Cheney, torture, and the very bored mainstream media
Just realized today that Commondreams ran my piece: "The media's collective yawn over torture for war" on Saturday. It starts off as follows:
Faced with what could be the biggest foreign policy bombshell since the Gulf of Tonkin lies cleared the way for Vietnam, the Washington-New York media establishment has chosen to do nothing. Much as D.C. reporters decided several years ago that they were no longer interested covering the Bush administration's duplicity in the run-up to the Iraq war (nor are the David Gregory's of the world interested in revisiting their profession's complicity with the former administration in that regard,) "the press," it seems, has decided to take a pass. And what they're passing on is truly stunning.
In short, evidence is quickly piling up suggesting that the torture of terrorism suspects, and even the alleged request from no less than the office of the vice president of the United States, to waterboard an Iraqi official, had less to do with protecting Americans from further attack after 9/11, than it had to do with bolstering a phony case for invading Iraq. Polls show a plurality of Americans will accept even torture - as sickening as that fact is to anyone who cares about civil liberties - if it's done to save innocent (read American) lives. But how would the American people square the idea of torturing people, not to save lives, but to produce false confessions in order to give a small group of ideologues - the neoconservatives - the war they desired. Most Americans have long since accepted that the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was flawed, if not totally false. What we didn't know until recently, was that to sell that case, members of the Bush administration, possibly including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - maybe even the president of the United States, were willing to do things we're accustomed to ascribing to the North Koreans or Maoist Chinese: using torture not to get good information, but to produce false confessions, to justify an unnecessary war.
I'll be on FAIR's radio show "CounterSpin" tomorrow to discuss it. ... of course, we don't get CounterSpin here in South Florida, where pretty much the only things on the radio are right wing talk, sports talk, party music, and black comedians on FM talking to angry baby mamas. So you'll have to listen online. The interview is at 1:15 p.m. Not sure what time it will air.
Rod Blagojevich may be a nut-bag, or a sociopath, or a crook, or maybe all three. But he's no shrinking violet, and he's one heck of a chess player. By appointing a well qualified, respected black man, who just happens to be Illinois only statewide elected black official, to replace the nation's only black Senator, Blago just dared the Senate to tell a brotha 'no':
Brushing aside charges that he tried to sell Illinois' vacant U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the post today in defiance of Senate leaders who said they would not admit anyone he selected.
It was an abrupt about-face for Blagojevich, who had said after his Dec. 9 corruption arrest that he favored a special election to find a successor to President-elect Barack Obama. But Blagojevich said he acted after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly declined to approve legislation for a special election.
"Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," Blagojevich said while introducing Burris at a downtown news conference.
So what will Team Obama do? Issue a statement:
"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy."
But Blago knew what he was doing:
Blagojevich's move seemed designed to trump fellow Democrats who control the U.S. Senate and have unanimously warned him against making the appointment because of the criminal charges. His choice of Burris, Illinois' first African-American elected statewide, presents senators with the dilemma of saying no to a replacement for Obama, who was the nation's only black senator.
That point was driven home at the news conference by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago, who said it's a matter of national importance that an African-American replace Obama in the Senate.
"Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the Senate...this is just not a state of Illinois matter," Rush said.
"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer," Rush also said. "Roland Burris is worthy."
The governor's announcement came less than an hour after U.S. Senate Democratic leadership issued a statement saying the Senate will not seat anyone Blagojevich chooses to fill Illinois' vacant Senate post. The statement also is signed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who has repeatedly urged Blagojevich not to name a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
So now Blago has put the Senate, including senior Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin, in an unenviable position: they can refuse to seat Burris, and deny a qualified black man the seat, or they can seat him, and watch Blago laugh all the way to the big house. However, things may not look so good for Mr. Burris:
Burris has given more than $20,000 to Blagojevich's campaign fund on his own and through his consulting and law firms, state campaign finance records show. Burris' consulting company received about $290,000 in state contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation a few years ago, according to state comptroller records.
Burris became the first African-American to win statewide office in 1978, when he won the first of his three terms as comptroller. But Burris repeatedly stalled in his quest for bigger political office. He failed in three consecutive runs for governor--1994, 1998 and 2002, when he ran against Blagojevich--in the Democratic primaries.
Uh oh... well, it was a good game of chicken while it lasted.
Here's a fact the media glossed over: remember when Jesse Jackson Jr. was finally fingered as "Senate Candidate #5" in the Blago scandal? Well, what did Jr. do? No, besides call a press conference and start doing sit-down interviews, stat!...? He lawyered up. Well guess who else hired counsel:
In news that is very ominous for Candidate 5 and his family, Jesse Jackson Jr is not the only one who has lawyered up since Blago's arrest on Tuesday. Jesse Jackson Sr has done so too (h/t nextstopchicago and choochmac).
Also, the congressman's father, Jesse Jackson Sr., has retained legal council following the Blagojevich arrest.
That's from way back on December 11. And it's just one of five reasons the Blago scandal really, really sucks for Jesse Jr:
#5. His family's rep is already tainted, by his dad's past ... um ... deal making. And now, he's hired a lawyer? Not good.
#4. It's now clear that Jr. wasn't on the list that Rahm Emanuel submitted to Blago of preferred Senate candidates, which means that either Team Obama didn't feel that Jackson could win the seat statewide, or that there is some other, unknown problem between the Jackson and Obama camps. Either way, not good news.
#3. Jackson might actually be innocent. In fact, the latest news is that he's been informing on Blago for a decade. But if that's the case, one has to wonder how his reputation within his own community might suffer from finding out that he's a federal rat.
#2. Jackson might not be so innocent. If he has known what Blago wanted in exchange for appointments for ten years, why did he allow his emissaries to create even the impression that he was willing to pay the piper? The chain of events certainly makes the Congressman look naive. And naivete does not a Senator make.
#1. No matter how you slice it, Jackson's possibilities of becoming a Senator, already slim, have sunk to none. And with his prospects, probably go his influence with the incoming adminstration -- something he worked tirelessly during the campaign to cultivate.
As if he doesn't have enough problems, (though he did have some better luck with the Illinois Supreme Court today,) Rod "Blago" Blagojevich is now being accused of being a mob-paying bookie back in the day:
A former Chicago lawyer who went undercover for the FBI said that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) was once a bookmaker with ties to the mafia.
Robert Cooley, who testified for the FBI in corruption cases, told ABC 7 in Chicago that Blagojevich paid the mob to let him operate as a bookie.
"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs," Cooley said. "He was paying street tax to the mob out there."
Cooley also worked as a police officer, and his undercover work and testimony led to the convictions of 24 politicians, cops, judges and lawyers on corruption charges.
Cooley said he wasn't surprised to see Blagojevich in legal trouble.
"I predicted five years ago when he ran the first time that he was a hands on person who would be selling every position in the state of Illinois and that it exactly what happened," he said.
Read and watch the full story here. Of course, Blago's real crime might be that he's still wearing his high school hair. Get a load of this:
The pic was listed on Ebay, and is from Blago's 1975 Foremanual Foreman high school vol. 36 yearbook, Chicago, Illinois. The item is no longer for sale.
Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (L) w. Sen. Everett Dirksen listening
intently during Johnson's Senate hearings, November 27, 1957
More proof that Thom Hartmann is running the most valuable show in talk radio. Today he played portions of White House tapes in which then-president Lyndon Johnson accused Richard Nixon, who would become the next president of the United States, of treason regarding the Vietnam war, and an incident eerily similar to an operation George W. Bush's father pulled off on behalf of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan 32 years later...
Just days before the pivotal 1968 presidential election featuring Vice President Hubert Humphrey's bid to succeed him, President Lyndon Baines Johnson suspected Humphrey's Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, of political sabotage that he called treason, according to the final recordings of Johnson's presidency to be publicly released.
As Johnson tried to arrange peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the election, he and his closest advisers received information indicating that Nixon allies had asked that South Vietnam avoid peace talks until after the election, the tapes show.
Johnson and his advisers, Humphrey included, kept their concerns secret at the time. But given that Nixon defeated Humphrey by just 500,000 votes out of 73 million cast and that Nixon's suspected perfidy involved the unpopular war in Vietnam, there is ample cause to wonder how history might have been changed had the concerns Johnson voiced 40 years ago been made public.
The LBJ Library made those conversations public Thursday with the release of 42 hours of recordings made from May 1968 until the Johnson family left the White House in January 1969. ...
