Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Sunday, October 19, 2008
The big one: Collin Powell endorses Obama
Gen. Powell is giving a press conference right now after his "MTP" interview, in which he endorsed Barack Obama, met the press (before it's airtime.) Powell was asked the obligatory "what about your record on the war?" question, and he's talking now about the negativity of the McCain campaign (particularly the Bill Ayers sludge,) and the role that played in his decision. Powell is breaking such orthodoxy china as saying "taxes are necessary for the public good," and he criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war. He said McCain would "follow the orthodoxy of the Republican party" rather than bring change, and said that his endorsement was a look "forward to 2009," rather than backward. Big day for the Obama campaign. So much for Sarah Palin's non-surprise appearance on the lamest "SNL" in weeks perking up that campaign...

... which was going to have a big day anyway, given that it raised a staggereing $150 million last month. Is it too late for McCain to suspend his campaign again?

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posted by JReid @ 9:35 AM  
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Things that aren't going to happen: Collin Powell as McCain v.p.
How desperate for attention is the McCain campaign? So desperate, they're floating their own black guy (take that, liberal media...! Can somebody get Fournier on the line...? We've got fresh talking points for him...)
(Politico) Retired Gen. Colin Powell is among the potential running mates who have been considered by John McCain, campaign advisers told Politico.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 PM  
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Hey Scheunemann, it's Georgia calling ... they want their $800,000 back
Exactly what did the nation of Georgia expect in return for the $800,000 they paid to Randy Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm over the last couple of years? And did they renew the contract this spring, for $200,000, expecting that they were buying a guaranteed U.S. response to any belligerence by Russia, as if they were already in NATO? The Washington Post bombshell about Schenemann's lucrative Georgian lobbying deal was explained brilliantly tonight on "Countdown":



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really? (And why does Lieberman sound so much like Hillary Clinton circa March???) On the contrary, Joe, I honestly don't see why anyone continues to take John McCain seriously on foreign policy. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that his grand standing against Russia has only one possible consequence: making both himself, and the U.S. look silly, since he cannot hope to back up his tough talk with action since 1) he is not the president of the United States, 2) he and Lieberman helped cook up a ridiculous war in Iraq that's draining our troop strength and 3) nobody in their right mind in the U.S. wants to go to war with Russia (and there I exclude the neocons, Lieberman included, who are insane, and I INCLUDE one George W. Bush. Even HE's not that stupid. In fact, Bush has already ruled out a military response, which ... and this is the big one ... Vlad Putin and his puppet president KNOW ... and told the Georgians point blank that all that previous talk about standing with them was all crap: all they're getting is humanitarian aid.

BTW check out this series of wiggles by the Bush administration today, about that aid:
Saakashvili also caused an uproar when he said that Bush's pledge of humanitarian aid meant the U.S. military would take control of "Georgian ports and airports." The Pentagon swiftly contradicted his statement, and Saakashvili did not repeat it during a subsequent television appearance.

But the administration appeared to be sending mixed signals with its aid shipments, pointedly using military planes and ships and warning Russia not to block sea, air or land transport routes, while insisting it had no plans to intervene militarily.

"This is not an attempt to put military assets in closer proximity to inject U.S. forces into this conflict," a senior defense official said.

An Air Force C-17 cargo plane with medical supplies, shelters and bedding, dispatched from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., landed yesterday in Tbilisi. Onboard was what the Pentagon called a 12-man "assessment team," which will stay in Georgia to act as liaison. Some team members had served in the country as part of more than 140 U.S. military and contract civilian trainers who previously worked with the Georgian military.

U.S. officials denied reports in the semi-official Russian media that U.S. advisers have been working with Georgian combat troops. On Monday, the U.S. military transported about 2,000 Georgian troops home from duty as part of the multinational force in Iraq.

Now our reticent Cowboy in Chief doesn't even want to own up to training Georgian troops, and damned sure doesn't want the Russians to feel that we're placing troops along their southwestern border ... WHICH IS WHERE GEORGIA IS... Why?



Think Cuban missile crisis. In other words, if we deploy military assets essentially along the Russian border in order to "help" a breakaway former Soviet republic that is hanging onto two ethnic Russian provinces against their will, and thus interfering with Russia's sphere of influence AND threatening them militarily? Cuban ... missile ... crisis. Which of course, would be fine by the neocons, because they're crazy (and Georgia has oil pipelines.) But the rest of us who are NOT crazy? Not so much.

And, we're supposed to trust John McCain with the button?

And what's this I hear about Joe's friends the Israelis joining with the Bush administration to train Georgian troops (apparently not very well...)? Could that be another reason why the neocons are so hopped up on Georgia, because it has become a sphere of influence for the Israelis, with lots of oil, right next to Israeli-U.S. ally Turkey, to boot? Just a thought...

Meanwhile, Steve Clemons at TWN speculates on the neocons' plans to purge McCain's foreign policy team of the taint of realism, by exporting Collin Powell.

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posted by JReid @ 11:00 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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