clean bill.
This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. This is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem – this is an American problem. Now, we must find an American solution.
Sound principles, and again, Obama waxes presidential, while McCain just goes bat crap crazy. As Chris Matthews said on Rachel Maddow's show tonight, the McCain strategy is that every time the compass needle points to "true north," which is change from the party that's screwed things up, McCain pulls a "razzle dazzle" play. As Chris then said, "do you want four years of razzle dazzle?"
David Letterman rips into John McCain, per Drudge:
David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.
Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"
Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."
"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"
"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
The Obama campaign released a slew of comments slamming John McCain for his "stop the campaign, I want to get off" gambit. A few classics (besides Letterman, not to mention Jon Stewart, who's skewering him as we speak in the 11 p.m. broadcast of his show...)
Mickey Edwards, former Republican Congressman: “Oh, brother. What idiot came up with this stunt? It ranks somewhere on the stupidity scale between plain silly and numbingly desperate. McCain and Obama are both members of the senate and they're both able to help craft a solution if they wish to do so without putting the presidential campaign on hold; after all, I’m sure congressional leaders would be willing to accept their calls if they have some important insights to impart. And while one of them will eventually become president, neither one is president yet, nor is either one a member of the congressional leadership; I’m confident that somehow the administration and the other 533 members of congress will be able to muddle through without tapping into the superior wisdom and intellect of their nominees. Sorry, John; it really sounds like you're afraid to debate. This sounds like the sort of ploy we used to use in junior high school elections.” More
The Atlantic (Ambinder) “What is Politics?”: This is the time when politics matters the most, not the least. When the philosophical differences that each party organizes around are put to the test of reality. When conflict builds consensus, not by ignoring conflict. When the public craves answers and debate from their politicians. When the stakes of the presidential election could not be more acute. Comparative advantage: the best thing the presidential candidates can do now is to practice their politics honestly, not to abandon politics altogether -- itself, of course, a political move. Suspending your campaign basically says: all that over the past sixteen months? It wasn't important. Ignore what I said or did. Too late. The tough thing here for McCain is that nobody in Washington asked him to come back; nobody seems to need him to come back; and that Democrats simply do not trust John McCain's motives. More
TIME (Joe Klein): McCain suspends his campaign because of financial crisis? Oh please. Given today's poll numbers--even Fox has him dropping--it seems another Hail Mary (like the feckless selection of Palin) to try make McCain seem a statesman, which is difficult given the puerile tenor of his campaign's message operation. More
The New Republic (Jonathan Cohn): So, no, I don't think this is such a great idea. In fact, it feels to me a bit like McCain is trying to use this crisis as a way to prop up his political fortunes. More
TPM (Greg Sargent): If this version of events was true, McCain's public call for a suspension was anything but apolitical. If McCain had truly intended to keep this apolitical, he would have asked Obama to jointly suspend the debates and waited for Obama's private and definitive answer before going public. More
One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain's campaign manager from the end of 2005 through last month, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement. The disclosure contradicts a statement Sunday night by Mr. McCain that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had no involvement with the company for the last several years. Mr. Davis's firm received the payments from the company, Freddie Mac, until it was taken over by the government this month along with Fannie Mae, the other big mortgage lender whose deteriorating finances helped precipitate the cascading problems on Wall Street, the people said...
...On Sunday, in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times, Mr. McCain responded to a question about Mr. Davis's role in the advocacy group through 2005 by saying that his campaign manager "has had nothing to do with it since, and I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it."
Freddie Mac had previously paid an advocacy group run by Davis, called the Homeownership Alliance, $30,000 a month until the end 2005, when that group was dissolved. That relationship was the subject of a New York Times story Monday, which drew angry denunciations from the McCain campaign. McCain and his aides have vehemently objected to suggestions that Davis has ties to Freddie Mac-an especially sensitive issue given that the Republican presidential candidate has blamed "the lobbyists, politicians and bureaucrats" for the mortgage crisis that recently prompted the Bush administration to take over both Freddie Mac and its companion, Fannie Mae, and put it under federal conservatorship.
But neither the Times story -- nor the McCain campaign -- revealed that Davis's firm, the Washington, D.C. based lobbying firm Davis Manafort, continued to receive $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until last month-long after the Homeownership Alliance had been terminated. The two sources, who requested anonymity discussing sensitive information, told Newsweek that Davis himself approached Freddie Mac in 2006 and asked for a new consulting arrangement that would allow his firm to continue to be paid. The arrangement was approved by Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac's vice president for external relations, because "he [Davis] was John McCain's campaign manager and it was felt you couldn't say no," said one of the sources. [McLoughlin did not return phone calls].
Tahman Bradley Reports: A senior University of Mississippi official reacted Wednesday to the news that Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., wants to postpone Friday's presidential debate, saying that such a move would be "devastating" for the university which has already invested millions in preparation for the debate.
Andrew Mullins, special assistant to university Chancellor Robert Khayat, told ABC News that the Ole Miss campus has been transformed to accommodate the candidates and the press. Road blocks are in place on campus and in the community and the debate television set for the candidates has already been constructed. He said the university has spent roughly five and half million dollars getting ready for the debate.
Mullins also noted that if the Commission on Presidential Debates asks the campus to hold the debate at a later date, he is not sure the university would be able to accommodate them.
"It's huge. You cannot just say that you're not going to do this thing," Mullins said. "I don't have any idea whether we do the debate" at a later date. "(We) probably wouldn't do it."
Earth to McCain: it's the economy stupid. You can't crusade to save the nation's economy by wrecking the University of Mississippi's.
McCain had phoned Reid to ask about the prospects of him, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and others to sit down and work together on hammering out a bipartisan proposal.
"Sorry," Reid said to him, a Democrat close to Reid says.
Reid then read McCain the statement he had just put out: "This is a critical time for our country," says the Reid statement. "While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis. I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Sen. Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op. If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.”
A source close to Reid said McCain didn't have much to say after that. Reid, the source says, thinks McCain's maneuver is a gimmick born from bad poll numbers and the fact that "debate prep must not be going very well."
Reid isn't about to let McCain come back to D.C. and grandstand for his campaign.
Obama says thanks, but no thanks, to the McCain to nowhere
Barack Obama responds to John McCain's indecent proposal:
The White House rivals maneuvered to claim the leadership role on the financial crisis that has overshadowed their campaign six weeks before Election Day. Obama said he would proceed with his debate preparations while consulting with bailout negotiators and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. McCain said he would stop all advertising, fundraising and other campaign events to return to Washington and work for a bipartisan solution.
"It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess," Obama said at a news conference in Clearwater, Fla. "It's going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once."
Meanwhile, it's becoming clear that not only does McCain, who hasn't been to the Hill in five months, but suddenly has rediscovered his love for legislating, hope to forestall a potential Rick Davis campaign ad from the Obama side, not to mention keep from answering questions about the crisis (and take a respite from the polls) McCain is also hoping to use this window of media opportunity to try and lash himself to Obama, and gain political cover for whatever deal comes out of Capitol Hill:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain's representative in debate negotiations, said McCain will not attend the debate "unless there is an agreement that would provide a solution" to the financial crisis. Graham, R-S.C., told The Associated Press that the agreement would have to be publicly endorsed by Obama, McCain, the White House and congressional leaders, but not necessarily given final passage by the House and Senate.
The Obama campaign has read this thing correctly, I think. And I wonder what voters in Mississippi would think if their debate, at one of their cherished universities, was called off do to bad atmospherics? (The university told the AP they are going ahead with preparations, and plan to hold a debate.) Meanwhile, when the McCain-centric Associated Press says this about you:
Even as McCain said he was putting the good of the country ahead of politics, his surprise announcement was clearly political. It was an attempt to try to outmaneuver Obama on an issue in which he's trailing, the economy, as the Democrat gains in polls. He quickly went before TV cameras minutes after speaking with Obama and before the two campaigns had hammered out a joint statement expressing that Congress should act urgently on the bailout.
And while McCain's campaign said he would "suspend" his campaign, it simply will move to Washington knowing the spotlight will remain on him no matter where he is.
... you know you're losing the media. And now, to the timeline of events, which is interesting to say the least:
Obama said he suggested they first issue a joint statement showing bipartisanship.
"When I got back to the hotel, he had gone on television to announce what he was going to do," Obama said.
McCain said he would return to Washington after addressing former President Clinton's Global Initiative session in New York Thursday. He canceled his planned appearance Wednesday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" program and a meeting with the prime minister of India.
Barney Frank just suggested another scenario on MSNBC: that McCain is trying to "air drop himself in here tomorrow" to "set himself up to take credit for something that's going forward without him." Kind of like the G.I. Bill...
Why does John McCain want to postpone Friday's debate? Does he seriously believe that one night in Mississippi, when both he and Barack Obama could easily fly in from Washington after voting, theoretically, on a bill that probably won't even be ready by then, would harm the country? The McCain "breaking news" literally came about 15 minutes, by my clock, after the Obama campaign sent out a statement to the press, which I got in my in-box at 3:38 p.m.
The McCain sudden call for putting politics aside was also synchronized almost perfectly with the White House. Per CNN:
It was not immediately clear how extensive the suspension he announced would be -- whether it would include dropping television advertising or just canceling scheduled appearances. McCain took no questions after reading his statement.
Immediately after the announcement, White House press secretary Dana Perino released this statement: "We welcome Sen. McCain's announcement. We are making progress in negotiations on the financial markets rescue legislation, but we have not finished it yet. Bipartisan support from Sens. McCain and Obama would be helpful in driving to a conclusion."
McCain's campaign also said that he had canceled his scheduled appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" for Wednesday night.
McCain's announcement came just hours before President Bush was scheduled to address the nation on the troubled state of the U.S. financial system -- a problem for which his administration has proposed a $700 billion bailout.
A Bush statement about anything can only be bad news for McCain, who must know that despite the foreign policy focus, he would face questions about the bailout, and his incoherence on the subject, on Friday.
ABC News reports that McCain not only wants to postpone the debate (the Obama camp says the debate is still on) he has also tried to get the Obama campaign to agree to both campaigns pulling their advertising down. Really? It would sure be a good way to keep the latest New York Times story on his campaign manager's Freddie Mac ATM machine off the air in swing states, no? And McCain can't be enjoying the campaign trail these days, what with all the questions, waffles, and dredging up of the Keating Five scandal ... Oh, and the contradictions. From ABC:
Obama supporter and chief debate negotiator Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., told MSNBC that "we can handle both," when asked about his reaction to McCain's call to postpone the first debate because of the administration's bailout plan.
He believes they are making good progress on Capitol Hill on the bailout and his initial reaction is that the work on the Hill should not preclude the debate from taking place.
An Obama campaign official told ABC News the Democratic presidential candidate called McCain this morning to suggest a joint statement of principles.
McCain called back this afternoon and suggested returning to Washington.
Obama is willing to return to Washington "if it would be helpful." But reiterated Obama intends to debate on Friday.
McCain and his top advisers said the Republican presidential candidate has not committed to voting for the massive financial bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration, with aides saying he will reserve final judgment until there is a final product.
A senior McCain campaign official said that the “Bush package is dead. This is a serious situation. Package must be resolved by the time markets open on Monday."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that McCain had assured Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that he would support the $700 billion legislation.
Asked about that Wednesday, McCain responded: “I did not say that.”
(Sidebar: want to see the Keating Five scandal boiled down to 97 seconds? Here you go.)
McCain's gambit is as crass as politics get, but it could have a similar effect to his "lipstick" and "Britney" sideshows - taking the focus off him, and his lobbyist pals, and even the economic crisis itself, and putting it back on Obama, who McCain's aides will cast as a crass politico who can't even go along with McCain's principled call for a suspension of campaign hostilities "for the good of the country." This is clearly a gambit to reclaim his "country first" mantra, in a very clever way, and also to stop the bleeding in his own poll numbers, not to mention the questions.
Let's see how Obama plays it, and whether the media falls for it. My guess is that the media will (Fox News is, of course, already setting the tone by lauding McCain's "big move.") We'll see if McCain has lost so much good will with the non-GOP press that they refuse to play along.
This interest in the bailout is new for McCain. As recently as yesterday, when a reporter asked him about his position on the Bush administration's financial proposals, McCain said, "I have not had a chance to see it in writing. I have to examine it." As the stock market tanked and the federal government bailed out financial institutions over the past week, McCain has been campaigning around the country. Originally, McCain McCain planned to skip the vote on the bailout and continue campaigning. The last time McCain voted in the Senate was on April 10.
It's not clear at all that having McCain and Obama back in DC will actually help. "What does seem apparent, though, is that putting the two candidates in the negotiating room is far more likely to distract--and derail--negotiations than having them out on the hustings," Jonathan Cohn writes at the New Republic. "Besides, it's not as if McCain has any great expertise he can bring to this subject. Or does he plan to bring Senator Phill Gramm, Mr. Deregulator himself, along?"
Both candidates have been marginal players; McCain, though, seems to have the potential to make himself a major one, and his move is a mark, most of all, that he doesn't like the way this campaign is going.
But in terms of the timing of this move: The only thing that's changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling.
More reactions from the political consultant class. So far, whether you think it's a brilliant move or a cynical, desperate one depends on your party persuasion (surprise, surprise...)
John McCain sits on the Indian Affairs, Armed Services, and "Commerce, Science and Transportation" committees, none of whom can hold hearings on the bailout. In fact, it's the Senate Banking Committee that handles such things. So again, what is McCain, who has no particular expertise in the area of finance (or the economy for that matter) going back to Washington to do? (besides grandstand and buy himself some time...)
Yet another update...
By the way, Congress is scheduled to recess on Friday, so what is McCain suspending his campaign for, like two days? Is he saying that if there's no deal, he's prepared to stay in Washington into next week? Or is he using this move to push for a quickie deal, which can't be a good idea...
BREAKING: Obama and McCain to issue joint statement on bailout
From the Obama campaign:
“At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.
Senator Obama will be making a statement shortly from his hotel in Clearwater, Fl.
Bill Clinton tells Larry King that after the Jewish holiday, he's going to head down to Florida and other points south to "sort of hustle up what Lawton Chiles used to call the 'cracker vote..." Earth to oversensitive people: some white Floridians really do call themselves "crackers..." go figure. And isn't the original Bubba saying "cracker" sort of like black people using "nigga?" Just sayin'...
But Bill Clinton, whatever his wording, makes a good point.
For all the fundamentals in his favor, polls and economic disaster included, and for all the walking disaster that is John McCain, I had a very bleak conversation with a friend of mine today who is black, and who is convinced that Barack Obama is going to lose in November. Not because he's not qualified, but because there are enough white people in this country who won't be able to bring themselves to vote for a black man, to put McCain in office. I'm not there yet, and still think Obama can pull it off, but as I said in this earlier post, to me, anyone undecided at this point is probably a McCain voter who's too embarrassed to tell a pollster he or she is actually thinking of voting for McCain, who is clearly a disaster walking. Many of these undecideds are simply waiting for McCain to stop behaving like an erratic whirling dirvish of an old man for five seconds and show them something -- ANYTHING -- that would justify their voting for him, without having to admit to anyone, or perhaps to themselves, that it's because Obama is black. But for most of the undecideds, and I suspect, for a fair number of the recalcitrant Hillaryites, it IS because Obama is black, not to mention trying to rise above his station.
"The Bubba vote is there, and it's very real, and it is everywhere," former House Majority Leader Dick Armey recently said. "There's an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man."
... Yet even Bubba knows something about political correctness these days, so he won't always tell the truth to pollsters. As a result, you will not always hear Bubba speak as candidly as Armey, who now chairs the conservative think tank Freedom Works, spoke to editorial and reporters at USA Today and Gannett News Service, where he made his comments.
Nevertheless, as Armey said, race-based voting is "deplorable, but it is real." That's why, Obama has more reason than McCain to feel nervous about close polls.
In fact, if he fails to show at least a six-point advantage in the polls by Election Day, I expect John McCain to be our next president.
You still see the ugly specter of racism out there. You see it in incidents like this, but you also hear it in the vitriol of some former Clinton supporters who spit out that they're not voting for "that Obama" but can't really explain what McCain has going for him, or in common with them. And you here it in the discredited, but effective use of the phony "Obama is an undercover Muslim" meme (or as Limbaugh keeps insisting, an Arab.) As far as I'm concerned, Muslim is the new "nigger."
If Obama does lose, I think it will clearly be because of race. Period. But I also think that many white McCain voters will push back hard against that fact, and attempt to chalk McCain's victory up to something else, though they won't be able to cite a well run campaign, or coherent thoughts on ... well ... anything. But they will try. They'll be mistaken (or lying.)
Bottom line, while he is up in the polls, I suspect Obama will need even more than a 52%-43% lead in any poll going into November in order to squeak this one out on Election Day. He'll also need record shattering black and young voter turnout to offshore the white women he's going to lose, and the possible mass turnout of Anybody But the Black Guy white voters on November 4th. Whatever works.
Let's just hope the Obama ground game really is as good as they say it is.
It's starting to look suspiciously personal for Hank Paulson, former chair of Goldman Sachs. First, Warren Buffett buys into the Wall Street firm, to the tune of $5 billion, indicating he must know a particular rescue of the firm is in sight. From ThinkProgress:
But the conflicts are also visible. Paulson has surrounded himself with former Goldman executives as he tries to navigate the domino-like collapse of several parts of the global financial market. And others have gone off to lead companies that could be among those that receive a bailout.
In late July, Paulson tapped Ken Wilson, one of Goldman’s most senior executives, to join him as an adviser on what to about problems in the U.S. and global banking sector. Paulson’s former assistant secretary, Robert Steel, left in July to become head of Wachovia, the Charlotte-based bank that has hundreds of millions of troubled mortgage loans on its books.