With an election hanging in the balance, however, there is added drama in the flurry of calls in late October and early November concerning Johnson's attempt to bring the North and South Vietnamese governments together for the first time to discuss peace.
On March 31, under heavy pressure from the anti-war wing of his Democratic Party, Johnson shocked the American people by saying he would not run for re-election or accept his party's nomination. Instead, Johnson endorsed Humphrey, who inherited the warmonger label critics had hung on Johnson.
And the crescendo:
To test the good faith of the North Vietnamese, Johnson ordered that all bombing in the north cease on Oct. 31 , six days before voters were to go the polls. The cease-fire gave the Humphrey campaign an immediate jolt — polls showed Nixon's 8-percentage-point lead had shrunk to 2 points.
The precise nature of any communication between Nixon's allies and the South Vietnamese government isn't revealed in the tapes — nor is the way Johnson and his advisers learned of them.
In the tapes, Johnson tells Secretary of State Dean Rusk: "It's pretty obvious to me it's had its effect."
In a segment aired at the news conference, Johnson tells Sen. Everett Dirksen , the Republican minority leader, that it will be Nixon's responsibility if the South Vietnamese don't participate in the peace talks.
"This is treason," LBJ says to Dirksen.
"I know," Dirksen replies, very softly.
Confronting Nixon by telephone on Nov. 3, Johnson outlines what had been alleged and how important it was to the conduct of the war for Nixon's people not to meddle.
"My God," Nixon says to Johnson, "I would never do anything to encourage the South Vietnamese not to come to that conference table." Instead, Nixon pledged to help in any way Johnson or Rusk suggested, "To hell with the political credit, believe me."
For Johnson and his top advisers, it wasn't a matter of whether Nixon was telling the truth but whether accusing Nixon of meddling would give the appearance that Johnson — rather than Nixon — was using the war to influence the election.
In the end, the South Vietnamese stayed away from the proposed peace talks. And Johnson listened to his advisers and suggested to Humphrey that he not use what he had learned.
"For God's sake, you want everybody to know you don't play politics with human lives, that we did what's right," Johnson tells Rusk on one of the recordings.
In several of the recordings, Johnson wonders what will become of a Democratic Party so riven by the war that it would not unite behind Humphrey.
"I'm sorry I let you down a little," Humphrey tells Johnson.
"No, you didn't; no you didn't," Johnson replies. "A lot of other folks (did), not you. You fought well and hard."
The original audio can be found in several parts, dating from October 31, 1968 through the election, here (10/31/68), here (11/2), here, here (11/3)and here. The full lot of LBJ tapes is here. The conversations are mainly with Everett Dirksen, interestingly enough a Republican Senator from Illinois, for whom the Senate's main office building is named (and the man likely responsible for getting John McCain's father his possibly undeserved fourth star...) But there are also conversations with Nixon himself (in which he denies meddling in the peace talks) and one conference call with a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor, who got wind of the story and wondered why LBJ and Humphrey weren't going public with their suspicions.
Fast forward to the 1980 election, and guess what strategy the Republicans are reviving? U.S. hostage were released on the day Reagan took the oath of office, and his CIA director, Mr. Casey, wound up with a piece of his brain missing 48 hours before he was to testify about Iran Contra.
A more concise version of the LBJ Nixon "treason" audio:
Dear John: please, please, PLEASE bring up Bill Ayers
John McCain is promising his supporters that he's going to whip Barack Obama's clot in tonight's debate, and he just swears he's man enough to bring up Bill Ayers. Ok, Mac. Do it. Listen to Rush Limbaugh instead of the "pointy headed intellectuals" who actually have ideas in your party, and bring.up.Bill.Ayers. If you do, you'll look even more erratic and miserable and out of touch than you do now. You'll turn off even more swing voters and moderates, who by the way, are what you desperately need right now, not to gain, but to TURN, since Barack has reached the 50 percent threshold and you, in two words, have not. You'll also open the door for Barack to highlight the ties between the people who funded Bill Ayers and the foundation for which he and Barack sat on the board, and the Republican Party, not to mention, to YOU. And it will prove that the last several days of so-called "changing the tone" were another gimmick, like "suspending your campaign."
Worse for you, all your and Sarah P's over the top, slanderous (and yet entirely unserious) Ayers talk has prompted the media to do something reporters don't do so very often in these days of newsroom budget cuts: they're reporting (and posting ... hello, beastie...) and what they're finding is that Bill Ayers isn't some wild-eyed terrorist goon who "still wants to bring down America," he's a rather non-controversial college professor -- and a rather shy one at that, who has had very little to do with Barack Obama. Once normal, non-crazy people get a good gander at him, he will surely underwhelm.
So go for it, "my friend." I'll be watching ... with popcorn.
The Naples News-Press has endorsed Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, despite his ethical lapse at a Sarah Palin rally in which he used Barack Obama's middle name to disparage the Democratic candidate (while Scott was in uniform.) Well, that's their prerogative, just as it's the feds' prerogative to investigate Scott for possible violation of the Hatch Act. But what Scott said long after the rally, in his own defense, might actually be worse than what he did on stage. Specifically, from an October 14 story in another Naples paper:
Scott, when told by a reporter that some people saw use of the name as an attempt to frighten people, responded, "Well, what is ‘Barack Obama?' That's not ‘Mike Scott' or ‘Jim Smith.'"
Well, what does Sheriff Scott mean by that, exactly? "...what is ‘Barack Obama?' That's not ‘Mike Scott' or ‘Jim Smith.???" If I lived in Lee County and my name were, say, Samir Muhammad or Sebastien Ibeke (my father's name) or ... say ... Barack Obama, I might not be so quick to take the News Press' endorsement to the polls, and I might not be so confident of the police services Mike Scott would provide for me.
Stop the ACLU leads the right wing charge against Newsweek for ... putting Sarah Palin on the cover without soft lighting (and for Jonathan Meacham's cover story) ... and then commits an illuminating act of truthiness:
Newsweek’s Jon Meacham thinks that Governor Sarah Palin is too much a commoner and too stupid to be allowed to become vice president of the United States of America and apparently his employer agrees with him. The October 13 cover of Newsweek features a close up photo of the Governor with the headline “She’s One of the Folks (And that’s the problem),” and Meacham writes the accompanying cover story. Be clear about what this means: This is a direct attack on Mr. and Mrs. America. We are all too stupid to be president in the elite opinion of Jon Meacham and Newsweek magazine.
Yep. that about sums it up. Most "regular folks" (and just about everybody at Stop the ACLU...) ARE too stupid to be president. We should start electing smarter applicants. STAT. (STACLU won't be liking this gal either, nope, you betcha not!)
The gubernatorial superstar did appear at one of those big ole rallies in Ohio today, where she kinda forgot to mention that the Dow Jones plunged below 9,000 for the first time in years, but she did bring up Bill Ayers, doncha know!
Meanwhile, the TrooperGate probe is back in business following a ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court, with a report on John McCain's little Sancho Panza's nasty little vendetta due to drop tomorrow (which at this point, has become today...) And we're finding out a little bit more about Todd Palin's role, not just as "First Dude," but apparently, also as Alaska's unofficial personnel manager:
Todd Palin campaigned for years to get state trooper Mike Wooten fired, he told the Alaska Legislature's "Troopergate" investigator, in a 25-page response to a list of questions.
Palin provided his answers to special counsel Stephen Branchflower yesterday, according to news accounts and sources familiar with the probe. Palin's lawyer and the McCain-Palin campaign made the document available to reporters that evening, a move condemned by State Senate officials.
"The McCain campaign should not be releasing these documents to you," said Alaska Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, after learning the camp had offered the document to a reporter, under condition of anonymity. "This is a confidential report," she said. "The campaign should have nothing to do with this."
Silly Alaska guy. The campaign has got something to do with EVERYTHING... (country first!)
Finally, I think we can all agree that it's high time the media began taking a serious look at the nefarious associations of one of the candidates vying to lead this country, because those associations are pretty gall-darned disturbing...
PALMER, Alaska — | On the afternoon of Sept. 24 in downtown Palmer, Alaska, as the sun began to sink behind the snowcapped mountains that flank the picturesque Mat-Su Valley, 51-year-old Mark Chryson sat for an hour on a park bench, reveling in tales of his days as chairman of the Alaska Independence Party. The stocky, gray-haired computer technician waxed nostalgic about quixotic battles to eliminate taxes, support the “traditional family” and secede from the United States.