Goldman Sachs cashed in under Paulson, with earnings in 2005 of $5.6 billion; Paulson made more than $38 million that year. A 2005 annual report shows that “Goldman was still a significant player” in issuing mortgage bonds. The conflict of interest is increasingly clear today, as Bloomberg reports that “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries” of Paulson’s bailout plan:
Jesus, this guy could almost be a McCain campaign operative.
The economy shakes more Americans awake, and Barack Obama takes a 52-43 lead over Crazy Grandpa John.
Two weeks ago, in the days immediately following the Republican National Convention, the race was essentially even, with McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 47 percent.
As a point of comparison, neither of the last two Democratic nominees -- John F. Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 -- recorded support above 50 percent in a pre-election poll by the Post and ABC News.
Last week's near-meltdown in the financial markets and the subsequent debate in Washington over a proposed government bailout of troubled financial institutions have made the economy even more important in the minds of voters. Fully 50 percent called the economy and jobs the single most important issue that will determine their vote, up from 37 percent two weeks ago. In contrast, just 9 percent cited the Iraq war as their most important issue, its lowest of the campaign.
But voters are cool toward the administration's initial efforts to deal with the current crisis. Forty-seven percent said they approve of the steps taken by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to stabilize the financial markets, while 42 percent said they disapprove.
Anxiety about the economic situation is widespread. Just over half of the poll respondents -- 52 percent -- believe the economy has moved into a serious long-term decline. Eight in 10 are concerned about the overall direction of the economy, nearly three-quarters worry about the shocks to the stock market, and six in 10 are apprehensive about their own family finances.
Two weeks ago, McCain held a substantial advantage among white voters, including newfound strength with white women. In the face of bad economic news, the two candidates now run about evenly among white women, and Obama has narrowed the overall gap among white voters to five percentage points.
Much of the movement has come among college-educated whites. Whites without college degrees favor McCain by 17 points, while those with college degrees support Obama by 9 points. No Democrat has carried white, college-educated voters in presidential elections dating back to 1980, but they were a key part of Obama's coalition in the primaries.
In addition, Obama is favored by whites who are worried about the economy. He doesn't do as well with those who aren't.
Still, Obama pitfalls remain, including the 18 percent of voters in a new AP/Yahoo poll (have I mentioned my increasing lack of trust in the Associated Press?) who are undecided. In my book, at this stage and with this economy, undecided is generally American for "I can't vote for that black guy, but don't go calling me racist ... and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm voting for McCain, knowing he'll screw things up even more."
Not yet publicly released numbers from the Florida Elections Division suggest Barack Obama has good reason to spend that $39 million.
As of September 1, Florida Democrats picked up a net gain of 287,770 new voters since January, to the Florida GOP's 112,290, less than 100,000 voters shy of John Kerry's 2004 margin of defeat (with two months to go from September 1 to October 6.) That means Democrats have registered 58.7 percent of the new voters on the rolls, including those who switched parties or were purged, to the Republicans' 22.9 percent (the other 18 percent or so are Independents.)
But wait, there's more:
80% of the 109,361 newly registered Black voters registered as Dems, vs. 3.5% Republicans.
46% of the 125,685 newly registered Hispanics are Democrats, versus 19% Republicans.
Only among White voters do the parties achieve parity, with Democrats getting 33% of the 301,020 new voters and Republicans getting 36%. In other words, white voters are a wash...
Except that they really aren't ...
By age, Democrats also have big advantages:
45% of the 336,997 voters under age 35 who registered to vote through September registered as Democrats versus 21.7% who signed up as Republicans.
In the middle age category, Dems got 44.6% of new registrants 35-65, versus 24.9% for the GOP. In fact, more voters registered to be Independents (30.5%) than chose to be Republicans. (Ditto for young voters, 33.5% of whom regestered NPA.)
And even most voters over 65 who are newly registered chose to become Democrats: 40.9% to 33.6%.
What does this mean? It means that the majority of new voters -- nearly enough to close John Kerry's losing margin of 380,000 votes, are now in the Democratic Party, and many of them are now in the Obama campaign's database, ready to be pushed to the polls. The Republicans could still pull a big turnout like they did in 2004, or they could be counting on grabbing the lion's share of hte Independent vote, but Democrats are more than in a position to win this state, based on simple addition.
I have been a longtime critic of the Florida Democratic Party's eternal pursuit of what I call the "white whale" of winning the I-4 corridor: the part of Florida that stretches north from around Orlando to Tampa-St. Petersberg. When the party held a conference call earlier in the year to talk general strategy, and announced that once again, the Democrats would run an I-4, rather than a South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) based strategy, and that the Obama campaign would be based in Tampa, I hung my head in distress. Particularly given the party's lack of success with this strategy in any election since I moved here (Kerry lost Florida by 380,000 votes and went down swearing he could cut into the military vote in Tampa, and Jim Davis lost the governor ship to the tan guy otherwise known as NOT GETTING MARRIED ANYTIME SOON since he's not the v.p., swearing that he could bring home his home city: Tampa.)
But something is looking mighty different this time around.
First, the Obama campaign is being managed here by Steve Schale, probably the only Democrat in the last ten years who truly knows how to win in Florida. Schale speaks "evangelical," since he is one, and he is credited with helping Democrats pick up seats statewide in 2006. If his Tampa-centric strategy works, he will officially be labeled a supah genious.
Second, the Obama campaign is seriously, seriously competing for this state. They've pledged $39.3 million in spending -- more than they've budgeted in Ohio, and they are making a serious push to hold the Jewish vote, erode the Hispanic vote (complete with a new round of Spanish language TV ads running this week,) and turn out the black vote (complaints by some local black pols and preachers about the lack of spending money notwithstanding.)
Third, the army of Obamatrons roaming the state appears to be having an effect. The Dems have picked up a more than two-to-one new voter registration advantage, with about 250,000 voters registered as Dems through July versus about 98,000 for the GOP. If they improved on that in August and September, it's a good look, even in a state where most Democrats north of Jacksonville vote Republican.
Fourth. Sheer commitment. Obama and his team have been blanketing the state over the last two weeks, and guess where the Senator is doing his debate prep? Tampa. Hell, even I got an interview!
Now, to the polls.
And this one's a stunner.
Mason-Dixon, one of the best, but also one of the most Republican-leaning, of the Florida polls, actually shows Barack Obama opening up a slight lead in the Sunshine State (per Chuckie T and company:)
Yet inside those numbers, Obama leads McCain in the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, and Polk counties) by a 49%-43% margin. Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker says the key to winning Florida statewide is usually through Tampa Bay, and Obama’s six-point lead in the area explains why he’s ahead in this poll. Moreover, outside of Nevada, there is probably not another state that has been hurt more by the housing and credit crunch, and that may be benefiting Obama right now.
Also potentially troublesome for McCain in this must-win GOP state, he leads by just six among Hispanics (49%-43%), which in Florida is made up of a majority of Cubans. (If Obama does pick off younger Cubans, he may close the overall gap thanks to his large lead among non-Cuban Hispanics in the I-4 corridor.)
Also, McCain's four-point lead among seniors (48%-44%) is not as big as he needs it to be to offset the electorate-changing demographics among blacks and young voters. ...
Those are four big "yikes!" if you're John McCain.
A bit more on the poll, from the Miami Herald:
... voters prefer Obama by a slight margin to handle the economy (49-44) and to reform government (48-44). But McCain trounces Obama on the question of who's best to handle national security: 57-39. Military voters favor McCain 57-39, those who haven't served prefer Obama 49-42.
Also keeping McCain strong: white support (he edges Obama 50-42) and support among Hispanics (49-43), a crucial swing-voting demographic.
Obama has a decisive lead among black voters (88-5) and barely leads among women voters, 49-41. Past election exit polls show that the Republican who captures 45 percent or more of the woman vote generally wins the state.
The biggest swing in the poll: name-recognition for Republican vp pick Sarah Palin. About 75 percent of voters didn't recognize her name in the last Mason-Dixon poll in August. Now, only 2 percent don't recognize her. About 45 percent of voters view her favorably and 31 percent unfavorably. That compares to Joe Biden's fav/unfav of 39-21.
Palin has also had a bigger effect on her ticket than Biden has on his. About 60 percent of voters say Biden's pick had no effect on their vote, compared to 37 percent for Palin. And 36 percent say they're more likely to vote for McCain because of Palin, while 23 percent say it made them less likely. Biden's more likely/less likely numbers: 21-15
For Obama to be holding onto 42 percent of the white vote isn't a bad look in this state. And if he can hold onto women, and get black turnout to put some muscle behind his commanding lead there, he really could win Florida, and this coming from someone who wasn't so sure of that a month ago.
BTW McCain is still ahead in the Rasmussen survey, by five points, and he has an average two point lead per RCP. But Mason Dixon is considered the gold standard of Florida polls, and given what they're spending, you've got to believe Team Obama has some internal polls that tell them Mason-D is on the right track.
Turns out McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' firm was still taking lobbying money from Freddie Mac, oh like, last month...
WASHINGTON — One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.
The disclosure undercuts a statement by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years.
Mr. Davis’s firm received the payments from the company, Freddie Mac, until it was taken over by the government this month along with Fannie Mae, the other big mortgage lender whose deteriorating finances helped precipitate the cascading problems on Wall Street, the people said.
They said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis & Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of Mr. Davis’s close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.
Mr. Davis took a leave from Davis & Manafortfor the presidential campaign, but as a partner and equity-holder continues to benefit from its income. No one at Davis & Manafort other than Mr. Davis was involved in efforts on Freddie Mac’s behalf, the people familiar with the arrangement said.
I suppose tomorrow, the McCain campaign will call for the firing of the New York Times...
Will Neil Cavuto be forced to walk back from his "lending to minorities caused the housing crisis" gaffe? Recall that on Sept. 18, Neil interviewed California Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and gave the now standard Republican talking point that the problem isn't Wall Street speculators and investment banks, it's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their insidious practice of lending money to minorities to make them feel like homeowners... Neil? You're up:
CAVUTO: I just wonder, you know, with Congress holding all these hearings -- and you're right, there are a lot of them planned -- does anyone hold hearings on what you guys knew or didn't know or whether -- or whether you were ignorant or not? I mean, does anyone look at -- I know the buck stops with the president -- but at least it stops by you guys. What were you doing?
BECERRA: Well, we were trying to get answers from the administration. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like they were giving us a complete picture of what was going on. We can only know what the administration tells us about their administration of the government. But you're right.
CAVUTO: All right, but let me ask you -- but, Congressman, when -- when you and many of your colleagues were pushing for more minority lending and more expanded lending to folks who heretofore couldn't get mortgages, when you were pushing homeownership --
BECERRA: Neil, who did that?
CAVUTO: -- I'm just saying, I don't remember a clarion call that said, "Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."
It would be nice if Cavuto was some sort of lone wolf, but it's actually a rather standard talking point on the right, that the real problem goes back to the days when do-gooders like Andrew Cuomo were running HUD, creating things like the "Community Reinvestment Act" and forcing poor, helpless banks to stop red lining black neighborhoods and denying home loans to qualified black applicants. Poor fools. Little did they realize they'd be left holding the bag for Phil Gramm and John McCain's deregulation of the securities markets.
The truth of the matter is, Fannie and Freddie are a drop in the bucket compared to the Wall Street "banks" that bundled bad mortgages and sold them as derivatives -- bad mortgages that went, not to "poor people" as Larry Kudlow and others charge, or to "minorities" alone, but to millions of perfectly white middle class Americans, and not a few people trying their hand at "house flipping." And the bad mortgages wouldn't have infected the entire system had they not been immediately sold off, chopped up, and turned into lucrative, air-thin derivative securities that were sold at inflated values to make people like Kudlow richer.
But that's too complicated for people like Neil, who like their politics simple, neat, and racist. Oh, and it's also a clever way to argue that the problem wasn't deregulation, it was overregulation...
So will Neil be disciplined by his bosses at Fox? When Sarah Palin gives a press conference...
From the WaPo today, proof that outside the evangelical base, there is no Palin effect. It's still the economy, stupid.
The presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama in four key battleground states remains remarkably stable despite a month of politically significant developments, with the Illinois senator running ahead of or even with his Republican rival according to polling conducted by Quinnipiac University for washingtonpost.com and the Wall Street Journal.
In Colorado, Obama takes 49 percent to 45 percent for McCain while in Michigan Obama stands at 48 percent as compared to 44 percent for McCain. The contest in Minnesota, once considered a lock for Obama, is also quite close with Obama at 47 percent and McCain 45 percent. Only in Wisconsin does Obama have an edge -- 49 percent to 42 percent -- outside the statistical margin of error for the poll.
Those results are remarkably similar to data from July Quinnipiac polls in each of the four states and suggest that despite the massive media coverage surrounding the two parties' national nominating conventions as well as the vice presidential selections -- especially that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which many presumed would alter the campaign's dynamic -- little has changed in the race for the White House.
Obama won't lose a single Kerry state. Bank on it. And he will pick up New Mexico and Iowa. That leaves his task as the following: get Nevada, Florida, Virginia or Ohio. If he grabs one of those, and picks up New Hampshire, it's over. Tick, tick...
Of course, he hasn't been going great guns on foreign policy, either, telling "60 Minutes" this weekend that he essentially endorses Sarah Palin's dangerously dimwitted view that the U.S. could well wind up at war with Russia over a NATO'd Georgia (not to mention saying she's "absolutely" ready to be president...)
Meanwhile, more bad news for the GOP. Voters in new polling blame them, surprise surprise, for the economic meltdown and the Wall Street bailout, including voters in the crucial swing state of Nevada. A new Suffolk University poll finds:
The poll shows that the toss-up state of Nevada remains just that, with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama statistically tied at 46 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
When likely voters were asked who they figure is responsible for the current financial state on Wall Street, 41 percent blamed the Republicans, 16 percent tagged the Democrats, 27 percent said neither, and 16 percent couldn't decide who to blame.
And a new CNN poll finds voters across the U.S. tagging the GOP with the blame for the present crisis by a 2 to 1 margin.
By the way, did you hear the one about the McCain campaign manager who was paid $30,000 a month to lobby on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against stepped up regulation? Guess who Rick Davis was lobbying? John McCain!
The Obama campaign just finished a conference call for reporters to discuss the new ad, "Article," which hits John McCain on his love of deregulation, and his plan to do to healthcare what his and Phil Gramm's policies have already done to the financial markets. Watch the ad:
Ever since McCain's article from the September/October edition of Contingencies Magazine was first re-posted by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday, Democrats have been chomping at the bits to ram it down McCain's throat. After all, what better way to deflate the idea that the Republican nominee, after years of pursuing deregulatory policies, all the sudden was a champion of government oversight? Or, for that matter, what better way to drive home the notion that McCain would put one's health care - not to mention Social Security - at play in a clearly erratic market.
Here’s what McCain has to say about the wonders of market-based health reform:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago — and promising that if we marketize health care, it will perform as well as the financial industry!
The full McCain article is available as a PDF file here. The McCain response, according to one reporter on the call, is as follows:
Oh, okay, so now, Republicans believe in socialism...
On "This Week" on Sunday, Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson confirmed that the administration is prepared to up the ante on American socialism by not only taking over the vast majority of Wall Street's bad assets (meaning, as George Will pointed out, that after the bailout, the government would control most U.S. investment banks) but that the White House would push for the $700 billion bailout to include buying up the bad assets of foreign financial firms, too:
"We are talking very aggressively with other countries around the world," Paulson said in an interview on ABC News' "This Week." "If a financial institution has business operations in the United States, hires people in the United States...they have the same impact on the American people as any other institution."
Paulson, the architect of the bailout, also said that he will fight requests by Democrats to include a broader stimulus package in the bailout legislation.
"We need this to be clean and quick, and we need to get it in place," said Paulson.
By "clean and quick," he means rush through a bailout for the big boys, with nothing for you, except the bill.
So much for Republicans' belief in the free market. In their former Darwinian belief system, failed companies are supposed to be allowed to fail. Not anymore. Now, Republicans believe in aggressive government intervention to help the richest of firms and investors stay rich. Bailouts for ordinary people who are in danger of losing their homes: not so much. You see, those people are actually to blame...
Meanwhile, the world begins to notice our sudden love of socialism. From the Herald, UK:
Today we will learn further details of what could turn out to be the greatest act of grand larceny in history: the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson's, trillion-dollar bailout of the US banks. Following last week's crash, the US government has decided to use taxpayer money to buy up all the bad mortgage debts of the banks and investment houses and insurance companies and let them start again with a clean sheet. In other words, save them from the consequences of their own folly. Nothing similar is yet proposed here, but it will.
The Bad Bank bailout is a bad idea. If the bankers get away with this we really will be one step from serfdom. I'm someone who has always tended to the left of the political spectrum, but on this issue I side with the American conservatives, such as Republican Congressman John Culberson, who are saying that this is socialism for the rich. Congress has no right bailing out private investors with money pledged in advance from the children and grandchildren of American citizens.
Advocates of the Bad Bank fund cite the success of the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) which sorted out the wreckage from the US savings and loans bust in 1989. But the RTC was very different from this Bad Bank. It collected and eventually sold off loans made by banks that had already gone bust; what is being proposed now is to buy loans before the lenders go under. In other words, it will create an artificial market with artificial prices to perpetuate the bankers' delusion that they are not actually bankrupt.
Still less is Paulson's bailout any kind of legitimate descendant of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation set up by Roosevelt in 1933 to cope with the last comparable banking crisis during the Great Depression. The first thing FDR did was shut the banks down, throw out their managements and halt all dividend payments. He then reopened the banks under new management and under US Treasury supervision, giving federal loans to banks prepared to behave.
E pluribus hokum or When the gamblers bail out the casino By Spengler
Why should American taxpayers give US Treasury Secretary "Hank" Paulson a blank check to bail out the shareholders of busted banks? Why should the Treasury turn itself into a toxic waste dump for their bad loans? Why not let other banks join the unlamented Brothers Lehman in bankruptcy court, and start a new bank with taxpayers' money? Or have the Treasury pay interest on delinquent mortgages, and make them whole? Even better, why not let the Chinese, or the Saudis or other foreign investors take control of failed American banks? They've got the money, and they gladly would pay a premium for an inside seat at the American table.
None of the above will occur. America will give between US$700-$800 billion to the Treasury to buy any bank assets it wants, onany terms, with no possible legal recourse. It is an invitation to abuse of power unparalleled in American history, in which ill-paid civil servants will set prices on the portfolios of the banking system with no oversight and no threat of legal penalty.
Why are the voices raised in protest so shrill and few? Why will Americans fall on their fountain-pens for their bankers? If America is to adopt socialism, why not have socialism for the poor, rather than for the rich? Why should American households that earn $50,000 a year subsidize Goldman Sachs partners who earn $5 million a year?
Believe it or not, there is a rational explanation, and quite in keeping with America's national motto, E pluribus hokum. Part of the problem is that Wall Street, like the ethnic godfather in the old joke, has made America an offer it can't understand. The collapsing the mortgage-backed securities market embodies a degree of complexity that mystifies the average policy wonk. But that is a lesser, superficial side of the story.
Paulson's dreadful scheme will become law, because Americans love their bankers. The bankers enable their collective gambling habit. Think of America as a town with one casino, in which the only economic activity is gambling. Most people lose, but the casino keeps lending them more money to play. Eventually, of course, the casino must go bankrupt. At this point, the townspeople people vote to tax themselves in order to bail out the casino. Collectively, the gamblers cannot help but lose; individually they nonetheless hope to win their way out of the hole. Americans are so deep in the hole that they might as well keep putting borrowed quarters into the one-armed bandit. They have hardly saved anything for the past 10 years. Instead, they counted on capital gains to replace the retirement savings they never put aside, first in tech stocks, then in houses. That hasn't worked out. The S&P 500 Index of American equities today is worth what it was in 1997, after adjusting for inflation (and a pensioner who sells stock purchased in 1997 will pay a 20% capital gains tax on an illusory inflationary gain of 40%). Home prices doubled between 1997 and 2007 before falling by more than 20%, with no floor in sight.
As it is, many of the baby boomers now on the verge of retirement will spend their declining years working at Wal-Mart or McDonalds rather than cruising the Caribbean. Some of them still have time to tighten their belts and save 10% of their income (by consuming 10% less), plus a good deal more to compensate for the missing savings of the 1990s.
Altogether, they'd rather gamble, and if that requires a bailout of the house, they gladly will chip in to pay for it. After all, today's baby boomers won't pay for the bailout. The next generation of taxpayers will pay for Paulson's $700-$800 billion. If that enables the present generation to keep borrowing rather than saving, it is no skin off their back. If home prices continue to collapse, the baby boomers will die in debt anyway, working at low-paying jobs until the day before their funerals.
And Spengler has this additional, interesting note:
Investment banks typically hold about $30 of securities for every $1 of capital, so a 3% write-down would leave them insolvent. If Lehman Brothers classified 14% of its assets as Level III at the end of the first quarter; Goldman Sachs was at 13%. Why is Lehman bankrupt, and Goldman Sachs still in business? If Secretary Paulson, the former head of Goldman Sachs, had not proposed a general bailout last week, we might already have had the answer to that question.
... Some Democrats in Congress are asking for some form of oversight, but it is hard to imagine how they might use it, for a Treasury with $800 billion to spend would constitute the whole market bid for low-quality mortgage assets, and would set whatever prices it wished. Professionals with years of experience set prices on these securities with great uncertainty. How would an overseer determine if it had set the correct price? And if the Treasury decided to bail out one bank (say, Goldman Sachs) rather than another, how would the overseer judge whether that decision was judicious, politically motivated, venal, or arbitrary?
If a liberal Democratic administration had put hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money at risk by bailing out Bear Stearns and nationalizing American International Group (AIG), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, wouldn't conservatives accuse Democrats of "socialism"? Can Mr. McCain now square a circle by calling himself a conservative while favoring increased regulation?
In fact, Mr. McCain championed financial deregulation for years. In 1999, he supported legislation crafted by Phil Gramm, then a senator from Texas, that removed Depression-era walls between banking, investment and insurance companies -- allegedly to make the country's financial institutions more competitive and free to take entrepreneurial risks in the marketplace. (Many Democrats, including Sen. Joe Biden, the party's vice presidential nominee, supported this ill-considered legislation as well.)
The result was the creation of a free-market free-for-all of banks approving home mortgages to people who clearly couldn't afford to repay them if real-estate values stopped rising. It also spurred investment banks to buy and sell packages of mortgages after they had convinced themselves that by "spreading the risk," bad loans could become less-bad loans. Then they bought insurance contracts from gargantuan insurance companies like AIG to spread the risk even further. Investors banked on the fact that if real-estate values stopped rising (impossible!), and more and more people defaulted on their mortgages, Fannie and Freddie would pick up the tab. And, if Fannie and Freddie went down, there would be -- The-Ultimate-Bearer-Of-All-Risks -- the lowly taxpayers.
Now I know what former Sen. Gary Hart meant when he told an audience of wealthy Republican businessmen during his 1984 presidential campaign, "I know why you are conservatives -- you favor private enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich."
And the boos keep coming, from Krugman, from Roger Cohen, and from Bill Kristol, who advises John McCain to flip-flop again and oppose the bailout. Personally, I'd give the same advice to Barack Obama...
"Enough is enough! We're going to put an end to greed!" -- John McCain 9/17/08
It's inspiring to know that John McCain has a plan to end greed. I just hope it doesn't distract him from his mission to defeat evil. Either way, it has to kick the shit out of whatever Barack Obama's got on the docket, with his empty words and pie-in-the-sky promises.
America's choice is clear. Barack Obama, a messianic egomaniac who thinks he's, like, our savior or something, or John McCain, who will defeat evil and put an end to greed.
John McCain will not only take on special interests and Washington insiders, he'll fundamentally alter human nature. And without raising taxes, either. He'll lead us to a sort of martial nirvana where all other emotions are replaced with patriotism, and turn the United States into a shining, selfless, bipartisan cross between heaven and Sparta.
Or maybe he's just a desperate shell of a man, babbling glorp.
If Reverend Wright went around shouting stuff like "We're going to put an end to greed!" people would start thinking he was some kind of fruitcake.
Meanwhile, Brave New Films raises the quite serious question of whether the mainstream media is covering for a man in age-related mental decline...
It's a question that should be answer. His bizarre memory lapses, including forgetting things he himself recently said, or did, votes he's cast, positions he's held, and his odd clinging to his young running mate in order to generate enthusiasm, and the fact that many people believe he didn't even pick Sarah Palin, but rather is being handled, completely, by the Rove team around him.
The media has in its history, covered up the failing health of at least three presidents: FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan. Could they be doing it again for John McCain? The American people deserve to know whether his seeming endless stream of gaffes are the result of mental deterioration, or outright duplicity and desperation. Either way, this man is clearly not fit to be president -- not just of a company, Carly Fiorina -- but of the U.S.
I heart Hagel: Sarah Palin edition. Plus: Quien es Senior Zapatero?
The man whom I still believe would have been a fantastic veep for Barack Obama (my totally platonic love for Joe Biden aside,) hits the nail on the head once again, only this time, the nail has a bouffant and can see Russia from her house...
WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska on Wednesday became the nation's most prominent Republican officeholder to publicly question whether Sarah Palin has the experience to serve as president.
"She doesn't have any foreign policy credentials," Hagel said in an interview. "You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don't know what you can say. You can't say anything."
Palin was elected governor of Alaska in 2006 and before that was the mayor of a small town.
Democrats have raised questions about Palin since Sen. John McCain picked her as his vice presidential running mate. Most national Republican officeholders have rallied to Palin's candidacy.
Palin has cited the proximity of Alaska to Russia as evidence of her international experience.
Hagel scoffed at that notion.
"I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" he said. "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."
Late Wednesday night, news made its way from the other side of the Atlantic that John McCain, in an interview with a Spanish outlet, had made a series of bizarre responses to a question regarding that country's prime minister.
"Would you be willing to meet with the head of our government, Mr. Zapatero?" the questioner asked, in an exchange now being reported by several Spanish outlets.
McCain proceeded to launch into what appeared to be a boilerplate declaration about Mexico and Latin America -- but not Spain -- pressing the need to stand up to world leaders who want to harm America.
"I will meet with those leaders who are our friends and who want to work with us cooperatively," according to one translation. The reporter repeated the question two more times, apparently trying to clarify, but McCain referred again to Latin America.
Finally, the questioner said, "Okay, but I'm talking about Europe - the president of Spain, would you meet with him?" The Senator offered only a slight variance to his initial comment. "I will reunite with any leader that has the same principles and philosophy that we do: human rights, democracy, and liberty. And I will confront those that don't [have them]."
The implication seemed fairly clear: McCain was refusing to commit to meet with Zapatero, the "socialist" party leader, whose country is a member of NATO and intricately involved in many of America's global financial and national security objectives.
Already, several explanations are being offered to explain McCain's statements. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo opined: "The great majority [of those who have weighed in] appear to think the McCain was simply confused and didn't know who Zapatero was -- something you might bone up on if you were about to do an interview with the Spanish press. The assumption seems to be that since he'd already been asked about Castro and Chavez that McCain assumed Zapatero must be some other Latin American bad guy. A small minority though think that McCain is simply committed to an anti-Spanish foreign policy since he's still angry about Spain pulling it's troops out of Iraq."
Every so often, a member of the "conservative movement" offers us a clarifying moment, that illustrates the fundamental differences between the values and ideas of the two major political parties. (Phil Gramm declaring Americans "whiners" for not appreciating how well the economy is doing ... for rich people like him; John "seven homes" McCain declaring that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," while Rome is literally burning all around him, being just two examples.) This morning on "Morning Joe," CNBC host, GOP booster, laissez-faire economics guru and John McCain sympatico Larry Kudlow, offered up such a moment.
Asked to explain the current crisis on Wall Street and Main Street, Kudlow declared that it's not the fault of the investment banks and hedge fund guys who packaged, bought and sold subprime mortgages for sport and profit, driving up demand for bad loans and incentivizing shady lending, or even the banks themselves, and their coterie of crooked appraisers and greedy mortgage brokers. It wasn't the Republican Congresses who systematically stripped the system of regualtions, thanks in large part to John McCain's buddy Phil Gramm. It wasn't the speculators or the flippers buying second, third, and even fourth homes and condos, or the price-gouging builders raising prices $30,000 a month here in Florida, or the greedy developers and brokers pushing home ownership with "no money down" as the latest fashion trend, or the combined speculative market that juiced up of home values beyond all reason. Nope. Those people are well off, and therefore they're better than you.
No, my friends, it turns out our current economic crisis, led by the massive mortgage meltdown, is the fault of liberals, who literally forced banks to lend mortgage money to poor people so they could assuage their "liberal guilt," and of course, it's also the fault of those icky, horrible poor people themselves. How dare they want to live like the rest of us! Why, they're POOR! ... and that's supposed to mean something in America!
Never mind that percentage-wise, home ownership among the poor is literally negligible, and that a huge part of the housing crisis is the LACK of affordable homes for people with little income, or that the majority of these 3-bedroom, $500,000 homes that are really worth $250,000 are being sold not to the poor, but to the middle class, often at teaser rates that mean their mortages literally can double after six or seven years.
Forget all that, and listen to Larry. He knows that it really was those bloody awful poor people, and the whimpering liberals who pamper them, at the expense of the downtrodden, helpless banks.
After a few minutes of this, Joe Scarborough was literally dumbstruck.
"Okay, so you're saying it's the poor people's fault," he deadpanned. Kudlow sputtered, but he had already said too much.
Going into the break, Scarborough sneered that coming up in the next segment, they'd explain how poor people were behind the JFK assassination, too.
Update: An astute commenter at TPM finds this link that delves into the role the SEC's lax oversight played in bringing us to the brink. An excerpt:
As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years -- as well as the massive current unwind
Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.
You read that right -- the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1.
Instead, the 2004 exemption -- given only to 5 firms -- allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.
Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won't be surprised to learn that they were Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.
As Mr. Pickard points out that "The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up."
So while the SEC runs around reinstating short selling rules, and clueless pension fund managers mindlessly point to the wrong issue, we learn that it was the SEC who was in large part responsible for the reckless leverage that led to the current crisis.
A Huffpo commenter caught this one, from way back on September 6th, before AIG and WaMu went in the drink. It was the 11th bank failure in the U.S.: Nevada's Silver State bank... From the AP:
Nevada State Bank of Las Vegas will take over the insured deposits of Silver State -- which had $2 billion in assets and $1.7 billion in deposits at the end of June. AP reports that "[Silver State's] branches will reopen Monday as offices of Nevada State Bank in Nevada and National Bank of Arizona in Arizona."
"John McCain's son, Andrew," who is also CFO of his mom's beer distributorship, "sat on the boards of Silver State Bank and of its parent, Silver State Bancorp, starting in February but resigned in July citing 'personal reasons.' Andrew McCain also was a member of the bank's audit committee, responsible for oversight of the company's accounting," according to AP.
Taxpayers got off relatively cheaply bailing out Andrew's former colleagues. The failure -- which was caused by "poor-quality loans primarily related to real estate development" -- will cost the FDIC deposit insurance fund between "$450 million [and] $550 million
Andrew is McCain's adopted son from his first marriage, btw. According to The Street:
Andrew McCain, the adopted son of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, was on Silver State's board for five months before he stepped down in July.
As of June 30, Silver State had total assets of $2 billion and deposits of $1.7 billion. Nevada State Bank agreed to purchase the insured deposits for a premium of 1.3%. At the time of the bank's closing, there were approximately $20 million in uninsured deposits held in roughly 500 accounts that potentially exceeded the insurance limits.
Silver State also had around $700 million in brokered deposits that weren't included in the takeover. The FDIC will pay the brokers directly for the amount of their insured funds.
No wonder the FDIC is running out of cash...
So why does this sound so familiar? Maybe because Republicans have been running this scam for decades. There's Jebbie and Neil Bush:
Between 1981 and 1989, when George Bush finally announced that there was a Savings and Loan Crisis to the world, the Reagan/Bush administration worked to cover up Savings and Loan problems by reducing the number and depth of examinations required of S&Ls as well as attacking political opponents who were sounding early alarms about the S&L industry. Industry insiders were aware of significant S&L problems as early 1986 that they felt would require a bailout. This information was kept from the media until after Bush had won the 1988 elections.
Jeb Bush defaulted on a $4.56 million loan from Broward Federal Savings in Sunrise, Florida. After federal regulators closed the S&L, the office building that Jeb used the $4.56 million to finance was reappraised by the regulators at $500,000, which Bush and his partners paid. The taxpayers had to pay back the remaining 4 million plus dollars.
Neil Bush was the most widely targeted member of the Bush family by the press in the S&L scandal. Neil became director of Silverado Savings and Loan at the age of 30 in 1985. Three years later the institution was belly up at a cost of $1.6 billion to tax payers to bail out.
The basic actions of Neil Bush in the S&L scandal are as follows:
Neil received a $100,000 "loan" from Ken Good, of Good International, with no obligation to pay any of the money back.
Good was a large shareholder in JNB Explorations, Neil Bush's oil-exploration company.
Neil failed to disclose this conflict-of-interest when loans were given to Good from Silverado, because the money was to be used in joint venture with his own JNB. This was in essence giving himself a loan from Silverado through a third party.
Neil then helped Silverado S&L approve Good International for a $900,000 line of credit.
Good defaulted on a total $32 million in loans from Silverado.
During this time Neil Bush did not disclose that $3 million of the $32 million that Good was defaulting on was actually for investment in JNB, his own company.
Good subsequently raised Bush's JNB salary from $75,000 to $125,000 and granted him a $22,500 bonus.
Neil Bush maintained that he did not see how this constituted a conflict of interest.
Neil approved $106 million in Silverado loans to another JNB investor, Bill Walters.
Neil also never formally disclosed his relationship with Walters and Walters also defaulted on his loans, all $106 million of them.
Neil Bush was charged with criminal wrongdoing in the case and ended up paying $50,000 to settle out of court. The chief of Silverado S&L was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for pleading guilty to $8.7 million in theft. (Keep in mind that you can get more jail time for holding up a gas station for $50.)
And of course, there's the gold standard of S&L scams, featuring none other than Andrew's dad, John McCain, who got caught up in a little thing called the "Keating Five":
It all started in March 1987. Charles H Keating Jr., the flamboyant developer and anti-porn crusader, needed help. The government was poised to seize Lincoln Savings and Loan, a freewheeling subsidiary of Keating's American Continental Corp.
As federal auditors crawled all over Lincoln, Keating was not content to wait and hope for the best. He'd spread a lot of money around Washington, and it was time to call in his chits.
One of his first stops was Sen. Dennis DeConcini. The Arizona lawmaker was one of Keating's most loyal friends in Congress, and for good reason. Keating had given thousands of dollars to DeConcini's campaigns. At one point, DeConcini even pushed Keating for ambassador to the Bahamas, where Keating owned a luxurious vacation home.