So long as Alaska remained under the boot of the federal government, said Chryson, the AIP had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invited a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pickup truck that were intended for his personal protection. “This here is my attack dog,” he said with a chuckle, handing the reporter an exuberant 8-pound papillon from his passenger seat. “Her name is Suzy.” Then he pulled a 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol — once the standard-issue sidearm for Soviet cops — out of his glove compartment. “I’ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement,” he said, clutching the gun in his palm. “Then again, so do most Alaskans.” But Chryson added a message of reassurance to residents of that faraway place some Alaskans call “the 48.” “We want to go our separate ways,” he said, “but we are not going to kill you.”
Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin!!!??? Heeeey, wait a minute...
An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin’s campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.
Well, at least we don't have to worry about John McCain's associations ...
McCain associated with Bitburg defenders
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
John McCain was associated with a far-right group that derided opponents of President Reagan's visit to a Nazi cemetery.
Senator McCain (R-Ariz.), the Republican presidential candidate, joined the U.S. Council for World Freedom's board around the time he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982.
At the time, the group was distancing itself from the former Nazis and fascists who made up the international group with which it was affiliated, the World Anti-Communist League. McCain's endorsement was a boon to the council, reportedly cited in a 1981 Anti-Defamation League report because of those international ties.
McCain first sought to distance himself from the group in 1984, when the council was named as involved in efforts to support the Contras, the right-wing militias in Nicaragua, The Associated Press said in a report Tuesday. The McCain campaign supplied the AP with a letter he wrote that year resigning his position, but the group apparently did not take note.
It was later revealed that the council was acting as a front for the CIA in Nicaragua, and in 1986, McCain again asked the group to remove his name from its letterhead, and this time it complied, the AP reported. In the interim, however, McCain attended the group's Freedom Fighter of the Year award ceremony in October 1985.
A few months earlier, the group's newsletter had derided opponents of Reagan's decision to mark 40 years since the end of World War II with a visit to Bitburg, a German cemetery that includes the graves of members of Hitler's notorious SS death squads. Jewish groups led the opposition to the visit.
It has been discovered that McCain may have some connections of his own. In today’s article on the TIME Magazine website, it is revealed that McCain served on the advisory board of the US Council for World Freedom. This group has been linked to Central American death squads that leaned to the far right.
This group was stripped of its nonprofit tax exemption by the IRS. This was due to the group aiding rebels that wanted to take down Nicaragua’s leftist government. Keep in mind, McCain served on the advisory board during the 1980s.
This group was the US arm of the World Anti-Communist League. And yes, this was still during the Cold War. It was the battle between Capitalism and Communism. The US Council for World Freedom was founded by John Singlaub, a retired Army Major General.
It is also revealed that this group is also linked with Nazi collaborators.
On Monday, October 6,2008 Lee County Sheriff, Mike Scott in full uniform, spoke at a political rally for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. He spoke of Barack Obama, calling him "Barack Hussein Obama". This was a blatant attempt to conjure images of Islamic extremism and the rally attendees took it as such. They began to cheer after the word "Hussein" and before the Sheriff had made his point. It was the name, and its connotations, they were cheering.
Sheriff Scott has said that he will not apologize and if Obama doesn't like being called Hussein, "Perhaps he should have changed his name." I would like to point out that the Sheriff's middle name was not used when he was introduced. Sarah Palin's middle name was not used when the Sheriff introduced her just moments after he referenced the Senator by his full name. This is clearly an attempt to make a racially charged assertion about who Barack Obama is, based upon his name.
Associations like these, are not only inaccurate as Senator Obama is not a Muslim, but they are inappropriate because being a Muslim doesn't equate to being a terrorist. Suggesting otherwise is offensive to Muslims, and others living in the state of Florida. The Sheriff is a public official, whose salary is paid by the very citizens he offends with such a statement.
Central Florida is home to more than 25,000 practicing Muslims according to The Islamic Society of Central Florida and countless other religious and racial minority groups. It is unacceptable to have public officials who display their disdain for these groups so proudly.
We request that Sheriff Mike Scott be publicly reprimanded for his behavior and asked to issue a public apology.
So far they're at 75 signatures. The actual petition is here.
Sheriff Mike Scott gave an interview to the Lehigh Acres News Star in Fort Myers and issued a statement on what will heretofore be known as "Namegate." First, a clip from the statement:
• Everyone seems to agree on the underlying issue…my mention of a Presidential candidate’s full, legal name of record. There were no accusations, innuendos, untruths, or malicious words before or after the candidate’s name; although many others have made inflammatory statements about the candidate’s character, etc. I did not change my tone or otherwise punctuate or repeat the name with any verbal or physical emphasis.
• “Why” did I use the Candidate’s full, legal name of record? Despite varying inferences, interpretations, opinions, and extrapolations; the answer is because I wanted to, much like I wanted to voice my support for the Barron Collier Marching Band.
• The issue of my status as an elected official participating in a political rally has been raised along with the suggestion that this somehow clouds my representation of all constituents. I have not heard similar concern over the many other elected officials that day and everyday engaging in the same activities across our state and country. For example – Governor Crist is the Governor of all Florida’s people and his support of the Republican ticket in no way implies diminished concern for anyone opposing his political choice. Likewise, my political choices against the backdrop of my proven record of service, in no way suggest diminished concern for any individual or group.
• The issue of my appearance at the rally in uniform has been raised. It is noteworthy that I recently completed my primary campaign and continue my general campaign in the same uniform. My practice has been to wear the uniform at all times and as is undisputed, I am on duty 24/7 and 365. It is also noteworthy that I joined my fellow Florida Sheriffs in Tampa very recently for a political rally…all were in full uniform. At no time during this week’s rally did I mention the agency I represent; however, I was introduced by my official title. Given the introduction and my widespread name and face recognition in this area, I am satisfied that my apparel is irrelevant and the same reactions would have resulted had I been wearing a suit and tie.
Now, about that uniform you say you wear "at all times...." when you say "at all times," do you mean "ALL times, all times? Or just at "sometimes" all times...
Mike Scott (second from the right) at an event last summer, sanz uniform...
In the statement, Scott also goes after the local NAACP for criticizing him, saying:
... The strong support these groups have always provided me is rooted in my tireless efforts to work equally hard for all of Lee County. I delivered the Dunbar Community Policing Office and shocked business owners along MLK Jr. Blvd. by regularly stopping in to say hello during my first term as Sheriff. If their support is so shallow as to wane over one (1) word that was legal, accurate, and void of supporting malice beyond dispute, then I will respectfully move on without their political support and without change to my loyalty to them or their constituents.
Well, I mean he did come by and visit...
Scott says he expects to be fully cleared on the Hatch Act charges, and that he won't be making any further public statements. Except for in this intervew, as recounted by columnist Sam Cook, in which Scott appears to leave his body, where the reason and logic purportedly reside...
"I answered a lot of e-mails and signed my middle name (Joseph) on all of them,'' says Scott, 45. "I don't see anything wrong with calling him Barack Hussein Obama.
"That is his name.'' ...
... Scott, in an interview Tuesday with news-press.com and The News-Press, says he doesn't comprehend the commotion his name-calling put in motion.
"I was told to speak three to four minutes and fire up the crowd,'' he says. "Help welcome her to Southwest Florida.
"That's pretty much what I did. I've watched that tape over and over. I don't see any malice. What I said was truthful and accurate. I did not say anything unethical, immoral or illegal.''
That's a matter of opinion.
If Scott didn't believe name-dropping "Hussein'' would create upheaval in Southwest Florida, he isn't the astute politician who captured 91 percent of the vote in Lee County's Republican primary victory last month.
Again, Scott says he won't back down from his comment.
"I'll never, ever, ever apologize,'' he says. "There is nothing in my mind to apologize for. I just can't do it. That's all. It's the principle of the thing.''
Politically speaking - even for a landslide winner - his remark was one dumb move.
Perhaps no one ever told the sheriff that throwing Barack Obama's middle name into a conversation is the most common tool that right wing talk radio hosts, bloggers and such use to deride the Senator as "foreign," an undercover Muslim, and even a friend of terrorists. (In fact, it was just done again less than two hours ago in Pennsylvania...) Maybe he's the one guy in America who despite being a Rudy Giuliani-loving Republican, who I'm assuming has at least heard of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the like, or even listened to them from time to time, still doesn't know that. Assuming he is that dumb, or that naive, maybe next time, our man with the badge should simply use the names Sarah Louise Palin or to refer to John Sydney McCain III in public conversation, just to balance things out.