Now Keating had a job for DeConcini. He wanted him to organize a meeting with the regulators. The message: Get off Lincoln's back. Eventually, DeConcini would set up a meeting between five senators and the regulators. One of them was John McCain.
McCain knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain was the speaker.
After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier, and that he greatly respected McCain's war record. He met McCain's wife and family. The two men became friends.
Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. John McCain was no exception.
In 1982, during McCain's first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.
In 1983, during McCain's second House race, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for McCain, though he had no serious competition and coasted into his second term. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000.
By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.
McCain had also carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts like Lincoln.
Despite his history with Keating, McCain was hesitant about intervening. At that point, he had been in the Senate only three months. DeConcini wanted McCain to fly to San Francisco with him and talk to the regulators. McCain refused.
Keating would not be dissuaded.
On March 24 at 9:30 a.m., Keating went to DeConcini's office and asked him if the meeting with the regulators was on. DeConcini told Keating that McCain was nervous.
''McCain's a wimp,'' Keating replied, according to the book Trust Me, by Michael Binstein and Charles Bowden. ''We'll go talk to him.''
Keating had other business on the Hill and did not reach McCain's office until 1:30. A DeConcini staffer had already told McCain about the wimp comment.
When he arrived, Keating presented McCain with a laundry list of demands for the regulators.
McCain told Keating that he would attend the meeting and find out whether Keating was getting treated fairly, but that was all.
''Keating gave me the clear impression that he expected me to do more,'' McCain said later. ''He had several specific requests.''
When Keating questioned his courage, McCain invoked his POW experience. He told Keating that he didn't spend 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton to be called a coward.
The two argued, then Keating stormed out.
Despite the dust-up, McCain attended not one but two meetings with the regulators. McCain later explained that he thought it was the right thing to do, because Keating was a constituent.
McCain would live to regret it.
(For a full airing of McCain's cynicism in the 1980s version of Teapot Dome, click here.)
And there are also the financial ties between Keating and one Cindy Hensley McCain, something Mac apparently doesn't like being asked about...
In spinning his side of the Keating story, McCain adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent.
Keating was far more than a constituent to McCain, however.
On Oct. 8, 1989, The Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.
...When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. When reporters first called him, he was furious. Caught out in the open, the former fighter pilot let go with a barrage of cover fire. Sen. Hothead came out in all his glory.
''You're a liar,''' McCain snapped Sept. 29 when a Republic reporter asked him about business ties between his wife and Keating.
''That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot,'' McCain said later in the same conversation. ''You do understand English, don't you?''
He also belittled the reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating.
''It's up to you to find that out, kids.''
And then he played the POW card.
''Even the Vietnamese didn't question my ethics,'' McCain said.
The paper ran the story a few days later. At a news conference, McCain was a changed man. He stood calmly for 90 minutes and answered every question.
The Senate Ethics Committee will seek a detailed study of a real estate partnership involving developer Charles Keating Jr. and the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to Senate sources.
Involved is an investment by Cindy McCain and her father, James Hensley, in a $15-million Phoenix, Ariz., shopping center. The $359,000 investment, made through a Hensley company subsidiary in which Cindy McCain had 41 percent ownership and her father 51 percent, makes them the largest single investors in the project originally financed, built and managed by Keating. The investment by the senator's relatives was made in 1986 after Keating was already in a bitter feud with federal regulators alarmed over his operation of Lincoln Savings and Loan.
And that's some straight talk for you, my friends.
The financial crisis continues to ripple across the globe this morning, from Moscow to London to New York City. Stocks took a dive this morning on Wall Street, even after the Fed agreed to bail out AIG, the nation's largest insurance company. The FDIC -- you know, the one that insures the money you have in the bank, up to $100,000? It's running short of cash, meaning that, in the AP's words, "the taxpayer may be the lender of last resort."
Meanwhile, maybe Sarah Palin can get on this right away: Russia is threatening to seize part of the oil-rich Arctic. Yep. Seize it.
And last but not least, no, Gerald Warner, it's not just you...
Related question: would Carly Fiorina say that having invented its main product, John McCain would at least be qualified to run Research in Motion, the Canadian company that "claims" to hold the patent on Blackberries? And would he be more -- or less -- qualified to run the country company if he were Canadian?
...no, seriously, McCain's plan to fix the global economic meltdown is a commission ... just like the one that looked into 9/11 years later. So that's it then. John McCain is going to fight corporate greed with old-man style needling of those jerks on Wall Street, a few pokes in the gut to his "friends" on Capitol Hill who are REALLY gonna listen to him once he's in the White House ... plus the unseen power of bloated bureaucracy! ABC News, broadcast friend of Republicans everwhere? Your turn:
An angry Sen. John McCain indicated today that as president he would launch a 9/11-commission style investigation into what he called "the old-boy network and Washington corruption" that created the current Wall Street crisis and has endangered peoples' savings and retirement funds.
... uh oh... it's never good when the "drive by media" uses the words "angry" and "McCain" in the first sentence...
McCain's stance on the economy has been under attack from Democrats since he released an ad Monday that said the economy was in crisis, but later gave a speech saying the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." He defended himself Tuesday and laced into a denunciation of corporate greed.
"I said the fundamental of our economy is the American worker. I know that the American worker is the strongest, the best, and most productive and most innovative," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC's Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
"They've been betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess -- corruption and excess that has damaged them and their futures," he added.
McCain said he wants an inquiry into what led to the current mess, though he did not offer details.
"We're going to need a '9/11 Commission' to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed," he said. "I warned two years ago that this situation was deteriorating and unacceptable. And the old-boy network and the corruption in Washington is directly involved, and one of the causes of this financial crisis that we're in today. And I know how to fix it, and I know how to get things done."
"Americans are hurting right now, and there's going to be a ripple effect of this financial crisis because of the greed and corruption and excess, and Wall Street treated the American economy like a casino," he continued. "And we can fix it, and we've got to keep people in their homes."
So ... you're going to have the federal government root around into the finances and payrolls of private companies, Mr. Conservative? Hm?
This crisis seems to be bringing out the worst in John McCain. He is at his histrionic, tisk-tisking apex, railing against Wall Street, railing against Congress (which he'd like you to forget he's a part of, and has been for a quarter century,) and just generally sticking it to all the jerks he's better than. That's not change we can believe in... that's an angry Grandpa!
Today, the commission released its final report calling for the federal government to immediately withdraw from Wall Street, the home mortgage market and “other sectors where government intervention has undercut the principles of free-market capitalism.”
The commission, which convened at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania, issued its recommendations before the waitress brought out the dessert menu, and it called on presidential candidates from both major parties get behind its agenda of common-sense reforms.
According to Scrappleface's crack...erbarrel reporting, the commission members include:
... a truck driver, a Wal-Mart People Greeter, a self-described public school “cafeteria lady” and “that old guy who’s always sitting by himself at Cracker Barrel”...
Carly Fiorina proved again today why she isn't the woman standing next to John McCain on the stump: she has a truth tic. This time, it's not about Viagra. This time, she slips a little nugget into her Palin support schtick, saying Sarah couldn't run HP:
Not that the shareholders thought Carly was fit to run the company either, but... it probably wasn't "on message."
Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor, take it away:
"If John McCain’s top economic advisor doesn’t think he can run a corporation, how on Earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis? Apparently even the people who run his campaign agree that the economy is an issue John McCain doesn’t understand as well as he should."
If Team Obama is smart, the economic meltdown of the United States, and John McCain's clear lack of understanding of it, will become the cudgel they beat Grandpa over the head with from now until election day.
The WaPo's Richard Cohen unloads on John McCain in an op-ed today:
McCain has turned ugly. His dishonesty would be unacceptable in any politician, but McCain has always set his own bar higher than most. He has contempt for most of his colleagues for that very reason: They lie. He tells the truth. He internalizes the code of the McCains -- his grandfather, his father: both admirals of the shining sea. He serves his country differently, that's all -- but just as honorably. No more, though.
I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty. Those doing the accusing usually attributed my feelings to McCain being accessible. This is the journalist-as-puppy school of thought: Give us a treat, and we will leap into a politician's lap.
Not so. What impressed me most about McCain was the effect he had on his audiences, particularly young people. When he talked about service to a cause greater than oneself, he struck a chord. He expressed his message in words, but he packaged it in the McCain story -- that man, beaten to a pulp, who chose honor over freedom. This had nothing to do with access. It had to do with integrity.
McCain has soiled all that. His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir -- the person in whose hands he would leave the country -- is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not.
...maybe [he] thinks that if he wins the election, he can -- as he did in South Carolina -- renounce who he was and what he did and resume his old persona. It won't work. Karl Marx got one thing right -- what he said about history repeating itself. Once is tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both.
Of course, the right will simply dismiss Cohen and slam him for quoting Karl Marx, (surprise, folks, Cohen is a conservative...) but tragically, Cohen is right. John McCain has sold himself to the right wing of his party just so that he can hear the word "president" in front of his name, even for a year or two. He is a pitiful man. And a tragic one. And the idea that half this country thinks he should be president says as much about us as it does about him.
I don't know if I agree with E.J. Dionne about the innate intelligence of the American voter, but here you go:
All of a sudden, the culture war seems entirely beside the point, an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic turmoil. What politicians actually believe about the economy, what fixes they propose, whether they side with the wealthy few or the hurting many -- these become the stuff of elections, the reasons behind people's votes.
And nothing more exposes the hypocrisy of financial elites riding the coattails of those who revere small-town religious values than a downturn that highlights the vast gulf in power between the two key components of the conservative coalition. Even cultural conservatives will start to notice that McCain's tax policies are geared toward the wealthy investing class and Obama's toward the paycheck crowd. Even the most ardent friends of business have begun to argue that a re-engagement with sensible regulation is essential to restoring capitalism's health.
For some time, McCain's strategists figured they could deflect attention from the big issues by turning Palin into a country-and-western celebrity and launching so many ill-founded attacks on Obama that the truth would never catch up. The McCain strategists' approach reflected a low opinion of average voters, and some Obama supporters began worrying that their opinion might be right.
But those so-called average voters understand the difference between low- and high-stakes elections. They develop a reasonably good sense of who is telling the truth and who is not. And though it sometimes takes a while -- and a shock like this week's economic news -- these voters almost always turn on politicians who manipulate cultural symbols as a way to escape the consequences of their policies.
We'll see if he's right. I surely hope he is. But I suspect that even in the face of clear evidence that the GOP, McCain's party (whether he wants to admit it these days or not ...) is, and will continue to, pursue policies that benefit the monied elite at their expense, many lower-middle and middle class white voters, especially in the industrial heartland and certainly in the south, will continue to vote social issues and "culture," especially with a black man on the "European" ticket. These voters don't get, or simply don't care, what Republican party policies do to them, or to their finances, because they culturally ignore government. What they want is a president who "shares their values," and with whom they are personally comfortable. After that, the government can do its worst. They just keep trodding on. That, unfortunately, is America -- or at least a good 50 percent of it.
... especially since a sizable share of the American public seems prepared to return the same people to power who got us into this mess, just so they can see their "values" reflected in the white woman ... I mean, "house..."
Why do the neocons love John McCain? Because he was always one of them, long before George W. Bush knew where to find Iraq on a map. Bill Kristol and the other neocons were McCainiacs back in 2000, before most of us were aware of their existence. They jumped to Dubya only after McCain lost South Carolina, and seemed doomed to lose the primary. Through Dick Cheney, they took over Bush's presidency, shaping it into what Palin hasn't yet figured out: the Bush doctrine. Now, via the HuffPo and the London Telegraph, word that it is happening again: the neocon crowd is grooming Sarah Palin to be their new George W. Bush...
Two more bank failures on Wall Street, as Lehman Bros. files for Chapter 11, and Merryl Lynch is sold under duress, to Bank of America. The feds will let Lehman fail, opting not to go for yet another bailout.
What will Wall Street and the City of London look like, when the smoke clears?
The collapse of Lehman Brothers and the rescue of Merrill Lynch at the weekend do not mark the end of the financial crisis. There may still be more failures to come - former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, hardly known for his pessimism, suspects there will be.
For one thing, power will no longer rest with the great Wall Street investment banks, which once pulled the levers of corporate America, even though their financial firepower was dwarfed by the commercial banks'.
Only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley remain forces to be reckoned with, now that Lehman is gone and Merrill and Bear Stearns subsumed into much larger entities,
Does that matter? In practical terms, not really: their functions - trading and underwriting debt and equity, advising companies on mergers - are already provided by big global banks such as Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Barclays.
The US low-tax zealot, Grover Norquist, is famous for wanting to "shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub". Still alive, he is not turning in his grave, but his idea has been well and truly buried - and not by the Democrats he hates; they have been tongue-tied on the credit crisis.
It is Wall Street, the paradigm of "red in tooth and claw" capitalism, that has turned to government subsidy on an unprecedented scale.
Low, ideally non-existent, taxes may be very desirable, but when free-market principles came into conflict with the survival of business as we know it, priorities were clear. The US Federal government's full faith and credit - in other words, the resources of American taxpayers - should be urgently deployed to preserve as much as possible of the financial industry.
Luckily for Wall Street, government was still too big to fit in that bathtub - and proved only too willing to take up the challenge.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was first with a statement, at 6:17 a.m. Eastern: “The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) followed at 8:01 a.m.: “The McCain-Palin Administration will replace the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street. We will rebuild confidence in our markets and restore our leadership in the financial world."
McCain was first with a TV ad, called "Crisis", vowing: "Our economy in crisis. Only proven reformers John McCain and Sarah Palin can fix it. Tougher rules on Wall Street to protect your life savings. No special interest giveaways. Lower taxes to create new jobs. Offshore drilling to reduce gas prices."
If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is: The candidates are repackaging their normal stump rhetoric to deal with an economic earthquake that could constrict voters’ ability to get loans, and is already reshuffling the biggest names in American finance.
Anything new to offer, Grandpa?
I await the Obama ad, which I assume is forthcoming ... (eyes rolling...) eventually...
If I had a 527 ... John McCain adopts Tucker Eskew
The latest installment, complete with snappy dance track...
Update: the first McCain "If I had a 527" spot is on the move on Youtube. Thanks for all the great feedback and suggestions. Rather than pull a re-edit, to slow down the text or get it under :60, I plan to break the ad down into smaller spots, including the one above, over the next week. Keep the feedback coming, and stay tuned for updates on what we might be doing
I'll be on WPBT (Channel 2 or 13, if you're in South Florida) talking about the ouster of Miami-Dade School Superintendent Rudy Crew. The show airs tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. My South Florida Times story is here.
I've got to start TiVo-ing this show again. First, here's John McCain explaining to Whoopi ... or not explaining ... how a judge's strict interpretation of the Constitution won't put her back in chains:
And in this clip, Barbara Walters attempts to get McCain to explain just what The Greatest Vice President in U.S. History (no laughing...!) would reform in Washington:
By the way, have I said that Elizabeth Hasselbach is an idiot today?
The full interview part one, in which he repeats his "Obama's to blame for me sliming him because he wouldn't do my town halls" meme, part two, and part three, in which Elizabeth Hasselbach sucks up to Cindy "Red" McCain.
My brother was staying with us here in Florida in 2001. I had slept in, not having to go in to work at the local NBC affiliate that morning. All of a sudden, I heard him yell, "oh, shit!" When I ran downstairs, I saw plumes of smoke billowing from the first Tower. "A plane just hit the building!" he said. My husband and I, who had just moved to Florida from New York four years earlier, watched slack-jawed. Then the second plane hit.
Not too long afterward, the Pentagon was hit.
I started getting dressed. I knew I'd have to go in to work.
When the Twin Towers fell ... let's just say I can still the anvil on my chest, every time I think about it. MSNBC is replaying their coverage of that day. I'm not watching. I can't watch.
The only time I can recall crying in public was at work, trying to get the story online, and weeks later, when the Harlem Boys Choir sung "we are not afraid," at the first 9/11 memorial. I could cry now, just thinking about it. All those people. Those poor people. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be trapped inside those buildings, trying to decide how you want to die -- by jumping, or by smoke inhalation, or fire. Those poor firefighters and police. My god.
I just switched off CNN's coverage, because Donald Rumsfeld is giving a speech at the memorial in Washington. I don't want to hear a word from any member of the criminal gang masquerading as the current administration. Incompetent. Uncaring. Useless. "Dead or alive" my ass. And then to use 9/11 to get the neocons their Iraq war. Disgraceful. Disgusting. And that goes for their two biggest Senate cheerleaders, Joe Lieberman and John McCain, too. I'll just keep the TV off today.
Andrew Sullivan, who is probably the most sober, intelligent conservative left on the national scene (most of the others are hacks, and the other really good ones are unknown to the public...) sums up the McCain campaign's biggest victim: John McCain's honor:
For me, this surreal moment - like the entire surrealism of the past ten days - is not really about Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or pigs or fish or lipstick. It's about John McCain. The one thing I always thought I knew about him is that he is a decent and honest person. When he knows, as every sane person must, that Obama did not in any conceivable sense mean that Sarah Palin is a pig, what did he do? Did he come out and say so and end this charade? Or did he acquiesce in and thereby enable the mindless Rovianism that is now the core feature of his campaign?
So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. ...
Read the whole thing. And what's even more bizarre about McCain's desperate decision to seize the presidency by any means necessary, is that he is doing so while proclaiming his ability to reach across the aisle. Mr. McCain, it's usually not a good idea to throw lighter fluid and lit matches into the aisle first.
Meanwhile, John McCain revives the "son, if you'd only have let me drag YOU around the country to my nifty town hall meetings so I could hear the adulation of large crowds before I die, I wouldn't have had to get the Moose Lady to drag around ... and maybe I wouldn't have to have my boys rough you up so fearsome..."
Meanwhile, the campaigns take a break today to observe the eight year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Barack Obama and John McCain are in New York for the commemoration, and a town hall about ... wait for it ... "service." I wonder if McCain will discuss the use of sleazy politics in the service of ambition...
As the McCain campaign points out, both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have requested earmarks and voted for earmarks. Neither is anything close to pure on this issue. But neither Democrat is claiming otherwise. They aren’t trying to deny reality. Nor are they trying to construct their entire political identity on that falsehood.
Palin — with the full backing and support of the McCain campaign — is doing herself longterm political damage with this ploy. The American people are watching her repeatedly lie to them, day after day, and watching her do so with no apparent compunction. This is her introduction to the national scene; this is when her image is being cemented into the public mind.
And her image is increasingly that of a guiltless liar.
Even the media can't take it anymore. From Joe Klein:
Back in 2000, after John McCain lost his mostly honorable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he went about apologizing to journalists--including me--for his most obvious mis-step: his support for keeping the confederate flag on the state house.
Now he is responsible for one of the sleaziest ads I've ever seen in presidential politics, so sleazy that I won't abet its spread by linking to it, but here's the McClatchy fact check.
I just can't wait for the moment when John McCain--contrite and suddenly honorable again in victory or defeat--talks about how things got a little out of control in the passion of the moment. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.
More on John McCain's sleaziest ... campaign ... ever...
...for that "lipstick on a pig" remark, about which the Murdoch press is now blatantly lying, I quit. I will call the campaign and demand my donation money back, stop blogging about the campaign, stop paying attention to the election, and the next Obama volunteer I see, I will punch them in the face. Okay, maybe not with the punching...
Team Obama should ignore the high school newspaper press corps -- you know what? That's unfair to high school newspapers -- they should ignore the preening, lazy, headline-happy press corps, and have the candidate, not a surrogate, not a spokesman, but Barack himself, walk out to a group of reporters and their microphones, and say something like this:
"Enough. I'm not going to be lectured on sexism by a man who refused to support a bill that would guarantee equal pay for women.
I'm not going to be lectured on language by a man who jokes about a woman getting raped, who ridiculed Hillary Clinton's then-teenage daughter for her looks, and whose temperament is questioned, even by members of his own party.
And I'm not going to get down into the mud with a once honorable man, who is now running the most dishonorable campaign since I've been involved in politics.
The American people want to hear about issues, not about sleaze. And yet, John McCain, who lately you never see by himself, interestingly enough, is running an ad, right now, that accuses me, a father of two young girls, of wanting sex ed taught to kindegartners. Lies. Damned lies. And John McCain knows they're lies. He's adopted the same Karl Rove smear tactics, using the same people, including Karl Rove himself, that smeared him in 2000. And he's hiding behind his running mate to play the gender card, when throughout his quarter century in Washington, he can't name one thing -- not one thing -- that he's done to demonstrate that he cares about women in this country.
If John McCain wants to debate me about sexism, he should let Sarah Palin do her job as his vice presidential nominee, which I'm quite sure she's capable of doing, unhitch himself from her celebrity status, which is the only thing carrying him in this campaign now, and come talk to me one on one. Until then, Maybe John should look up 'honor' in one of his books. He might need a refresher course."
And then he should turn around, and walk the hell off camera.
What Obama needs right now, to cut through the noise and foolishness of this campaign, is a moment of genuine anger, emotion, and outrage. He's long overdue. He needs to, as they say in the neighborhood, "get gully" with McCain. Call the geezer on the carpet, man to man. That would shore him up with men, whom he's already doing better with, according to the new NBC/WSJ poll, thanks to the McCain camp's overplaying the "I am woman, hear me roar" card. And it would help him with women, myself included, who want to see that the professor can knuckle up.
Call that press conference, Barack. Do it today. By yourself, with no array of women surrogates standing behind you. Just you. If John McCain respods by going bat crap crazy, you win. Hit him on temperament. If his press flaks issue yet another "noun, verb and POW" statement knocking you, have your press team issue one that says "there you go again." If he says, "I'll tell you what I've done for women, I named Sarah Palin as my vice president!" Your female surrogates hit the talk circuit and ask, "is John McCain saying he only picked Sarah Palin because she's a woman, and not because of her qualifications to be president?"
You'll lead every newscast, and force the press corps to ask McCain to respond to your charges against him, one day before he has to stand next to you at that 9/11 ceremony. Oh yeah, his convention exploited that tragedy, too.
UPDATE: Drudge has a headline that indicates Obama may be reading my mind...
Five things the left doesn't understand about 'conservatives'
Whether you're talking about "fiscons," who want tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts! ... and the elimination of social spending; "socons," social conservatives who care mostly about abortion, stem cell research (read "abortion,") teaching the Bible's precepts in school instead of wicked "science," and a curious obsession with gays; or "neocons," whose main goal is to go to war with every country whose name starts with a vowel but isn't Israel -- people on the left just don't understand who they're dealing with. Liberals continue to think they can reason with or bring right wingers around, when in fact, they can't. Not ever. There is too stark a difference between the core beliefs of "red state" and "blue state" people, to bridge the divide.
In the end, what liberals, progressives, Democrats, whatever you want to call them, don't understand about the right can be summed up in 5 points:
1) Conservatives don't care about public policy. They care about social policy. The impact of their plans on the economy, working men and women, the middle class, families, whatever, is irrelevant to them. They care about regulating behavior to make it conform to Biblical law (or to prevent outbursts of dissent, too much free speech, etc.) and they care about winning elections and holding onto power. Public policy is for Democrats. 2) Conservatives don't care about governing. They hate government, except to the extent that it provides people aligned with them with lucrative contracts and/or cushy jobs. Talk to any black Republican for instance, and of the first two reasons they'll give you for why they became Republicans, one will be "contracts." (The other will be either "tax cuts" or "school vouchers." Somewhere down the road, the really creative ones will throw out "Abraham Lincoln." Other than that, all conservatives really care about is winning elections and holding onto power (so that they can get more lucrative contracts and cushy jobs.)
3) Conservatives could care less if what their leaders are saying is true or not. It sounds true enough to them on talk radio and Fox News, so what's it to you? Modern conservatism has a strong authoritarian streak, so whatever the leadership says is gospel, and the followers' only job is to repeat the "truths," ridicule dissenters, and do everything possible to ensure that the leadership wins elections and holds onto power.
4) Conservatives don't give a flying rat's backside about the future. Many of them believe we're in the end-times anyway, so who cares if global warming shrinks the ice caps, or the Supreme Court reinstates the Salem Witch Trials or permits evangelical gun owners to shoot pro-choicers on sight. The world is disposable and meant for mankind to use, enjoy, and profit from. That's why the conservative response to global warming is denial, snidery, and bigger SUVs.
5) Conservatives don't care about substance. In fact, substance, detail and subtlety are seen as "elite" and effeminate. What the right cares about is symbolism, and the power of symbolism, combined with aggressive messaging, sensory bombardment (and when necessary, dirty tricks,) to help them win elections and hold onto power. Symbolism is why some women, including some who supported Hillary feel compelled to support Sarah Palin. Symbolism is the sum and total of the McCain-Palin campaign. It's not about policy, (i.e., what the Moose Mavericks might actually DO.) it's about making their followers feel good, vindicated and exhilarated about helping the powerful interests behind the GOP to ... wait for it ... win elections, and hold onto power. (On the flip side, Barack Obama has chosen not to use the symbolism of his run as the first black man to vie seriously for the presidency, for fear it would alienate white voters. That hasn't stopped some more open bigots on the right from calling him "uppity" for thinking himself above his station, but it tells you something the right may not know about the left: liberals hate symbolism.)
Most of all, conservatives hate everyone who isn't conservative. For all their self-pity over the "angry left's" demonization of all things Bush, the right is driven more by their hatreds than by their ideas (which can pretty much be boiled down to tax elimination (cuts are for bitches,) abolishing public programs that give their "hard earned money" to "lazy," poor, disabled and old people (though many of them are poor, disabled and old,) privatization to produce maximum wealth for corporations (because they do the trickling down,) deregulation of business and guns, extensive regulation of private behavior (including government surveilance and outlawing of abortion,) and frequent war, to replenish the stock value of war-releated manufaturers while keeping the country focused on fear and jingoism, rather than on the flaws of "conservative" leadership. Just listen to right wing vs. left wing talk radio. Notice how angry the right sounds; how hyper. Scroll down to the posts under any story about Barack Obama, and note the venom. This morning on "Imus," the WaPo's religion writer said the most vicious, frightening emails she gets when she dares to critique Sarah Palin are from professed Christians. And yet, the right delights in styling itself as the victim of left-wing "hatred."
But what the right doesn't understand about the left is that liberals don't necessarily hate conservatives. They just think they're narrow minded, selfish and stupid (a point on which much of the world, sadly, agrees,) and that their beliefs subject America to caricature and ridicule.
John McCain fancies himself a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, leading the "maverick moose party" to acclaim. Actually, he's just a Dick.
Just when you thought they couldn't stoop any lower, John McCain's new friends in the Karl Rove street gang put out an ad that lowers the floor. Thankfully, the Obama team is starting to fight back:
The Obama campaign took its most personal shot ever at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday evening, questioning his honor over a claim in a new TV ad that the Democrat calls "perverse."
The issue was a new McCain advertisement belittling Obama's record on education, and accusing him of supporting sex education for kindergartners.
"Obama's one accomplishment?" the narrator asks. "Legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family."
Bill Burton, Obama's press secretary, responded in a statement: “It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls – a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn't define what honor was. Now we know why."
The shot refers to McCain's testy TIME interview, in which he refused to define "honor," telling reporter Jay Carney to "read it in my books."
The truth is, books aside, John McCain threw his "honor" in the toilet when he hired the same men who slimed him and his wife in 2004, including Tucker "McCain's got a black baby" Eskew, and Karl Rove himself, along with Rove cappo Steve Schmidt, to run his campaign. He tossed his honor in the bin when he decided to run what has to be the most dishonorable campaign since George Herbert Walker Bush unleashed Willie Horton.
I won't even link to the McCain ad. It's too disgraceful to be worth the trouble. (I second this TPM reader's emotions.) But I do hope that Burton's sentiments are put into a Barack Obama television ad, post haste. Offense is a beautiful place to be. As for McCain, you sir, have my complete disrespect.
BTW: the purpose of the McCain ad, it seems to me, is not to shock the general public. This is about reinforcing among evangelicals, the view that Barack Obama is not "wrong on issues," he's evil, anti-Christ-like, and frightening. He's scaring them to the polls. Bet on the fact that there will be more such ads, small ad buys, big press.
I have to admit, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't heard it myself: the "drill here, drill now" ... country music theme song. A precious, precious clip:
CHORUS: Drill here, drill now How ‘bout some oil from our own soil that belongs to us anyhow No more debatin’ we’re tired of waitin’ everybody shout out loud Drill here, drill now
Every time a foreign tanker pulls up to our shore They got us over a barrel while they bleed us a little more And think how much it costs just to bring it all that way And how many American jobs that’d make if we were drillin’ in the USA Oh and God forbid if our oily friends should decide to cut us off We’d be standin’ around with our britches down now listen to me ya’ll
As Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin has done quite well, for Sarah Palin (and Piper and Todd too...)
The media is beginning to round out the so-far glowing profile of Sarah Palin, the savior of humanity according to both the McCain campaign, Pat Buchanan, and much of the me-too media. Now, we're beginning to get a fuller picture of the only thing we have to go on regarding her experience: Alaska, and more to the point, her running of it.
ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.
The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.
Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.
The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.
Um, is Wasila like, the Western White House, or what...? More:
Palin charged the state a per diem for working on Nov. 22, 2007 -- Thanksgiving Day. The reason given, according to the expense report, was the Great Alaska Shootout, an annual NCAA college basketball tournament held in Anchorage.
In separate filings, the state was billed about $25,000 for Palin's daughters' expenses and $19,000 for her husband's.
Flights topped the list for the most expensive items, and the daughter whose bill was the highest was Piper, 7, whose flights cost nearly $11,000, while Willow, 14, claimed about $6,000 and Bristol, 17, accounted for about $3,400.
One event was in New York City in October 2007, when Bristol accompanied the governor to Newsweek's third annual Women and Leadership Conference, toured the New York Stock Exchange and met local officials and business executives. The state paid for three nights in a $707-a-day hotel room. Garnero said the governor's office has the authority to approve hotel stays above $300.
Asked Monday about the official policy on charging for children's travel expenses, Garnero said: "We cover the expenses of anyone who's conducting state business. I can't imagine kids could be doing that."
...The family also charged for flights around the state, including trips to Alaska events such as the start of the Iditarod dog-sled race and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, a contest that Todd Palin won.
Meanwhile, Todd Palin spent $725 to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, for "information gathering and planning meeting with Northern Alberta Institute of Technology," according to an expense report. During the three-day trip, he charged the state $291 for his per diem. A notation said "costs paid by Dept. of Labor." He also billed the state $1,371 for a flight to Washington to attend a National Governors Association meeting with his wife.
Wow, what a fiscal hawk... Todd, I mean. That Sarah's a real spender!
Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn't a journalist and never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative. ...
... Back to reality. Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska's government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.
Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state's unrestricted revenue. On average, three-quarters of the value of a barrel of oil is taken by the state government before that oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaska residents each get a yearly check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1,200 pushed through by Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices. Any sympathy the governor of Alaska expresses for folks in the lower 48 who are suffering from high gas prices or can't afford to heat their homes is strictly crocodile tears.
As if it couldn't support itself, Alaska also ranks No. 1, year after year, in money it sucks in from Washington. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Its ratio of federal spending received to federal taxes paid ranks third among the 50 states, and in the absolute amount it receives from Washington over and above the amount it sends to Washington, Alaska ranks No. 1.
In case you're curious, #1 and #2 are New Mexico and Mississippi, respectively. Bet you won't hear that in one of those "Maverick!" ads... or this:
Under the state constitution, the governor of Alaska has unusually strong powers to shape the state budget. At the Republican Convention, Palin bragged that she had vetoed "nearly $500 million" in state spending during her two years as governor. This amounts to less than 2% of the proposed budget. That's how much this warrior for you, the people, against it, the government, could find in wasteful spending under her control.
Is that a fiscal hawk ... or a fiscal chickenhawk?
On second thought, it may not be "niceness" or weakness, as some frustrated observers (myself included) have assumed as this wearying general election drags on, that may be main problem. It may be overconfidence, and a certain dismissiveness about the racial dynamic in America. Listen to what Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told members of John McCain's traveling circus yesterday:
“There’s a lot of hyperventilating about national polls,” Plouffe said, which wasn’t a surprise since both a CBS News poll and the Gallup daily tracking poll showed McCain taking the lead nationally in the presidential race. “When you look at battleground states, we feel very good about where we are.”
Plouffe argued that McCain has “jettisoned the idea” that this election is about experience with selection of first term governor Sarah Palin on the ticket. McCain is now trying to make the election about change, Plouffe said, and “that’s a debate we’re happy to have.”
So why aren't you having it, man? The Obama campaign hasn't taken the race to McCain YET, and we're 56 days from D-day. Worse, they've allowed the McCain campaign to remain on offense, and to dictate the daily news message, even before the Palin pick. Now let's hear why Plouffe is so confident. Two words: ground game:
Plouffe said the election would boil down to which campaign could appeal to undecided voters in battleground states and who could bring out the highest turnout numbers. “We have a huge ability to grow turnout,” he said. “We have a more credible path to 270 [electoral votes, the number it takes to win] than McCain does.”
Of course, he's right that Team Obama has a superior ground operation. The one here in Florida is something to see, even if it is run by the eternally flat and out-gunned Florida Democratic Party. But what Plouffe is discounting, apparently, is the Republican's trump card, which before the Palin selection, wasn't McCain's to play: evangelicals. They were tepid about McCain until Palin was chosen, but now, they're electrified by the chance to put a woman who speaks in tongues one heart attack away from power (watch for them to begin believing on God for a McCain heart attack if he gets elected...) That means they will get their churchmembers out on election day. Believe that. (And yes, Focus on the Family does operate here in Florida, where we've also got a marriage amendment on the ballot...)
Now, look at what Plouffe said about the impact of race on the cmapaign:
Both campaigns have attempted to take race out of the campaign, and Plouffe rejected the notion of a “Bradley effect” – voters telling pollsters they would vote for a black candidate, but changing their mind in the voting booth. “Swing voters that are up for grabs are not going to factor race into the equation,” he said.
Sorry, but this sounds exactly like the stuff Plouffe said when he addressed supporters at a private event here in Miami early in the primary, when it looked as if Obama wouldn't be able to put Hillary Clinton's campaign away. Of course, at that time, Plouffe's confidence was justified. But as aggressive and skilled at political marketing as they are, the Clintons have nothing on the ruthlessness of the Karl Rove street gang masquerading as the Republican Party. For Plouffe to continue to be as nonchalant about the very real shifting dynamics in this race is, to say the least, troubling. White women are now very much in play for McCain. Evangelical voters are a lock. And the idea that "both campaigns" have pushed aside race is laughable. Hell, the entire subtext of the McCain campaign is, "look at this flower of white, Christian womanhood. Wouldn't you rather have her, and her red-blooded American family, in the White House, instead of Militant Michelle and Mr. 'community organizer,' foreign, elite, undercover Muslim 'Obama'?"