The Secret Service is now investigating the infamous "kill him!" remark hurled at a Sarah Palin rally here in Florida this week, which has so far been a crescendo of pretty scary crowd reactions to insinuations by Palin that Barack Obama -- who I might remind you is a sitting U.S. Senator, and one of those colleagues John McCain supposedly would "reach across the aisle" to work with as president -- is essentially a terrorist (or terrorist sympathier) -- allegations Joe Biden is calling "mildly dangerous" (to put it mildly.)
Apparently, agents at the rally site didn't hear the remark, but people in the crowd did, as Dana Milbank reported in the WaPo. Some people, myself included, are now warning McCain that his campaign is playing with fire, and possibly even endangering Obama's life. There are real nuts out there, some of whom are being whipped into a frenzy of racist and xenophobic hatred against Obama even before Sarah P started aligning him with terrorists. Remember those screwballs in Denver? Well even a screwball can change the world, as Lee Harvey Oswald proved in 1963.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan puts it bluntly: "they know what they're doing."
It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.
They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record — into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison. ...
... Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.
That line follows passages in Ms. Palin’s new stump speech in which she twists Mr. Obama’s ill-advised but fleeting and long-past association with William Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground and confessed bomber. By the time she’s done, she implies that Mr. Obama is right now a close friend of Mr. Ayers — and sympathetic to the violent overthrow of the government. The Democrat, she says, “sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
Her demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled “kill him!” as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.
Mr. McCain’s aides haven’t even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were “going negative” in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis — and by implication Mr. McCain’s stumbling response.
We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics. He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.
And the tactic of guilt by association is perplexing, since Mr. McCain has his own list of political associates he would rather forget. ...
In a way, we should not be surprised that Mr. McCain has stooped so low, since the debate showed once again that he has little else to talk about. He long ago abandoned his signature issues of immigration reform and global warming; his talk of “victory” in Iraq has little to offer a war-weary nation; and his Reagan-inspired ideology of starving government and shredding regulation lies in tatters on Wall Street.
But surely, Mr. McCain and his team can come up with a better answer to that problem than inciting more division, anger and hatred.
Lee County, Florida Sheriff Mike Scott isn't talking to the press. So says Lt. Robert Forrest, Commander of the county's Publ ic Information Office. Forrest, the day after Scott delivered a stem winding introduction for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a campaign rally in Estero, located north of Bonita Springs on Florida's Gulf Coast.
Scott told a roaring crowd, Monday, that there are three types of people in the world: "the ones who make things happen, the ones who watch what happens and the ones who wonder what happened." Then he added, "let's leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened."
The response from Lee County constituents, and from the media, was immediate.
"We've taken probably 1,000 phone calls during this business day and we've had pretty much a 50-50 proposition," when it comes to callers' opinions of Scott's rhetoric Monday, Forrest said, "with some individuals very passionately stating their opinions, some of them in a calm, well articulated manner and others in a not so articulate, calm demeanor."
Forrest added that Scott has "wiped his hands" of the matter and didn't plan to give any interviews.
Before he stopped talking to the press, Scott was unapologetic, telling local reporters he "absolutely, unequivocally" didn't regret using Obama's middle name, and adding, "frankly, if this is such a hot-button issue, he, as a Harvard lawyer, could have changed it if he didn't like it." Obama's middle name is often used derisively by conservative talk radio and blogs, including by those attempting to imply that Obama, who is Christian, is in fact a Muslim.
"Obviously a lot of folks feel compelled to say something about this," Forrest said, but "he meant nothing by the use of the middle name, he was surprised by all the hoopla and he is moving on."
He might be the only one.
On Tuesday, the Office of Special Counsel in Washington D.C. confirmed to THE REID REPORT that it has opened an investigation into Scott's political activities Monday, which were conducted while he was in uniform. According to the federal Hatch Act, such activities might be prohibited by law. According to the Office of Special Counsel:
The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.
It states that covered persons may not "use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination," and that while "an employee's conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency… employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws."
"Today we've launched a formal investigation into the sheriffs activity during yesterday's political event," OSC Director of Congressional-Public Affairs Anthony Guglielmi told THE REID REPORT Tuesday. Guglielmi said that the first step would be to determine whether Scott was in fact covered by the Hatch Act, including if the Lee County Sheriff's office has received any federal grants. If violations are found, Scott would be notified and advised "how to rectify" the situation, and could face penalties including dismissal, or forfeiture of federal assistance equal to two years salary.
Guglielmi said his office became aware of the situation through "media coverage and calls from concerned citizens." He said the OSC is "taking a pro-active step" to investigate this and many other Hatch Act related claims "before the election."
On the local laws, at least, Scott appears to be in the clear. According to Forrest, Lee County policy states that "deputies and officers can't campaign in uniform, but a sheriff can because he is an elected official." Forrest added that Scott is always in uniform: "he is the chief law enforcement officer of Lee county regardless of where he is or what he is doing."
Scott's previous statements to the media said he was not speaking for the Sheriff's department on Monday.
Forrest called Scott, a Republican who is on the ballot for re-election in November, "a thorough professional and extremely popular sheriff in Lee County who is well respected and well liked," adding that "his track record speaks for itself." Scott was elected in 2004 after defeating a first-term incumbent, Rod Shoap. His official website states that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is his "inspiration," and that he keeps a Votomatic Vote Recorder used in the 2000 Lee County election in his office. The site reads in part: "the voting booth is the sheriff's daily reminder to be responsive to voters who elected him to office. At the center of his conference table sits a sculpture with an arrow pointing outward, keeping him grounded and focused on the whole agency. Three framed words sit on his desk: Honesty. Trust. Integrity."
Update: Lee County Sheriff under federal investigation
It's the Hatch Act, stupid. I just confirmed with the Office of Special Counsel in D.C. that Sheriff Mike Scott is being investigated for possibly violating the Hatch Act during his partisan speech in uniform on behalf of Sarah Palin yesterday. My story should be posted to an online news outlet near you, very soon. The Public Information Officer at the Lee County Sheriff's Department says Scott has "wiped his hands" of the controversy and won't be talking to the media. This one's Developing...
Under color of authority: Lee County Sheriff a hatchet man in uniform
Lee County, Fla. Sheriff Mike Scott campaigns for Sarah Palin on Monday
Did Lee County, Florida Sheriff Mike Scott violate the rules of his office (in addition to those of propriety,) when he rallied for John McCain and Sarah Palin, and attacked Barack Obama while wearing his uniform? First, the story from yesterday:
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott took the stage moments ago as one of the introductory speakers at a rally here for Sarah Palin. After delivering brief remarks in support of Palin, Sheriff Scott flipped the switch and used Barack Obama’s middle name in order to incite the crowd of thousands of people who have already gathered here.
“On Nov. 4, let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened,” the law enforcement officer said.
Sheriff Scott essentially lent the color of police authority to the implication, by him, and by the subsequent speakers (including Sarah Palin,) not to mention right wing talk radio, Fox News, and the McCain campaign itself, that Barack Obama is an undercover Muslim who is aligned with terrorists. And not a few observers have noted that the McCain campaign is subtly dipping into racist sentiment as well, attempting to scare working class white voters about Obama's "exoticism." (There was a time when race baiting in full uniform wasn't all that uncommon for police officers in the American south, which makes the tone of Scott's appearance all the more ... well ... troubling.) Do the people Scott "protects and serves" in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers, Naples, Punta Gorda and other cities on the Gulf Coast, which I'm assuming includes at least a few black people and which does include more than 95,000 Democrats, feel comfortable with the apolitical and fair disposition of his authority today?
And while the campaign attempted to distance itself ever so slightly from the remarks, they aren't much worse than what John McCain's running mate has been saying in her stump speech about Obama "palling around with terrorists," (which is funny coming from a woman who pals around with her Alaskan separatist hubby...) including the remarks she made after Scott and a talk radio host were done introducing her.
A bit about Scott, from the Lee County Sheriff's website:
Small details in Scott’s office are telling. At one corner sits a Votomatic Vote Recorder used in the 2000 Lee County election. The voting booth is the sheriff’s daily reminder to be responsive to voters who elected him to office.At the center of his conference table sits a sculpture with an arrow pointing outward, keeping him grounded and focused on the whole agency. Three framed words sit on his desk: Honesty. Trust. Integrity.