With Palin on the ticket, rural and even suburban white voters, like the ones I grew up around in Colorado, or who I've encountered in Wyoming, Utah (yeah, I'm black, but I've been there), Texas and Florida, now have a cover story for their race-based vote: "we're makin' history by putting a woman in, see?" Many will fall right through that trap door, and never have to admit they rejected Obama because of race. Obama and his team can discount race all they want to. It's there, baby. In a big way. And if he's counting on perennially underperforming black and young voters to neutralize the race factor and bring it home for him, he's in bigger trouble than he knows. (Earth to Obama: some Hispanic voters are gonna deep six you because of race, too...)
Bottom line: as much as I like and respect the Obama team members I know here in Florida, and as hard as I'm rooting for them, Obama's team is way too confident, not nearly aggressive enough, and not even close to consolidating a strong, coherent marketing message.
Back when I first graduated college and was working as a beverage industry analyst in the early 90s, I learned the following lesson about the cola wars: Coke is the de facto cola, all over the world, and the market share leader, because when Pepsi tries to market itself as the de facto cola, the Coca-Cola Company squashes them like a bug. They are aggressive at retail, pushing stores to feature Coke, not Pepsi, displays, they are aggressive advertisers, and ruthless price-cutters who win by putting their products at arms length, no matter where you are, what time of day it is, or what you're thirstry for. Coke achieved what you might call "full spectrum dominance" in the soft drink market by crowding out any possibility of message theft, and by co-opting whatever good messaging Pepsi comes up with. This despite the fact that Coke usually loses to Pepsi (and RC Cola and Sam's Club Soda) in taste tests. Go figure. The Republicans are looking like Coca-Cola in this campaign. Better marketers, more message discipline, more aggressiveness, product? Who said anything about the product?
I hate to say it, but this is looking, sounding, and feeling more and more like 2004 every day, and the Obama candidacy more and more like John Kerry's. I watched that mess unfold from my job working for a national 527 here in Florida, and I'm getting the same sinking feeling now that I had then.That's not what Democrats want to hear right now, but it's real (and the proof, Unfortunately, is in the fundraising...)
I'm literally being driven insane by the Barack Obama campaign. Literally. The nicey-nicey approach, the courtliness, the inability to use the word "lie..." the 11 days they've allowed the superior marketers in the McCain campaign to positively define Sarah Palin, the failure to capitalize on early focus groups showed she tested poorly with undecided voters... all of it represents wasted opportunities for Team Obama due to poor messaging and lack of aggressiveness, and that's bloody frustrating in a year when we're facing the possibility of four more years of Bush policies and evangelical nonsense in the White House.
That said, and after watching Olbermann last night practically giving Obama campaign advice (um ... might you want to attack...? Ya think???) the Obama camp may finally be getting the message.
They've produced their first really direct attack ad of the campaign. Here it is:
Good ad. Now the Obama people need to follow it up by going on offense, every day, pushing back hard at the Palin-loving media, and stomping a mud-hole in the McCain-Palin ticket. It really is this simple: there is no new politics. There's politics. And the candidate with the more disciplined, aggressive messaging wins. Right now, the McCain team is playing kick-ball, while the Obama team is playing croquet. Get in the game, people, or watch the geezer and the church lady take the oath of office in January.
Does Palin attract Hillary women ... or repel them?
Will angry Hillary Clinton supporters be the Naderites of 2008, throwing the election to John McCain out of bitterness, and then living to regret it? Signs point to "no."
William Arnone, an informal adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primaries, and a very smart political analyst, conducted a small email survey of Hillary voters around the country, many of whom are older white women. From his press release this morning:
Two questions were asked:
If the election were held today, would you vote for the Democratic ticket of Obama-Biden or the Republican ticket of McCain-Palin?
If you would vote for McCain-Palin, why?
A total of 328 responses were received. Respondents included many of Senator Clinton's most fervent supporters, some of whom were convention delegates.
Obama-Biden: 254 (77.4%)
McCain-Palin: 35 (10.7%)
Undecided/Neither: 32 ( 9.8%)
Write-In Clinton: 7 ( 2.1%)
William's conclusion, based on conversations with many of the women, which are included in the detail of the report:
Overall, it appears that John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate has backfired with a substantial portion of Senator Clinton's supporters. The most common word used by those who responded in support of the Obama-Biden ticket was that McCain's selection of Palin was "insulting" to women. Among those respondents who said that they would vote for the McCain-Palin ticket, or vote for neither ticket, or are undecided, there remains a residue of resentment over what they perceive as an unfair nominating process, as well as questionable treatment of Senator Clinton's candidacy by Democratic Party leaders and others.
The latest Gallup daily tracking poll shows John McCain moving ahead of Barack Obama 50% to 46%. Since Friday, Obama has lost one point, but McCain has gained seven. Among "likely voters," the poll has McCain up by ten points. That's what you call a bounce (unimpeded by the Bradley effect.)
Republican enthusiasm has jumped from 42% at the end of August to 60% now. Democratic enthusiasm is higher, at 67%. Clearly, Sarah Palin is making a difference.
The question is, who is she making a difference with? Base voters, or swing voters? Signs point to the former. Let's see how long McCain holds that number, and if he's able to grow beyond 50%.
“He has become a kind of shadow governor,” noted Andrew Halcro, a Republican businessman running as an independent who was trounced by Palin in the 2006 governor’s election. “We need to get the facts about how power is being used in the governor’s office.”
And on Sarah:
“At the first sign of disloyalty, she’ll throw you under the bus,” said Halcro [whom she defeated for mayor]. “Once you cross her, you’re off the list for ever,” warned Hollis French, a Democratic state senator.
Shared thoughts from the New York Times op-ed page
In the Sunday paper, Frank Rich was feeling what I'm feeling (that Sarah Palin's pick shows how truly scary and sad John McCain has become) but MoDo is thinking what I'm thinking: that the way things are going, including the blithe lack of urgency that, frankly, is emanating from the Obama campaign, this country is in big trouble; and four years from now, the presidential race is going to include more hair pulling than "America's Next Top Model." Perhaps I'll be living in England by then.
The Apprentice: Sarah Palin training to lead God's army to Washington
My parents came to America sometime in the early 1960s, to further their educations by earning master's degrees. When I was growing up, my mother (my African father quit us, much like Barack Obama's...) taught us that education was the most important credential you could have. Sure, we went to church on Sundays, but religious fervor didn't rank close to the value of being an intelligent, well-read, educated citizen.
That, I'm sad to say, is not a typical American experience. It is for immigrants. The Hmong and Vietnamese kids at my various elementary, middle and high schools were high achievers, routinely pulling in top grades and spending hours and hours studying. In my AP classes, most of the students were white or Asian, even though my town was about 80 percent black. Anti-intellectualism was then, and is now, a prominent feature of "real Americanness." You saw it in 2000 and 2004 when Americans who voted for George W. Bush seemed to revel in his apparent ignorance, and spit on the "effete" snobbery of "smart kids in class" Al Gore and John Kerry. It's clear that many, if not most Americans, look to a president not to govern, but to ratify their completely phony image of "small town America" -- hyper-Christian, war-like, "traditional", gun-loving, freedom loving (except for the domestic spying and indefinite detention,) falsely chaste and full of government dole-funded "frontier spirit."
And then there's stuff like this. Not nearly enough people have seen the following video, (the accompanying article is here) which shows exactly who John McCain picked to put a heartbeat away from the presidency. The video documents the churches with which Sarah Palin is affliated, which include ties to the "Jesus Camp" ministries, a Kenyan sect that believes it expelled demons from an entire town, Pastor Hagee and other extremist Christian movements. Watch, and if you're like me, cringe...
The more I look at the Sarah Palin spectacle, the more dispirited I become with the state of this country my parents chose for me. Yes, Ms. Palin is "George W. Bush with lipstick," in more ways than one (thin resume, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist bent, questionable gubernatorial record...) but she's also the next best hope of the truly radical Christian fundamentalist movement in this country -- our version of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- of literally taking control of this country, and of succeeding where Dubya ultimately failed them. (Earth to fundies: he's a Methodist. As a former Methodist I can tell you, they're not the "Jesus Camp" type...)
If you think for a moment that the American Taliban are going to be voting for John McCain in November, think again. In essence, John McCain has promised to make Sarah Palin his "apprentice," training her to rule in four short years. And I suspect that the wack-jobs won't exactly be praying for his good health, should he and the Queen of the Undamned get elected... (and make no mistake, "my friends," they very damned well might get elected.)
The top ten reasons Oprah should tell everybody to kiss her entire ass
White women in a huff over Oprah's booking decisions.
The cat fur is flying over the non-story about Oprah supposedly banning Caribou Barbie from her show (recalling a previous cat-fight over Oprah not backing Hillary Clinton during the primaries.) This enterprising blog even offered five reasons O should let Sarah Palin on. Some of the comments the post elicited ranged from the profane, to the downright ridiculous: #1. Those who say that Oprah owed her support to Hillary Clinton and now owes it to Sarah Palin because they are women are rank hypocrites for criticizing her for supporting a black candidate.
#2. Those who claim Oprah owes white women for her success are blatant racists, whose sense of entitlement even extends to Oprah's well-EARNED success. I suppose she should show her appreciation by giving up her seat on the bus when a white woman wants to sit down?
#3. Clearly Oprah owes nothing to people who are so quick to turn on her, including drawing for the race card, when she doesn't tow the line by putting (white) women first.
#4. Anyone who thinks Sarah Palin MUST be allowed to go on Oprah's show, but don't mind that she refuses to go on actual news shows like "Meet the Press", or face reporters at all, is an authoritarian fool so nurtured on Fox News propaganda that you feel Palin should be worshipped into office instead of voted in on the basis of facts. By your logic, the geezer must immediately be booked on "Montel."
#5. If you don't like the way Oprah runs her show, don't watch it, or better yet, create a (right wing) show of your own. Oh, that's right, you have no talent, and instead have been bamboozled into watching Oprah's show all this time, thinking you were purchasing her eternal loyalty to white women along with her favorite things...
#6. Each of you is entitled to your political views, and so is Oprah. You don't see her out there telling you how stupid you are for voting for four more years of Bush policies just because they're dressed up in the guise of a geriatric old man and his pretty Alaskan nurse, do you?
#7. I thought dittoheads didn't believe in the fairness doctrine...
#8. If you're so hopped up on entertainers giving equal time to pols, maybe Kelsey Grammar and Bruce Willis could be forced to do a movie with Barack? It could be called "Die Hard with a guy who sounds British but really isn't and a guy Sean Hannity says is Muslim, but also isn't..."
#9. OPRAH IS NOT A REPORTER, AND HER SHOW IS NOT THE PLACE FOR ELECTION COVERAGE!
#10. Republicans have already established that they hate celebrities. Going on Oprah would further establish Sarah Palin as a celebrity, thereby making you hate her. And you can't hate her, wingers ... because she is your queen.
--- Banned books + lots of earmarks + abuse of office to fire brother-in-law + Alaska secessionist party + mayor of 9,000 = vice presidential material! Only in America...
Sarah Palin: not ready to take questions on day one
So, we're supposed to take Sarah Palin seriously as a potential vice president of the United States, AND accept that she's not ready to take questions from reporters ... because she might make a mistake???
The coordinated right wing assault on the media, and the mega-marketing of Sarah Palin, is in full swing. Step one: intimidate the press into giving her only positive, glowing coverage, and scare them out of pursuing stories related to her family. Mission? Not accomplished. Instead, the bully boy tactics risk provoking a serious journobacklash.
Step two: hide Sarah from the mainstream media. According to campaign spokesbarbie Nicole Wallace, Sarah doesn't need to talk to the press and that "the American people will learn all they need to know (and all they deserve to know) from Palin's scripted speeches and choreographed appearances on the campaign trail and in campaign ads." So there! Instead, she will be inserted into key swing markets, where she can help John McCain finally draw the big crowds he craves (and that he tried to get by glomming onto Barack Obama in his silly "town halls," and generating lots of local free media. Meanwhile, John Mac Daddy is pimping Sarah out to 30 fundraisers in 60 days.
And now, the right is going after Oprah Winfrey, who came out in support of Barack Obama during hte primaries, igniting a furor from some of her female fans. From Drudge this morning:
Oprah Winfrey may have introduced Democrat Barack Obama to the women of America -- but the talkshow queen is not rushing to embrace the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket!
Oprah's staff is sharply divided on the merits of booking Sarah Palin, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.
"Half of her staff really wants Sarah Palin on," an insider explains. "Oprah's website is getting tons of requests to put her on, but Oprah and a couple of her top people are adamantly against it because of Obama." One executive close to Winfrey is warning any Palin ban could ignite a dramatic backlash!
It is not clear if Oprah has softened her position after watching Palin's historic convention speech.
And this update:
OPRAH'S STATEMENT: "The item in today's Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over."
But don't look for that to be the end of it. The right, particularly talk radio and the blogs, will now beat up on Oprah daily, and eventually, probably on Limbaugh, it will get racial. And the story will trigger a battle within the ranks of the media, too (it has already begun,) which will distract us into a war between the O and the B (barracuda, I mean...) Because in the end, what the right WANTS is a fist-fight with the media, with Oprah, with the "elite" blacks and effete "libs" (and lowly community organizers) who support Obama, and with anyone they can make noise attacking, because as long as the MSM is clanging and banging about the Oprah wars, they're not talking substantively about the one in ten Americans who are late on their mortgages or in forclosure, the 6.1 percent unemployment rate and eight straight months of job losses, Jack Abramoff, the mess in Iraq, including our government spying on the government we installed there, the fact that John McCain and his party and president and fellow Republicans have been in charge of this mess for 12 years between the Congress and the White House or ... well ... Sarah Palin, and whether she's even remotely qualified to possibly have to take on the biggest job in the country.
As McCain's campaign manager said: this election will not be about issues, it will be about personas, and the battle to write the narratives for the four people on the ballot is on.
In the end, maybe they'll even beat Oprah into submission and get Sarah on her show, which will produce HUGE ratings and even more talk about ... Sarah Palin ... maybe they'll prompt "The View" to schedule her with dispatch, producing still more big ratings, and getting Palin in front of as many potential women voters as possible, which they hope will excite even MORE winger women (and swing voting women) into voting for her ... I mean ... John McCain.
And that's the way the right plans to win this election. When it's over, you won't know anything more about her than you've seen in her speech, their press releases, the mythology and hype, and the lone interviews she will likely do, not with real reporters, but on Fox News (and probably on right wing talk radio, too.)
Watch for it.
The right simply does this better than the left, and its how they convince ordinary people to keep them in power, even as they're screwing them. It worked when they sold you George W. Bush -- twice -- and it's still working to make you lionize Ronald Reagan. It's a game that I've never seen the Democrats out-play them in (except maybe the Clintons, but that wasn't deft myth-making, it was pure Bill charisma.)
The WaPo reveals that Sarah Palin is being tutored in foreign policy by the same coterie of neocons who brought us the Iraq War:
ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 4 -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is among several national security experts helping brief Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on foreign policy issues as she prepares to hit the campaign trail while cramming for a debate with her Democratic opponent, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), in less than a month, according to officials from Sen. John McCain's campaign.
Lieberman, who was the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee but is now an independent, has helped introduce Palin to officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby. In a meeting Tuesday, the day before she delivered her prime-time address at the Republican National Convention here, Palin assured the group of her strong support for Israel, of her desire to see the United States move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and of her opposition to Iran's aspirations to become a nuclear power, according to sources familiar with the meeting. ...
So who else is on the team?
The McCain campaign has tapped Stephen E. Biegun, the national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to be Palin's principal foreign policy adviser. Campaign aides said Biegun, who is currently a vice president of Ford, is not serving as Palin's tutor but is merely briefing her on details of key issues in a way that is similar to what other candidates are receiving.
"The attempt is not to turn her into a professor of foreign policy but trying to get her up to speed on all the nuances of foreign policy issues that are hot and John's positions," said John Lehman, a former Navy secretary who is one of McCain's advisers. "She's surprised everybody at how current she is on Middle East issues. She doesn't pretend to be a foreign policy expert, but neither is she somebody who hasn't thought about the issues."
Bushies Come to Palin's Aid Michael Isikoff By Michael Isikoff
The McCain team has hastily assembled a team of former Bush White House aides to tutor the vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on foreign-policy issues, to write her speeches and to begin preparing her for her all-important Oct. 2 debate against Sen. Joe Biden.
Steve Biegun, who once served as the No. 3 National Security Council official under Condoleezza Rice at the White House, has been hired as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Alaska governor, campaign officials told NEWSWEEK. After taking leave from his job as vice president for international affairs at Ford Motor Co. last Friday, Biegun flew to St. Paul and, together with McCain’s foreign-policy guru Randy Schuenemann, began briefings for Palin on national-security issues—an area where her resume is conspicuously thin.
Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter who helped draft some of the major foreign-policy addresses during the president’s first term, is working on Palin’s acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.
Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has been put in charge of “prep” for the debate against Biden.
Wallace’s wife, Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director, has taken over the same job for Palin.
Tucker Eskew, another senior Bush White House communications aide, is serving as senior counselor to Palin’s operation.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former chief economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who has been serving as top economics guru for the McCain campaign, has moved over to serve as Palin’s chief domestic-policy adviser.
So ... um ... I guess picking Sarah Palin wasn't a sign John McCain is going senile after all... last night's speech by the official Republican Nominee, having finally gotten that part of "the prize," got up on that catwalk and delivered 40 minutes of non-stop dull. And I mean DULL. Oh lord, it was dull. (It was so bad and so conventional, even Washington Sketchy couldn't shill for it.) And it didn't play well in the room -- not just because it was dull, but because after Wednesday's Democrat-bash-fest, McCain made a pledge to be everybody's best friend. His delegates, who if we're to be honest are really Sarah Palin's delegates, just stared at him like he was a crazy old man. These people beat down Democrats and ram balled up legislative write-ups into their mouths, they don't work with them...