The new sheriff’s first experience with law enforcement came in 1986 as a probation officer. He joined the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in 1988, serving as a public information officer and Southwest Florida CrimeStoppers coordinator until he resigned in April 2003 to run for sheriff. He also served as a motorcycle deputy in the Traffic Unit. His accolades include being named the 2003 Law Enforcement Coordinator of the Year by the Southeastern CrimeStoppers Association.
He didn’t always want to be in law enforcement, though. Scott had intended on becoming a dentist until advanced chemistry classes at University of South Florida made him think otherwise. He earned an undergraduate degree in political science instead. He also considered general contracting, following his father’s profession, but an economic downturn during that time pointed him in a different direction. Scott later earned his master of business administration degree from IMPAC University.
For inspiration, the sheriff looks to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who Time Magazine named 2001 person of the year for his leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Scott also admires the leadership of Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Well, he keeps a memento of the 2000 election (though he wasn't elected until 2004) and callsh Rudy Giuliani his inspiration ... no wonder this guy behaves like a BrownShirt...
“I absolutely, unequivocally don’t regret saying it,” Scott said. “In order to be a speaker at this event, I had to give my full name — Michael Joseph Scott — to the Secret Service, even though I’m the sheriff of Lee County. So why would I apologize? Is there some kind of double standard here where I have to give my full name, but I can’t use his?”
... “I just wanted to use his full name,” Scott said. “And frankly, if this is such a hot-button issue, he, as a Harvard lawyer, could have changed it if he didn’t like it.”
Scott, who was wearing his uniform, said he was representing his own views, not his office.
He defended making those comments while in uniform, though.
“That’s what I wear every day,” Scott said. “That’s what I wore to the McCain rally in Tampa with my fellow sheriffs. But at no point did I say I was speaking on behalf of the sheriff’s office.”
I see. Well while I'm waiting for the Lee County Public Information Office to call me back regarding the ruless about campaigning while in uniform, perhaps we should take a look at a little thing called the Hatch Act. What's that, you ask?
The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency. Employees who work for educational or research institutions which are supported in whole or in part by a State or political subdivision of the State are not covered by the provisions of the Hatch Act.
Employees of private nonprofit organizations are covered by the Hatch Act only if the statute through which the organization receives its federal funds contains language which states that the organization shall be considered to be a state or local agency for purposes of the Hatch Act, e.g., Headstart and Community Service Block Grant statutes.
An employee’s conduct is also subject to the laws of the state and the regulations of the employing agency. Additionally, employees should be aware that the prohibitions of the Hatch Act are not affected by state or local laws.
... Covered state and local employees may not-
be candidates for public office in a partisan election
use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination
directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate
So did Sheriff Scott commit a violation? I'm not an attorney, but maybe one should look into it.
Does the McCain camp's 'terror' slur constitute a threat?
When a supporter at one of his vaunted town hall meetings in Albequerque, New Mexico shouted out that Barack Obama is a "terrorist," John McCain reportedly seemed startled, but didn't correct the slur. Far from it. His running mate has been running around the country saying that Obama "pals around with terrorists." His surrogates, including disgraced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson (who accused Obama of being "unpatriotic" last week, and all of right wing talk radio, sneer Obama's middle name, Hussein, every time they mention him. And the McCain campaign has, in the space of a single general election cycle, called Obama "the candidate of Hamas," a closet Muslim, and a man who wants to "pal around" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What is the point of all of this?
After the 9/11 terror attacks, it seems to me that there is no lower slur than to call a fellow American a terrorist sympathizer (many Americans won't make a distinction between the white Mr. Ayers and the world's Muslims, so many of whom are so very, very brown...) Such a charge is far more damaging than what the lying Swiftboat charlatans pulled on John Kerry, and even goes beyond the implications of George H.W. Bush's "Willie Horton" charge against Michael Dukakis in 1988. In those instances, the digs may have been personal, but the "terrorist" charge is also dangerous, particularly to a minority, an African-American like Obama, who needed Secret Service protection immediately upon beginning his run, because of threats to his life from racist nut jobs. By implying, in an America still suffering the after-affects of 9/11, implying that Obama is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer is tantamount to threatening his and his families' lives.
And it is particularly stunning for such a charge to be leveled by, and on behalf of one Senator against not just a fellow American, but a Senate colleague -- a member of the small club of just 100 people in Washington. For John McCain to countenance such a damning, dangerous slur -- with all the implications for a lone right wing nut who might want to "save" America from the "terrorist" -- is so unbelievable that I almost cannot believe that McCain, who served this country in the United States Navy, is allowing it to happen.
Except that he IS allowing it to happen, including out of the mouth of a law enforcement officer, Lee County, Florida Sheriff Mike Scott, who wearing his uniform, no less, pushed forward the slanderous implication that Barack Obama, an American, a United States Senator, and a man running for president of the United States, is little more than a terrorist.
John McCain, if he has a conscience somewhere inside that brittle, angry exterior, will come to regret the campaign of 2008, if for no other reason than it robbed him, or allowed him to strip himself of, his basic integrity, by allowing him to endanger, really to threaten, a fellow American and fellow Senator's safety, for ambition alone.
A bit of hyperbole? Read on as the WaPo recounts what happened right here in Florida while Gov. Palin was giving her "palling around with terrorists" stump speech:
"I was reading my copy of the New York Times the other day," she said.
"Booooo!" replied the crowd.
"I knew you guys would react that way, okay," she continued. "So I was reading the New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago."
..."Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers," Palin said.
"Boooo!" said the crowd.
"And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,'" she continued.
"Boooo!" the crowd repeated.
"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.
Remarkably, or perhaps unremarkably, Palin did not correct him.
UPDATE: The Huffpo has more on the increasingly ugly, racist taint of the McCain-Palin crowds, including one incident involving a black camera operator:
Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
Is it just me, or are the McCain-Palin rallies starting to be reminiscent of Klan rallies...?
Meanwhile, New York Gov. David Patterson weighs in on the dangers of calling a fellow American a terrorist sympathizer.
Paul Begala sounds a warning to Team McCain about what can happen when you play the "guilt by association game..."
I think Governor Palin here is making a strategic mistake. This guilt by association path is going to be trouble ultimately for the McCain campaign. You know, you can go back, I have written a book about McCain, I had a dozen researchers go through him, I didn’t even put this in the book. But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League – the parent organization – which ADL said “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.”
Now, that's not John McCain, I don't think he is that. But you know, the problem is that a lot of people know John McCain’s record better than Governor Palin. And he does not want to play guilt by association or this thing could blow up in his face.
And it gets worse. Not only could the Obama campaign play the Keating card, or the Alaska Independence Party card, but they also might get interested in John and Cindy McCain's mob ties, and Cindy's father's conviction for illegal liquor sales during the 1940s, subjects the Bushies held in reserve to use against McCain back in 2000. The mobster in question? Joe "Bananas" Bonano (and the story also wraps back into the Keating Five scandal.) The story was explored in depth in a February 17, 2000 story in the Phoenix New Times. And it was picked up by no less a right wing outfit than WorldNetDaily this February, back before right wingers were reprogrammed to fully support McCain as the Republican nominee:
John McCain's personal fortune traces back to organized crime in Arizona, through his father-in-law, according to a report published by a multi-news agency team called Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.
IRE reporters Amy Silverman and John Doherty, writing in the Phoenix New Times, note that the father of McCain's wife, James Hensley, was convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court of Arizona in March 1948 on seven counts of filing false liquor records. Hensley also was charged with conspiracy to hide from federal authorities the names of persons involved in a liquor industry racket with two companies he managed, United Sales Company in Phoenix and United Distributors in Tucson.
The umbrella company, United Liquor, at that time held a monopoly in Arizona, organized and managed by Kemper Marley, who was accused of mob ties by a reporter who was murdered in 1977.
Silverman and Doherty report that by 1955, Hensley had launched a Budweiser distributorship in Phoenix, "a franchise reportedly bestowed upon him by Marley, who was never indicted in the 1948 liquor-law-violation case – or a subsequent one – despite his controlling role in the liquor distribution businesses."
... According to Marley's longtime public relations man, Al Lizanetz, the Marley liquor empire was founded by the Bronfman family dynasty of Canada which operated Allied Finance company Northern Export Company and Distillers Corporation Seagrams, Ltd. empire.
Arizona in the 1970s drew a "who's who" of organized crime figures seeking to retire in the sun, including Rochester, N.Y., mob boss Joe Bonanno, who spent his last days along the Lake Havasu shores and in a quiet home in Tucson.
In 1977, after Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was killed when his car was blown up by the mob in a parking lot, a team of 36 journalists from 27 news organizations, known as IRE, published an 80,000 word 23-part series on organized crime in Arizona.
Hensley was found not guilty after being defended by William Rehnquist, the future chief justice of the Supreme Court, Nowicki and Muller wrote.
In 2000, Hensley, then 80 years old, still controlled the Budweiser distributorship valued as a $200 million-a-year business, with annual sales of more than 20 million cases of beer.
On Feb. 17, 2000, Pat Flannery reported in the Arizona Republic that Hensley's beer-distribution empire was the fifth largest in the nation, "a Budweiser franchise whose bigwigs hold the No. 2 spot on Sen. John McCain's all-time career list of corporate donors."
Since 1982, according to the Center for Public Integrity, Hensley & Co. officials have pumped $80,000 into the campaigns of McCain, Flannery wrote. More than a quarter of that has been donated since 1997.
Then, there's McCain's association with Arizona developer Donald Diamond:
When Mr. Diamond wanted to buy land at the (closed Army) base, Fort Ord, Mr. McCain assigned an aide who set up a meeting at the Pentagon and later stepped in again to help speed up the sale, according to people involved and a deposition Mr. Diamond gave for a related lawsuit. When he appealed to a nearby city for the right to develop other property at the former base, Mr. Diamond submitted Mr. McCain’s endorsement as “a close personal friend.”
Writing to officials in the city, Seaside, Calif., the senator said, “You will find him as honorable and committed as I have.”
Courting local officials and potential partners, Mr. Diamond’s team promised that he could “help get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Department of the Army” because Mr. Diamond “has been very active with Senator McCain,” a partner said in a deposition.
If you want to beat a Republican, it's a good idea to know their strategy. We've talked a lot about the McCain campaign admitting that it is going to attempt to "turn the page" on talk of the economy by mounting a scorched earth, personal attack campaign against Barack Obama. Well, an email sent out by Human Events today underscores the strategy. After several paragraphs of boilrtplsyr drivel about the Democratic candidate's "dangerous liberalism", fictional opposition to guns, big spending proposals and fantasized mania for abortion, comes this bit, which starts with a strange, but newly standard, right wing endorsement of Hillary Clinton:
Hillary Clinton was late in recognizing the threat Obama posed to her campaign, but once she did, her strategy worked.
When Hillary exposed Obama publicly, her campaign saw a major turnaround.
Hillary won every major state primary in the nation with the sole exception of Obama's home state of Illinois.
And even though Obama was "anointed" by the media and Democratic elites, Hillary went on to win eight of the last 10 Democratic primaries.
How did Obama beat Hillary for the nomination?
Well, using a loophole in Democratic rules, he was able to rack up large majorities in caucus states where he outspent and out organized her.
But in large, contested states she won almost every time. Why? Because when Democrats heard what Obama really stood for, they turned on him.
Make no mistake about it: If we let Americans know the truth about Obama, John McCain can win this election!
But we must employ Hillary Clinton's strategy.
We must expose Obama for the dangerous radical he is.
... This is why the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee is moving to implement a "shock and awe" strategy against Obama in key states.
We plan to take out powerful television ads, Internet ads and other communications to inform Americans about the dangers posed by Barack Obama.
... As a political action committee, we can accept up to $5,000 in donations per contributor.
A $5,000 donation can help us saturate a key market for a full day with television ads.
Why the Hillary Love? Could it be a not-so-subtle appeal to those the media said Hillary spoke to? In other words, this is about ginning up the fears of white voters -- lower middle class white voters, to be precise. But wait, there's more. The right has another weapon in its arsenal to use to stir up white rage against Obama, and her name is Sarah (my teenage daughter's marrying a f***in redneck) Palin. As the AP's Douglass K. Daniel sums up:
WASHINGTON (AP) - By claiming that Democrat Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin targeted key goals for a faltering campaign.
And though she may have scored a political hit each time, her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret.
First, Palin's attack shows that her energetic debate with rival Joe Biden may be just the beginning, not the end, of a sharpened role in the battle to win the presidency.
"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain's ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.
"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she said. "We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism."
Her reference to Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a member of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground, was exaggerated at best if not outright false. No evidence shows they were "pals" or even close when they worked on community boards years ago and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama early in his career.
Obama, who was a child when the Weathermen were planting bombs, has denounced Ayers' radical views and actions.
So what's a little lying between friends? Well...
Palin's words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black presidential nominee "palling around" with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn't see their America?
In a post-Sept. 11 America, terrorists are envisioned as dark-skinned radical Muslims, not the homegrown anarchists of Ayers' day 40 years ago. With Obama a relative unknown when he began his campaign, the Internet hummed with false e-mails about ties to radical Islam of a foreign-born candidate.
Whether intended or not by the McCain campaign, portraying Obama as "not like us" is another potential appeal to racism. It suggests that the Hawaiian-born Christian is, at heart, un-American.
Most troubling, however, is how allowing racism to creep into the discussion serves McCain's purpose so well. As the fallout from Wright's sermons showed earlier this year, forcing Obama to abandon issues to talk about race leads to unresolved arguments about America's promise to treat all people equally.
Oh, so that's who Sarah was winking at: racist white people ... The desperate McCain campaign has been using a subtly racist argument to take Obama down for months, only now, it's about to get real un-subtle. As a friend of mine said recently, the slogan of the McCain campaign could well be boiled down to: "Forget the economy. Vote to keep the White House white."
From the beginning, there were two ways the McCain could use Sarah Palin: as the feel good face of an otherwise brittle, old mannish campaign, or as McCain's attack dog -- literally, his pit bull with lipstick. After last week's conference call in which the McCain campaign admitted it was about to go nuclear on Barack Obama, I think it's fair to say they've taken door number two...
CARSON, Calif., (AP) — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday accused Democrat Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists" because of an association with a former '60s radical, a harsh attack on his character that she repeated at three separate campaign events without substantiation.
Palin's reference was to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the group the Weather Underground. Its members were blamed for several bombings, including a pipe bomb in San Francisco that killed a police officer and injured another. Obama, who was a child when the group was active, has denounced Ayers' radical views and activities.
While it is known that Obama and Ayers live in the same Chicago neighborhood, served on a charity board together and had a fleeting political connection, there is no evidence that they ever palled around. And it's simply wrong to suggest that they were associated while Ayers was committing terrorist acts.
Nonetheless, Palin made the comments at three appearances in separate states.
"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," said told donors at a private airport in Englewood, Colo. Palin echoed the line later in Carson, Calif., and Costa Mesa, Calif.
Falling behind Obama in polls, the Republican campaign plans to make attacks on Obama's character a centerpiece of candidate John McCain's message in the final weeks of the presidential race. Coming late in the campaign, Palin's remark could be particularly incendiary, either backfiring on McCain or knocking Obama off his focus on the troubled economy — or both.
On that question, I'm choosing door number one...
By the by, the Obama campaign isn't just sitting around waiting to get doused in slime. They go up tomorrow with a new add calling McCain "erratic in a crisis." Politico, perhaps locking the Palin-loving Roger Simon in a closet, previews the coming war games:
Obama officials call it political jujitsu – turning the attacks back on the attacker.
McCain officials had said early in the weekend that they plan to begin advertising after Tuesday’s debate that will tie Obama to convicted money launderer Tony Rezko and former Weathermen radical William Ayers.
But Obama isn’t waiting to respond. His campaign is going up Monday on national cable stations with a scathing ad saying: “Three quarters of a million jobs lost this year. Our financial system in turmoil. And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy. No wonder his campaign wants to change the subject.
“Turn the page on the financial crisis by launching dishonorable, dishonest ‘assaults’ against Barack Obama. Struggling families can't turn the page on this economy, and we can't afford another president who is this out of touch.”
Then Obama says: “I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.”
McCain officials told Politico that the new offensive is likely to focus on Rezko and Ayers. The officials said the campaign will not bring up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, because McCain has forbade them from using that as a weapon. Without being specific, the officials said outside groups may focus on Wright.