Only the parts of the speech that touched on McCain's captivity in Vietnam were moving -- and those didn't come until the end, and haven't we heard enough about the POW thing already? Worse, he praised HIMSELF as a maverick and as a war hero. Not good. As for the rest? Pfthwaaaack! Bad writing, bad deliverty, robotic stare into teleprompter ... blah!!! What is he going to do for the country? What are his policy goals? And how does anything he promised: low taxes, "winning the war," "drill, drill, drill" ... how does any of that differ from what the Republicans have been offering for the last 12 years? In two words: it doesn't.
The crowd in the Xcel Center got all hopped up on partisan red meat from the Evangelical Queen and her evil henchmen, Rudy and Mitty, and then their supposed "King" feeds them mash. And the television audience that had been so jarred by the onstage and (really scary sounding) bellicose crowd on Wednesday -- all that was missing were pitchforks, fire, and WANTED posters of every Democrat in America -- we're supposed to believe that this same Republican Party, led by a guy who tells them he doesn't even work for them (he works for YOU...) is going to work across the aisle, just because Grandpa tells them to? Yeah, good luck with that.
Earth to Repubs: if McCain wins, your girl Sarah Palin won't be giving the State of the Union addresses, HE will. She won't be doing the daily press brief: HE will. And it won't be Sarah you're seeing on the TV every day ... unless he plans to keep pimping her for the full four years like he's doing in this campaign. In the end, Palin was a good choice in that she makes the ticket not look like a couple of dead white guys. But since she's so inexperienced, don't even think that she'll be advising him on policy, or on anything, folks. She's the apprentice. He's the guy we'd be stuck listening to every day. God forbid...
Apparently the leadership of the Republican Party thinks voters are turned off by specifics, and so Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech as its presidential nominee last night was a hodgepodge of generalities, musings on courage, reminiscence about his years as a POW in Vietnam, and rabble-rousing calls for change.
But what would that change entail -- what new programs or policies or ideas? That was left to the audience's imagination. On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin called McCain's address one of the worst convention speeches he'd ever heard. Yet even he had to admit that it was kind of exciting to watch. Maybe McCain understands television better than people think.
He used the word "change" at least 10 times in his bombastic speech -- the convention's emotional climax -- but since the Republicans have controlled the White House for the past eight years, what does McCain want to change from? And to? It really is an audacious ploy, to tell people that the country's got to correct the mistakes made by a political party when that's the very party you represent.
It's like staging a revolution against yourself -- saying that the Republicans have got to go so the Republicans can move in and clean up the mess.
She is the struggling and striving actress who befriended star stage actress Margo Channing and used that association in an aggressive climb to the top of the theater world in the 1950 movie "All About Eve." Anne Baxter played Eve. Bette Davis played Margo.
Meanwhile, Michael Gerson (former Bush I speechwriter) panned the speech on MSNBC last night, and again this morning.
The sad state of affairs is that by picking such a red meat conservative who excites the Republican base in a way that he himelf does not, in a very real way, John McCain has become the sidekick in his own campaign.
I had two friends today tell me that they thought last night's raucous GOP convention reminded them of a Klan rally -- between the sea of old, white faces in the crowd, and the angry, taunting speeches on the dais (and the crowd's Germany c.a. 1939 response...)
Well if you thought this election was not going to be about race, you must be completely cocooned in your state of Obama-love. Outside the bubble, we all know what-a-gwan.
Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.
Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.
"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.
Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”
Said it, meant it. Yup-yup... and remember the time ...?
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that Obama's middle name – Hussein – is relevant to the public discourse surrounding his candidacy, saying in March that if Obama were elected, "Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror."
At an April 12 event in his district, Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama: “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”
Georgia is a southern state Obama is playing hard for. Iowa is one he's winning. It's sad to say, but there are still some white folks in this country who can't abide the thought of a black man leading the nation, and who want to preserve the literal meaning of "White House." Do me a favor and throw Sean Hannity into that bucket, would you? "Take the bone out of your nose" Limbaugh, too. And particularly for older white women (a minority, hopefully...) who feel that way, Sarah Palin is the trap door that allows them to "make history," just like the Obama voters, and in their own minds, prove they're not the retrograde throwbacks that they are. Time to keep it real.
The National Enquirer promises more juicy revelations about Sarah Palin in its current issue, stemming from leaks pouring forth via Troopergate. The tab is also claiming credit for forcing Palin to go public with the preggers news:
Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin attempted to quietly have her daughter Bristol get married before news of her pregnancy leaked out, the NATIONAL ENQUIRER is reporting exclusively in its new issue.
Palin planned for the wedding to take place right after the Republican National Convention and then she was going to announce the pregnancy.
But Bristol, 17, refused to go along with the plan and that sparked a mother-daughter showdown over the failed coverup.
The ultra-conservative governor’s announcement about her daughter’s pregnancy came hours after The ENQUIRER informed her representatives and family members of Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol’s child, that we were aware of the pregnancy and were going to break the news.
In a preemptive strike Palin released the news, creating political shockwaves.
They're also claiming that the feud between Palin and her ex-brother in law, which is at the heart of Troopergate (she tried to get him fired and allegedly leaned on a state employee to do so, and now is refusing to testify in the state probe...) is threatening to spill more gossip gack into the political waters. Sit back kids, this one's only in the second inning...
More reactions to Palin: snidery doesn' always sell
My gut reaction to the Palin speech (one shared by Josh Marshall and in even more depth by James Fallows of The Atlantic,) that it was delivered fine, but way too snide, seems to be getting confirmation in various places. My take was that so far, the GOP convention is SO red meat, so "everybody but evangelicals and gun nuts GTFO!" that it can't possibly attract Independents, much less Democrats, who can't have felt "reached out to" by a night full of over the top insults, not just to Barack Obama (who's been more than gracious to Palin) but also to Democrats as a whole. First there was the Nevada focus group where women expressed dismay at Palin's negativity, and now this:
The Detroit Free Press invited a panel of Michigan voters to weigh in on Gov. Sarah Palin's speech last night. Their reactions run the gamut, but the independents didn't seem to care for her very much.
... George Lentz, 66, Southfield independent: “I was completely underwhelmed. She was a Republican novelty act with a sophomoric script. It was not even a speech I would expect for someone running for the local PTA, much less for vice president.”
Diane Murphy, 42, Sterling Heights independent: “It appears that once she makes up her mind, that is the end of it. We live in a gray world, not every answer is black and white.”
Jan Wheelock, 58, Royal Oak independent: “Nothing worked for me. I found her barrage of snide remarks and distortions to be a major turnoff. She is not a class act. The most important point she made is that she will be an effective attack dog.”
In fact, Palin's speech will only serve to deepen the antipathy of Democrats to her and to McCain, while not helping the ticket with Indies. A couple more from the Freep panel:
“Palin is a far better orator than McCain. But the tone of her speech is sarcastic, mean-spirited and divisive. Apparently, her role is to look good and throw out red meat for the base. …
“Palin has repeated her lie about ‘saying no’ to the bridge from nowhere. Has she no shame?”
-- James Melton, 45, Detroit Democrat
"Sarah Palin is a self-described ‘pitbull with lipstick.’ She spent little time helping Americans learn who she is. She is a cool, poised speaker, but her speech contained few statements about policy or the party platform. … I am not convinced that Palin's experience as a mayor or governor in Alaska meet the qualifications to be vice president much less one stroke or heart attack away from being commander in chief.”
-- Ilene Beninson, 52, Berkley independent
“Sarah got as much applause as Hillary did, and had a friendly, appealing appearance. Her delivery style reminded me of a high school valedictorian who also might have been a cheerleader. I thought she would appear more professional, more stateswomanly. She's no match for Joe Biden.”
Another issue with the speech is that there's nothing in it that will be memorable; no "yes we can" (the New Hampshire speech that will go down in history, I think, as one of the finest political speeches ever given...) no "America's promise" or "this is the moment," from Obama's acceptance speech, not even "morning in America." In fact, the most memorable lines from Ms. Palin's speeches will all be attack lines against Obama -- which may be good for McCain in the short run in that thos lines will energize the base; but as I've said repeatedly, just how big does John McCain think the red meat Republican base is? Like his gamble with Palin given her lack of experience, John McCain is betting everything on 50 percent plus one American voters being Dittoheads.
The media is going ga-ga over Sarah Palin, and crediting her with giving the GOP that "populist" hockey mom touch they've yearned for all these years.
And yet, the night before Palin rocked the base, Cindy McCain rocked the ... rocks. From Vanity Fair:
One of the persistent memes in the Republican line of attack against Barack Obama is the notion that he is an elitist, whereas the G.O.P. represent real working Americans like Levi “F-in’ Redneck” Johnston.
It caught our attention, then, when First Lady Laura Bush and would-be First Lady Cindy McCain took the stage Tuesday night wearing some rather fancy designer clothes. So we asked our fashion department to price out their outfits.
Laura Bush Oscar de la Renta suit: $2,500 Stuart Weitzman heels: $325 Pearl stud earrings: $600–$1,500 Total: Between $3,425 and $4,325
Cindy McCain Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000 Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500 Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000 Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000 Shoes, designer unknown: $600 Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100
Poor Laura Bush -- her outfit was downright cheap by comparison to 7-houses Cindy... Ah, the little people!
Meet the snides: long-talkin' Rudy, Snarky Sarah and Mean Ole' Mitt
As I digest the RNC's big night last night (and the media's love-fest over it,) it occurs to me that the Republican Party, probably since Pat Buchanan began writing for Dick Nixon, has been married to a strategy of, in Buchanan's words, "dividing the country down the middle and trying to grab the bigger half." Last night's red meat rodeo in the Twin Cities was that kind of politics. Like previous elections, the GOP seems determined to assure that no matter who is elected, half of the country will hate the next president's guts.
The GOP must believe that hard-right evangelicals and belligerent neo-cold warriors are the bigger half, because the night was so over-the-top negative, nasty and divisive, and so bereft of either uniting themes or policy solutions, and in the end, so petty, that you've got to take McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis at his word that this election is not about issues, it's about personalities. And to me, at least, Mitt, Sarah and especially Rudy's personalities were rankling.
They attacked Barack Obama and derided his public service ...
They attacked Michelle (families off limits? Not so much... though this should put Todd "Alaska Independence Party" Palin squarely "on the table...")
The attacked Democrats for refusing to harp on "Islamic fascists" or whatever the pet name is today...
They attacked and attacked and attacked, and attacked until even Sarah looked tired. And they still didn't manage to mention how all the snarkery would make this team any better managers of the country's affairs than the current administration. Nothing on what they would do for the middle class -- hell, they didn't even mention the middle class; nor did anyone on that stage mention how getting the prom queen and the fly boy into the White House would do a damned thing for America, other than make a few old ladies feel good to see a spunky gal make some history instead of that high-falutin ni... (ahem...)
Sorry, but last night wasn't a celebration of America, it was an orgy of snidery, not intended to achieve McCain's stated goal of "reaching across party lines," but a symbolic severing of those lines. It's now officially an "us" versus "them" election. The Palins vs. the Obamas; rural America vs. big city America, small towns vs. "elite" cities, red vs. blue, and yeah, white America versus suspiciously foreign America. Not a formula for governing, but it's the way Republicans have been winning elections since Nixon. Bottom line: to win this election, the GOP is dividing the country, along more partisan (and religious) lines, even than they did in 2000 or 2004.
Otherwise, why on earth would you make long-winded, trash-talking Rudy the warm-up act to Ms. Palin? After several minutes of Rudy's "gut the black kid" rant, I suspect many potential cross-over and swing voters simply turned off the TV. As for Palin, her speech, too, was full of snidery and snarkery (the eBay line was cute,) and so nasal and nasty, it can't possibly attract any but the most hard-core Republicans.
The GOP has, no doubt, solidified and energized their base, particularly evanglicals (and people who hate both the media and Barack Obama...) But the question is, do they represent the bigger half? Let's hope not, otherwise, god help this country.
In two different focus groups of Clinton-supporting Nevada women -- married and unmarried -- conducted immediately after Gov. Sarah Palin's Wednesday night speech to the Republican National Convention, a few common reactions quickly took shape.
First, women in both groups were impressed with Palin's speaking ability and poise. But they were hardly convinced that she was qualified to be vice president, or that she truly represented the "change" they were looking for, especially in light of what was deemed an overly harsh "sarcasm" pervading her address.
The (mostly) anonymous proceedings were webcast live to reporters, who were told in a press release that the Nevada focus groups would include "some former Hillary Clinton supporters who are now undecided or are weak supporters of Barack Obama or John McCain." No party identification was made available, though the approximately two dozen women were reportedly between 30 and 60 years old.
In the "married" group, when one attendee kicked off the discussion by saying "she's a good speaker, and a crowd pleaser," the rest of the room articulated their agreement. "I didn't expect to be as impressed as I was," said another respondent. But then another woman added: "Once she started mudslinging, I thought, it's the same old crap as other politicians. McCain used her to get the women's vote. And she's using McCain."
"Thank you," another woman responded. "That really upset me; there was no need for that. It was snippy."
The unmarried group also voiced similar objections to the harsh, partisan edge of Palin's remarks. "I'm not impressed with her at all as a person," one said, citing her "finger pointing" and general sarcasm after the group had generally agreed that she was a talented public speaker.
... in both groups, narrow majorities said they held a more negative view of Palin after her speech. "She comes off pretty cutthroat," said one.
What else did the focus groups say? That they wanted to hear ... wait for it ... more policy prescriptions, rather than attacks. The media love-fest over Palin won't tell you that, but if you know any women, you also know that women can't stand "snippy" women. As I've said many times before, Palin reminds me of that supervisor you just hate? You know the one: the one who makes you walk all the way to her office to bring her the stapler on the table near her desk? The one who blames you for her mistakes and rats you out to HER bosses behind your back? Palin may have wowed the red meat eaters, and she clearly has the media smitten, but I suspect that a lot of everyday women will be turned off.
Hey guys, look over here! ...on the left! It's me ... McCain???
I have to admit, the speech bored me at long intervals, but Palin did a decent job, given what she had to work with. Much of the speech was boilerplate rhetoric, and she threw some red meat (especially in her attacks on the media,) and sounded like a doting wife when talking about John McCain. No direct abortion appeal (used the downs baby to make the point to the faithful instead ...) A couple of downsides:
1. Too sarcastic. That may play in that room, but the incessant attacks on Barack Obama and the media coupled with that horrible, nasaly voice? She kind of reminded me of my least favorite female supervisor...
2. The foreign policy parts were clearly written by campaign staff. She just didn't sound credible.
3. No mention of the son-in-law? Wasn't the big unveil supposed to be the plan? I mean, damn, is he that embarrassing? ... Oh, right...
The ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is seeking information from the nonprofit University of Chicago Medical Center about jobs held by Sen. Barack Obama's wife and one of the senator's best friends.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa on Friday sent the center a letter saying he was "troubled" by recent news reports about the hospital's efforts to steer patients with non-urgent complaints away from the center's emergency room to local clinics. Michelle Obama was a key figure behind the initiative.
The letter, which Grassley released to the public yesterday, does not directly mention the Democratic presidential nominee, his wife or his campaign. Grassley asked for financial data, board minutes and other documents related to hiring, job promotion, business contracting and care for the poor.
Are taxpayer dollars being spent in pursuit of politics? Look into it, Dems...
Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and former John McCain adviser, Time columnist, and MSNBC contributor Mike Murphy were caught on tape disparaging John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate.
"It's over," Noonan said.
When Chuck Todd asked her if this was the most qualified woman the Republicans could nominate, Noonan responded, "The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives. Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and that's not what they're good at, they blow it."
Murphy characterized the choices as "cynical" and "gimmicky."
UPDATE: Noonan apologizes for the potty mouth, but makes this point:
When the segment was over and MSNBC was in commercial, Todd, Murphy and I continued our conversation, talking about the Palin choice overall. We were speaking informally, with some passion -- and into live mics. An audio tape of that conversation was sent, how or by whom I don't know, onto the internet. And within three hours I was receiving it from friends far and wide, asking me why I thought the McCain campaign is "over", as it says in the transcript of the conversation. Here I must plead some confusion. In our off-air conversation, I got on the subject of the leaders of the Republican party assuming, now, that whatever the base of the Republican party thinks is what America thinks. I made the case that this is no longer true, that party leaders seem to me stuck in the assumptions of 1988 and 1994, the assumptions that reigned when they were young and coming up. "The first lesson they learned is the one they remember," I said to Todd -- and I'm pretty certain that is a direct quote. But, I argued, that's over, those assumptions are yesterday, the party can no longer assume that its base is utterly in line with the thinking of the American people. And when I said, "It's over!" -- and I said it more than once -- that is what I was referring to.
Someday, we may hear what Sarah Palin has to say, and what she thinks about the world, and about domestic and foreign policy, in her own words. But not this day. Today, we hear from the flaks. From the Washington Post:
Since Sunday night, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been holed up in her suite in the Hilton Minneapolis while a parade of Sen. John McCain's top advisers have briefed her on the nuances of his policy positions, national politics and, above all, how to introduce herself to the national audience she will address Wednesday night at the Republican convention.
Sitting around a dining room table, the McCain team has talked to her about Iraq, energy and the economy, but has focused on what she should say in her speech, struggling almost as hard as she has to prepare for what will be, along with a debate in October, her main opportunity to shape the way she is viewed by voters. Not anticipating that McCain would choose a woman as his running mate, the speech that was prepared in advance was "very masculine," according to campaign manager Rick Davis, and "we had to start from scratch."
... Aides to McCain and Palin were still debating elements of the speech, according to several GOP sources familiar with the process, including whether the governor should make reference to her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy. On Tuesday, Levi Johnston, the high school student Palin has said her daughter plans to marry, left Alaska to join the Palin family at the convention.