Meanwhile, both the NY Times and the Wapo expound on the cause of Team McCain's desperation: the map ... the dreaded, awful, shrinking map. (By the way, I'm not sure how confident I am in Rasmussen, but if this poll is correct, and Obama is pulling away in Nevada, this race is over.)
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...
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...
The John McCain campaign chose to go bat crap crazy after the Obama campaign capitalized on El Richbo's colossal gaffe, telling a Politico reporter that he'd have to have his staff get back to him regarding how many homes McCain owns. Now, they're threatening to put "everything" on the table, from Rezko to Rev. Wright, a sure sign in politics that they fear the line of attack that McCain is the elitist in the race will work.
Tonight on the final "Verdict" (and I'm sorry the show is going, btw...) Republican talking point peddler (he's actually a nice guy, but geez... enough with the hackery, man...) Rev. Joe Watkins floated the trial balloon that not only is Rezko "on the table," Obama is "attacking John McCain's wife," because in fact it's Cindy who owns the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 homes they've got.
Really? Do you really want to go there? Because if you do, I've got questions:
If John McCain left his first wife for Cindy, when did they start dating? While he was still good and married to wife #1. (Somebody call Rick Warren... and the National Enquirer!)
If John McCain doesn't own the homes, why is that? Because Cindy is a $100 million heiress who was damned sure not gonna marry a social climbing pol without an ironclad prenup.
If John McCain is a social climbing pol with a super rich wife, a pre-nup, and access to so many homes he can't remember them, what else is he forgetting? That Cindy also brought to the marriage a fortuitous introduction to a Mr. Keating.
And by the way, if John McCain wants to go Rezko, let's take his Rezko and raise him a Diamond. Per Crooks and Liars back in April:
When considering John McCain’s history of unethical behavior, the list usually starts (and ends) with the Keating Five scandal in the 1980s, for which McCain was rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for having shown, at a minimum, poor judgment. In the aftermath, McCain helped improve his public image, and bury the scandal, by becoming an advocate of campaign-finance reform.
But the notion that McCain cleaned up his act may not be entirely true. Take, for example, Donald Diamond, a wealthy Arizona real estate developer and generous McCain contributor, who wanted some coastal land in California freed up by an Army base closing.
When Mr. Diamond wanted to buy land at the base, Fort Ord, Mr. McCain assigned an aide who set up a meeting at the Pentagon and later stepped in again to help speed up the sale, according to people involved and a deposition Mr. Diamond gave for a related lawsuit. When he appealed to a nearby city for the right to develop other property at the former base, Mr. Diamond submitted Mr. McCain’s endorsement as “a close personal friend.”
Writing to officials in the city, Seaside, Calif., the senator said, “You will find him as honorable and committed as I have.”
Courting local officials and potential partners, Mr. Diamond’s team promised that he could “help get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Department of the Army” because Mr. Diamond “has been very active with Senator McCain,” a partner said in a deposition.
For Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who has staked two presidential campaigns on pledges to avoid even the appearance of dispensing an official favor for a donor, Mr. Diamond is the kind of friend who can pose a test.
Ya think? The closer one looks at this, the worse it appears.
In California, the McCain aide’s assistance with the Army helped Mr. Diamond complete a purchase in 1999 that he soon turned over for a $20 million profit. And Mr. McCain’s letter of recommendation reinforced Mr. Diamond’s selling point about his McCain connections as he pursued — and won in 2005 — a potentially much more lucrative deal to develop a resort hotel and luxury housing.
In Arizona, Mr. McCain has helped Mr. Diamond with matters as small as forwarding a complaint in a regulatory skirmish over the endangered pygmy owl, and as large as introducing legislation remapping public lands. In 1991 and 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored two laws sought by Mr. Diamond that resulted in providing him millions of dollars and thousands of acres in exchange for adding some of his properties to national parks. The Arizona senator co-sponsored a third similar bill now before the Senate. […]
For the California projects, the campaign said the McCain aide arranged the introduction to an Army official for Mr. Diamond’s team as “a constituent matter.”
Other things that are now "on the table":
John McCain's use of former mistress/current wife Cindy's corporate jets for his campaign...
John McCain's rejection of an MLK holiday (you want to play Rev. Wright clips? Take two doses of that next week during the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington. Hey, John, maybe you can consult your personal wise man John Lewis for advice on a response...
You know what, bat-crap crazy McCain communication staffers? Turns out it really is fun putting things on the table. Thanks!
Oh, and welcome to the come-uppance, Diamond John. And yes, yes, I know you're a former POW, okay?
Sen. John McCain's campaign is fighting back against questions about his house holdings by opening a website focusing on past questions about Sen. Barack Obama's dealings with controversial Chicago businesssman Tony Rezko.
The campaign was getting the site ready Thursday afternoon. McCain surrogates on television were being armed with facts about Rezko's relationship to Obama's purchase of his Chicago home in 2005.
Previewing the message the campaign will seek to drive, a McCain spokesman said: "In an attempt to make something stick, Barack Obama has re-aired his dirty laundry with convicted felon Tony Rezko that led to a highly questionable land deal. Rezko’s dirty dealings are well-documented and his relationship with Barack Obama goes back 20 years."
A new conservative group has produced a television ad attacking Barack Obama for his relationship with former Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers.
"How much do your really know about Barack Obama? What does he really believe?" asks the ad, which then cites the failed attack on the Capitol on 9/11, and links it to the Weather Underground attack on the Capitol decades earlier.
The group says it will spend $2.8 million airing the ad in Ohio and Michigan -- which would be the largest single third-party expenditure this cycle.
"Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it?" asks the narrator. "Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?"
The group, the American Issues Project, is a 501(c)4 -- which means it isn't required to disclose its donors. According to a press release set to go out shortly, it's the product of a coalition of conservative groups (Failor said his Iowans for Tax Relief is not among them). Its president is Ed Martin, a Missouri conservative. Another official, Ed Failor, Jr., is a former McCain aide in Iowa who left after the campaign's shakeup last summer.
The substance of the ad matches a recent upswing in the McCain campaign's references to Ayers. The use of 9/11 imagery links Ayers, and Obama, to the American conflict Islamic terror, which is the subject of many viral emails attacking Obama.
You knew this was coming folks. Batten down the hatches ... and get Barack a freaking 527 already! Yes, yes, there's this voter registration group, and there's America Votes, but what Obama needs, and needs now, is a bona fide attack group with no links to him. Stat.
There's so much McCain material out there to plunder, from the 4>6 7 homes he can't remember, to his $500 shoes, to his dirty deals with Mr. Keating to his wife's pill problem... I say it's all on the table, if the other side is allowed to call Obama a crook and a terrorist.
The breathtakingly negative presidential campaign being waged by John McCain is no accident, and not the result of bungling by young aides. It's a very deliberate strategy by a group of people imported directly from the 2004 campaign, in which John Kerry was stripped of his war record and turned into a windsurfing girlie man (no wonder he's become a lead attack dog for Obama... as was clear on MTP today as he sat steaming next to Joe Lieberman, and accusing the GOP of character assassination... this is personal.) From The Guardian:
McCain's aggressive strategy is a deliberate and well-thought-out ploy. It was developed and implemented by a coterie of advisers brought in last month who are protégés of the Republican political guru Karl Rove. Schmidt, who learnt his trade with Rove, heads the group and is now guiding the campaign.
The strategy is intended to turn McCain's ailing presidential bid around and give it a firm focus: one mostly fixed on attacking Obama. Schmidt and others believe they can do to Obama what the Republicans did to John Kerry in 2004.
'They know how to win a presidential election. If you can show a candidate's basic flaws, that is one way to win,' said Steve Mitchell, a Republican political adviser and chairman of Mitchell Research. McCain's new advisers believe they can define Obama in their own terms and leave him as damaged goods in the eyes of the electorate. If that sounds like a hard-headed, unpleasant, negative strategy, that is probably because it is. But Schmidt and his allies have also started to give Republicans the one thing that Obama had seemed to be monopolising - hope of winning.
Steve Schmidt is known as 'The Bullet'. Part of that is to do with his bald-headed appearance, but it is also as much to do with his hyper-aggressive political style. He was promoted to run McCain's campaign at the beginning of last month, after he and several other aides went to McCain and warned him that his presidential bid was in dire trouble.