In the speech, Palin is likely to emphasize her areas of policy expertise -- particularly energy and political reform -- rather than focusing on her biography or gender. An initial version of the address, which speechwriter Matthew Scully started crafting a week ago for an unnamed male vice-presidential pick, included plenty of attacks aimed at Democratic nominee Barack Obama along with ample praise for McCain, aides said. But they said Palin's speech will focus more on substantive matters.
"There's an expectation that she doesn't have a depth of knowledge on issues," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "That's absurd."
The stakes for Palin are much higher than they were for her Democratic counterpart, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has run for president twice and has served in the Senate for 35 years. Several GOP strategists said Palin, who has been governor less than two years, needs to establish herself as someone who is credible as a potential president. "She's like any new person or product on the scene -- she's got to prove she can handle the job, that she's got the presence and suppleness of mind to be a heartbeat away from the presidency," said Ben Ginsberg, who was a senior adviser to McCain's GOP primary rival Mitt Romney.
In an effort to prevent any damaging mistakes, the McCain campaign is orchestrating Palin's public introduction carefully. Except for an interview with People magazine the afternoon her selection was announced, she has not taken a single question from a reporter, and it remains unclear when she will speak to the national news media.
Yes, we know, they all use speechwriters, but we also know that like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama works extensively on writing his own speeches. Meanwhile, two key paragraphs on Sarah's preparedness to be president, not from the "liberal media," but from John McCain's friends:
"Obviously the governor of Alaska spends very little time on foreign policy," Davis said, though he added that if something were to happen to McCain, "I think she's got the judgment to do the things as commander in chief that John McCain would think are the right things to do."
Graham, who lobbied hard for McCain to choose their mutual friend Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) as his running mate, said Palin would be able to handle foreign relations in McCain's absence as long as she relied on his staff.
Well that should help us all sleep better at night.
Sarah Palin: banning books and breaking heads ... for the Lord
A revealing look at Palin's time as mayor of Wasila, from the New York Times:
The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people — Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? — seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.
Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin’s behalf.
Two years after Representative Newt Gingrich helped draft the Contract With America to advance Republican positions, Ms. Palin and her passion for Republican ideology and religious faith overtook a town known for a wide libertarian streak and for helping start the Iditarod sled dog race.
“Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ”
“I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?’ ” recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. “The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”
And on the books?
... for some, Ms. Palin’s first months in office here were so jarring — and so alienating — that an effort was made to force a recall. About 100 people attended a meeting to discuss the effort, which was covered in the local press, but the idea was dropped.
Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.
Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.
The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.
No wonder the fundamentalists love her so much. John McCain clearly made a run at consolidating the religious right on his own (read, without the help of George W. Bush) and he appears to have succeeded, wildly. The question is, will the rest of the electorate want to be governed by a religious zealot and her geriatric captive.
Is it sexist that Sarah Palin received only a last-minute, cursory vetting, when the men in the process were thoroughly gone over? Dan Balz of the WaPo reports:
ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 2 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain's vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate, and she did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, two knowledgeable McCain officials acknowledged Tuesday.
Palin was one of two finalists in the vice presidential sweepstakes who were interviewed last week by former White House counsel Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., just days before McCain introduced her to the nation as his choice. The other finalist was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. One of the officials said Culvahouse was chasing down last-minute information about Pawlenty at the request of the campaign as late as last Thursday, the day McCain offered the job to Palin and she accepted. ...
... McCain did not speak face to face with Palin until Thursday morning, at his retreat in Sedona, Ariz. He also talked to her by telephone the previous Sunday. McCain had spoken with all of the others on his shortlist over the course of a selection process that went on for several months, but he was least familiar personally with the person he finally chose.
Palin flew to Arizona last Wednesday and met with senior McCain advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter that night in Flagstaff. What had not been known previously was that she had met earlier the same day with Culvahouse.
McCain advisers said they had gathered extensive information about Palin before that meeting, including details of an ongoing investigation in Alaska involving her firing of the state's public safety commissioner. Details of her life and her record as governor that have since emerged in media accounts were discovered during that process, they said.
Palin, along with other finalists, completed a lengthy questionnaire that probed many personal issues. Campaign officials declined Tuesday to respond to questions about whether she had returned the questionnaire to the vetting team before she arrived in Arizona, saying they would not provide details of the timing of the process.
McCain officials said that questionnaire and the personal interview revealed three new facts previously unknown to the team: Palin's daughter's pregnancy, the arrest of her husband two decades ago for driving while intoxicated, and a fine Palin paid for fishing without proper identification.
"We made a political determination that the American people would not object to a female candidate with a 17-year-old daughter who was pregnant," Schmidt said Tuesday. "We believed that parents all over America would understand that life happens. The team made a recommendation to the senator that these issues were not disqualifying."
As for the men:
The search process started in the spring. McCain's vetting team was given a list of 20 names and Culvahouse's group prepared lengthy background books on each candidate, based primarily on a search of public records. Ultimately, the list of 20 was pared to six serious finalists, then to two, and finally to Palin. According to several campaign sources, Palin was on the list from the start.
In addition to Palin and Pawlenty, the four other finalists are believed to have been Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent from Connecticut; former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge; former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney; and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
All six were subjected to a lengthy background investigation that included a review of tax returns dating back seven years, a credit check, and a 70-item questionnaire that addressed nannies and household employees, infidelity, payment for sex, treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, and other personally intrusive subjects.
Last weekend, two campaign officials told The Washington Post that the background investigation of the finalists included an FBI check of any possible ongoing criminal investigations. That information was incorrect. A knowledgeable official said Tuesday that the vetting team had hoped to run such a check but that FBI officials declined to do so because that type of inquiry is reserved for people nominated for senior administration jobs. The official also said the FBI was uncomfortable providing the information to a political campaign, rather than to government officials.
I also think it's not a swiftboating. This guy is talking about his own experiences, including with McCain, and rendering his own judgment. The Obama camp won't touch it, nor will the MSM, but that doesn't make this guy's view any less valid.
The RNC: bad staging, bad speeches, and a whole lotta LORD!
The RNC is in full zzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... which raises a few questions:
Whose dumb idea was it to start the RNC convention the same week the Fall TV season begins? I mean, with the Democrats having pulled 20 million viewers a night, and 39 million domestic viewers (not counting Internet and overseas) what hope did the Repubs have of getting anyone to watch that maudlin parade of elderly white people THIS week? These guys are gonna get baked by "House," "The Shield" and "America's Got Talent." And did these guys really think that replacing Rudy "Three Wives" Giuliani with the dynamic duo of Sleepy and Doropy (Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman) would boost the ratings one scintilla? Jeez...
Speaking of TV, did anybody tell these clods that the Redskins play the Giants on Thursday? That's a rap for your ratings, party that dominates the male vote! You'll be lucky if 2 million people watch McCain on his big night ... and 90 percent of them will be watching Fox News, and will already be your voters...
What's with that Lieberman pukey blue screen? I didn't watch the speech ... hell, I've barely been able to stand 3 minutes straight of this snoozefest; plus, there's tons of other stuff on (see 1, above) ... but I did catch his backdrop. Hideous! And did Lieberman really say "God only made one John McCain?" Ewwww! Apparently he went back on his promise not to attack Barack Obama, which should go over well back in the Democratic caucus...
Has the McCain campaign, with the Palin pick, re-ignited the culture wars? And are they conducting a campaign focused more on religious zealotry than issues ... and now, more about Sarah Palin than John McCain??? Every time I clicked back to CNN or to MSNBC (to hear Olbermann rip the convention...) I noticed that whoever was talking, was talking about God. Even the entertainment for the night was a "Christian rock" artist. Is this a convention designed to appeal to swing voters, or a tent revival?
Also, doesn't that kind of a convention play up the things (right wing, evangelical things) about Sarah Palin that the GOP wants to de-emphasize with persuadable and women voters? The problem with this strategy for McCain is that first off, he isn't an authentic culture warrior, so he risks being the add-on to the evangelical base's actual vote: for Sarah. And, by embracing the Taliban wing of his party, he loses his appeal to crucial swing voters. Somebody needs to tell this guy that the evanglicals are a shrinking share of the electorate...
And tell that stiff Fred Thompson, too. What good are attacks that only ignite the extremists, and that most television viewers don't hear? BTW is it true that he coughed his way through the speech?
What does it mean that the McCain campaign canceled out of "Larry King," arguably one of the most softball interviews a man can do, in a huff over that tough (but substantive) Campbell Brown interview? And when will his new "soulmate" be made to face the press?
Jack Cafferty calls Republicans irrelevant, saying of their truncated convention:
It is entirely fitting that the headliner for this masquerade is a feeble looking 72-year-old white guy who doesn't know how many homes he owns. ...
... In a way, the perfect storm of a rapidly changing population -- old white people aren't going to be in the majority very much longer (and isn't that who most of the Republicans are?) -- has combined with the total abdication of principles, Republican or otherwise, of arguably the worst president in the nation's history to mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we know it.
And Richard Cohen snickers at the GOP's silly defense of its vice presidential nominee:
John McCain's selection of Palin, which I first viewed with horror, could now be seen in a different light. Based on various television interviews over the Labor Day weekend -- and a careful reading of the transcripts -- it is possible that this is McCain's attempt to make fools of his fellow Republicans. He has succeeded beyond all expectations.
Gingrich's point about Palin being commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard has been echoed throughout the GOP. In fact, even Cindy McCain pointed out -- rightly enough -- that Alaska is across the Bering Strait from Russia and so Palin, by deduction, has been on the front lines of the Cold War . . . had it not ended in 1989.
Still, you have to admit that in all that time, especially since Palin became governor about two years ago, no Russian invasion force has come across the strait, maybe because she was in charge of the Guard, maybe because she herself is a hunter and an athlete. The record is unclear because no high-ranking Russian appeared on any of the weekend talk shows to say how they had considered an invasion of Alaska and then backed off when Sarah Palin became commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard. Who could blame them? ...
... Probably the most depressing thing about Palin is not her selection but the defense of it. It has produced a parade of GOP spokesmen intent on spiking the needle on a polygraph. Looking right into the camera, they offer statement after statement that they hope the voters will swallow but that history will forget. The sum effect on the diligent news consumer is a feeling of consummate contempt for the intelligence of the American people -- a contempt that will be justified should Palin be the factor that makes McCain a winner in November.
He also reminds us that Bill Kristol made a name for himself working for Dan Quayle...
And McCain flak Tucker Bounds fails to slip Sarah Palin past, of all people, Campbell Brown.
... but who is definitely about to be somebody's mother. From Reuters:
The 17-year-old unmarried daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said on Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.
Bristol Palin, one of Alaska Gov. Palin's five children with her husband Todd, is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, according to aides of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Bristol Palin made the decision on her own to keep the baby, the aides said.
The Palins, in a statement released by the McCain campaign, said Bristol "came to us with news that we as parents knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned" and that their daughter "has our unconditional love and support."
"We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates," their statement said.
Senior McCain campaign officials said McCain knew of the daughter's pregnancy when he selected Palin last week as his vice presidential running mate, deciding that it did not disqualify the 44-year-old governor in any way.
The boy's name is Levi. You just can't make this stuff up.
So far, we've seen none of the outrage wingers like Bill O'Reilly heaped on Miley Cyrus for striking a sexy pose in Vanity Fair (Fox of course was always careful to include the photos in their OUTRAGED! coverage...) or the opprobrium heaped on Jamie Lynn Spears, who got pregnant one year younger than Bristol? Priceless commentary from Rush and crackpot "Doctor" Laura here. Best clip? The Radio Equalizer asks Dr. Laura for comment on Jamie Lynn:
Blasting the environment in which the Spears children were raised, Dr Laura replied, "I feel sorry for children who are robbed of their childhoods of innocence by parents who are negligent or voyeuristic. I feel sorry for the unborn baby, whose precious life is bound to be a toy in the hands of these young people.
"I feel sorry for the children of America who are bombarded by these images of inappropriate sexuality and out of control freedom - because they will come to believe they're entitled also. I feel sorry for America because we've lost our sense about judgment and the dangers of desires met but not earned," she added.
I wonder what the good "doc" has to say about Bristol... I'm guessing she'll praise her for her maturity in not aborting the child.
Apparently the McCain team is vetting Sarah Palin, having dispatched a team to Wasila. Better late than never...
If they'd done so BEFORE nominating her, they might have turned up her directorship of disgraced Alaska Senator "Uncle Ted" Stevens' 527 organization...
Or maybe they'd have polled her hometown newspapers and fellow elected officials, none of whom seem to believe she's fit to hold the second highest office in the land...
They might have looked more closely into Troopergate, a scandal for which our fair maiden is currently lawyering up, and about which she may have to testify before the election.
They might have found out that when it comes to cronyism, her record doesn't quite match her maverick reputation...
And they might have stopped her from making that "I said thanks, but no thanks to the bridge to nowhere" line to her stump speech, since apparently, it isn't true. And they would have discovered that as mayor of tiny Wasila, she hired Ted Stevens' former chief of staff to lobby for more than $8 million in federal earmarks.
And they might have discovered that, even if the "Desperate Housewives" style rumors that her 17-year-old daughter is the real mother of baby Trig aren't true, the rumors about Miss Bristol being pregnant at all are very much true indeed. And yes, she's keeping the baby and having a shotgun wedding, which delights the religious nuts, but doesn't exactly do wonders for Sarah's family values image ... or her championship of abstinence...
Palin separates the (conservative) men from the boys
One of the benefits of the Sarah Palin ascendancy has been the clear line of distinction it has drawn between conservatives -- meaning those who simply adopt the title, but whose concern really is the election of Republicans, no matter what the consequences; those whose "conservatism" is of the Christian Taliban kind -- aimed at forcing the U.S. into an evangelical theocracy -- and true conservatives who cleave to the principles of limited government, meritocracy, and non-adventurism (the conservatism of Barry Goldwater or Dwight Eisenhower versus the mish-mash conservative stew thrown together by Ronald Reagan.)
On the Palin pick, those in the first category -- who live to see Republicans elected, but care little about governing (call them the Karl Rove wing) are defending the choice of Palin based on her "newness", "freshness" and ability to restart the Republican "brand." These "conservatives' could care less about the implications of Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency, in the perilous times we live in, with issues like Iraq, Iran, Georgia-Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. on the table. They just live to win (or they're shilling for drilling,) and are easily written off as hacks (put RedState, Bill Kristol and the talk radio crowd firmly here.)
Group two, the evangelical absolutists, are genuinely thrilled with Sarah, as she fulfills their dreams of The Christian Apprentice one day rising to the scepter, forcing us all to accept God's law on abortion, God's rejection of man-made climate change and sissified "science" as the law of the land.
Group three, which includes both actual conservatives, who at the end of the day, do actually care about the country, and the neocon nut-jobs whose passion is Middle East -- specifically, overthrowing the enemies of Israel. This group is waking up to the Palin nomination and cringing (see Charles Krauthammer's reaction here.)
That includes conservatism's most sincere soul, Andrew Sullivan, who had this to say on Friday:
... Think about the men and women serving this country who have every right to trust that their potential commander-in-chief, whatever their party, would have some record of even interest in foreign policy before assuming office.
Think about how the key factor in this decision was not who could defend this country were something dreadful happen to McCain in office but how to tread as much on Obama's convention bounce and use women's equality as a wedge issue among Democrats because it might secure a few points here or there. Oh, and everyone would be surprised. And even Rove would be annoyed.
This is his sense of honor and judgment. This is his sense of responsibility and service.
Here's the real slogan the McCain campaign should now adopt: Putting. Country. Last.
Sarah Palin may well have concealed inner reservoirs of greatness. I hope so! But I'd guess that John McCain does not have a much better sense of who she is, what she believes, and the extent of her abilities than my enthusiastic friends over at the Corner. It's a wild gamble, undertaken by our oldest ever first-time candidate for president in hopes of changing the board of this election campaign. 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.
Here's I fear the worst harm that may be done by this selection. The McCain campaign's slogan is "country first." It's a good slogan, and it aptly describes John McCain, one of the most self-sacrificing, gallant, and honorable men ever to seek the presidency.
But 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?
Inexperience. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue. As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.
And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either. (On the other hand, as Kate O’Beirne just told me, we know that Palin will be ready for that 3 a.m. phone call: She’ll already be up with her baby.)
Tokenism. Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man? ...
It was funny watching poor Fred Barnes hector the members of Frank Luntz's Minneapolis focus group today on CSPAN. Luntz tried his damndest to pull some positive news out of the 25 participants about Palin, but it just didn't work. As Joe Klein, who was there, reports:
Only one person said Palin made him more likely to vote for McCain; about half the 25-member group raised their hands when asked if Palin made them less likely to vote for McCain. They had a negative impression of Palin by a 2-1 margin...a fact that was reinforced when they were given hand-dials and asked to react to Palin's speech at her first appearance with McCain on Friday---the dials remained totally neutral as Palin went through her heart-warming(?) biography, and only blipped upwards when she said she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere--which wasn't quite the truth, as we now know. Then there was this, from a woman named Teresa, who went to the Democratic Convention as a Hillary delegate and is leaning toward voting for McCain--obviously the target audience for the Palin pick: "His age didn't really bother me until he picked Palin. What if he dies in office and leaves us with her as President? Also she leans toward the rigid right, and I always thought he was a moderate...You know, I change my mind almost every day, but right now I"m wondering where the John McCain I really liked in 2000 went, what happened to the moderate? This John McCain has the look of someone who is being manipulated--probably by Karl Rove."
It really was interesting, if you get a chance, check it out.