McCain took the warning to heart and placed Schmidt in charge of the day-to-day running of his campaign operation. It was a bold move, but Schmidt is one of the rising stars of Republican politics. The New Jersey native cut his teeth under Rove and in the Bush White House. He ran the 2004 Republican war room that was responsible for taking down Kerry. He also worked hard on getting conservative judges through the process of appointment to the Supreme Court. Then he guided the re-election campaign of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to victory.
Schmidt has been joined by other key figures from the Rove-era Bush White House. They include the formidable figure of Nicole Wallace, a Bush campaign spokeswoman in 2004, and Greg Jenkins, a former Fox TV journalist who once worked for Bush's campaign. The group has sought to tighten an operation that was floundering under its previous leadership. They have also given it a sharply negative edge.
And whatever braying there is right now about Obama "playing the race card," count on the fact that a race-based attack, not overt, but very real, is coming:
any Republicans believe that the controversy surrounding the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, will return to haunt him. That would inject race into the campaign in ways that were hinted at last week. When McCain's camp recently accused Obama of playing the race card, it was the first time the subject of his skin colour had directly come up. Many Republican strategists believe that McCain is most likely to benefit from that. 'The more race comes into the debate, the less likely it is that Obama will win,' said Mitchell.
That contention is not proven. But prominently airing the Wright issue in the final month of the campaign would surely test that theory. McCain's camp is unlikely to bring up the Wright issue, but there are many Republican surrogates who will probably do that job enthusiastically. Again, the echoes of the campaign that derailed Kerry are troubling for Democrats. 'Come October, Wright's name recognition is going to be 99 per cent,' said Mitchell.
The pre-emptive strikes clobbering Obama for even bringing up race are likely meant to blunt any complaints from his camp once the racial stuff begins.
Of course, the strategy is also certain to permanently damage John McCain's stature and image, as I and many others have said before. But again, the new McCain team doesn't care about that. This is the 50 percent plus one crowd -- the ones whose goal is to push their guy into the White House, reputation be damned, and then force the other 49.9 percent of Americans to deal with it. They don't care if McCain becomes the second most hated president in American history (Bush II being the first) so long as he's president. And if the country falls apart after that? Sorry for ya. Worse, the fact that McCain is being diminished by the nonsense ads and smarmy tactics will only make them more desperate to win, because otherwise, McCain will be left with absolutely nothing.
I'm assuming that the Obama team knows all of this. What I hope, is that they are prepared to respond to it more forcefully than they have so far. And I think this makes the veep choice all the more important. What Obama needs in a partner in this election is not a sympatico, or someone he's "comfortable with." He needs an attack dog. He needs someone who can go out and clobber John McCain and his running mate, and who's not afraid to do so.
Otherwise, we're in for four years of war, a shitty economy, oil spills off the coast of Florida, and a world scratching its heads at how so many millions of Americans could be so stupid.
If the Obama campaign is making one major mistake, it's underestimating their opponent, John McCain; how desperate he is to win the presidency, and how low he is willing to sink in order to do so. As Josh Marshall pointed out today, to my firm agreement, McCain has already so sullied his reputation as a "maverick," an independent thinker, and an honorable man, he has to win this election, or slink back to the Senate as little more than an angry old man.
If Team Obama is making a second mistake, it's overestimating the sophistication of the average voter, who really is only lightly paying attention to the details, and thus is susceptible to generic negative messages like those being proffered daily by the McCain campaign. In fact, the sheer barrage of negative messages is offering any voter who may have, say, race-based discomfort with Barack to choose from any number of alternative "trap doors" through which to fall and not vote for him, even if they don't like McCain.
If the Obama team is making a third mistake, it is underestimating the determination of the media to make the 2008 election a horse race, and thus, to keep McCain in the running. Dana Milbank should have taught them that the media is almost institutionally biased in favor of the Republican in the race, if for no other reason than to prove to themselves that they are not institutionally biased toward the Democrat in the race. They will continue to bend over backward to advance whatever narrative McCain's team puts forward, no matter how absurd, in order to keep the tight race (and the ratings) going.
Therefore, brushing off McCain's attacks will not be enough. Assuming that "no intelligent person would buy his sophomoric attacks" risks seriously overestimating the number of intelligent people, and thus is a recipe for losing the election. And counting on the press to clear up the lies makes about as much sense as handing the campaign's messaging over to Dana Milbank.
Jonathan Chait makes it plain in his widely circulated LAT column today:
Obama is making the enormous mistake of letting the race be entirely about him, which is the only way he can lose.
McCain may be committing lots of blunders, but the blunders aren't hurting him because the spotlight is on Obama. McCain is getting attention for his attacks on Obama, especially his frequent insinuations that Obama lacks patriotism. The attacks are usually based on lies (such as McCain's discredited claim that Obama canceled a visit with wounded troops when he discovered the media couldn't tag along -- in fact, he canceled the visit, but the media were never scheduled to come).
Obama has barely hit back. His weak-tea replies express "disappointment" with McCain and reject the "same old politics."
Here's the likely rationale: The public, by a wide margin, wants a Democrat to win the presidency. So all Obama has to do is make himself acceptable and he'll win. Hence the focus on building up his own credentials rather than tearing down McCain.
Perhaps that sounds familiar. Let me refresh your memory: it was the John Kerry campaign strategy in 2004.
And needless to say, it didn't work. What Kerry failed to do, and I worked with a 527 that went down with that campaign, so I remember it painfully well, was to mount a successful offense. He never went after George W. Bush on the easy stuff: his failure to complete his military service, for instance, or his failed business dealings and poor stewardship of Texas, not to mention sending up his blue blood background, phony rancher credentials and "son of a president" elitism to counter similar attacks against Kerry. Yet they absorbed attack after attack that, even if disproved, set the narrative table for the media day after day.
It is happening again. This cycle, the media has almost always adopted the daily McCain narrative of the campaign, just as they did with Hillary Clinton during the primary. The bully usually gets his (or her) way, when it comes to the mainstream press. Even when they're debunking some outrageous lie from the McCain camp, the bottom line is that the reporterati and pundit class spend an entire news cycle dissecting whether or not it really is true that Obama hates the troops, is too foreign, is an arrogant lightweight, is Paris Hilton, or is playing the race card. By the time they get to the debunking part, half the audience has come away tainted by the McCain argument. That's how negative campaigning works. And when you add the force multipliers of the late night shows, the Internet, and 24 hour cable, you get a storm that it's very hard to fight your way out of. As one analyst noted on CNN tonight, McCain may not be lifting his poll numbers out of the 40s, but by attacking, he's keeping Obama down in the 40s with him. And when Obama chooses not to hit back, but rather to laugh off the attacks in a town hall, (and use the attacks mostly for fundraising,) I think his team is making a mistake.
Today, for instance, Obama had a great riff during a campaign speech, about McCain taking millions of dollars from the oil companies, and proposing huge tax breaks for them while at the same time championing their cause for offshore drilling. Said Obama to a receptive crowd:
The Illinois senator quickly incorporated news of Exxon Mobil's nearly $12 billion quarterly profit into his remarks at a town hall meeting here.
"No U.S. corporation ever made that much in a quarter," Obama said. "But while Big Oil is making record profits, you are paying record prices at the pump and our economy is leaving working people behind."
McCain's response, Obama said, is to propose a corporate tax plan that would give "$4 billion each year to the oil companies, including $1.2 billion for Exxon Mobil alone" and a gas tax holiday that Obama said would only "pad oil company profits and save you — at best — half a tank of gas" over an entire summer.
Well, that kind of thing belongs in a hard-hitting television or radio ad, not just in a fund raising email, which is where it wound up. Otherwise, the campaign is simply preaching to the converted, and the people on the MyBarackObama list aren't the ones contemplating a vote for John McCain in order to get the drill rigs going off the coast of Florida.
The insularity and frankly, the passivity of the Bill Burton communications operation is really starting to worry me, especially after six months of relentless attacks by the Clinton team. Unfortunately, I think the lesson the Obama folks took from the primary was that the Clinton attacks didn't work. Except that they did. Obama spent the entire primary fighting off charges -- including from the media -- that he is an elitist, a black extremist, or a Muslim, and hello! All three charges have carried right over to the general election campaign. They have became a part of his narrative, just like the word "maverick" is permanently tattooed on John McCain's butt cheeks courtesy of the lips of every reporter and pundit in Washington and New York.
It's time for the Obama campaign to hit back. They don't have to be as nasty or anti-factual as the McCain folks. Hell, how could they be? These are the Karl Rove trainees, who would saw off their mother's head to win an election (and then have Rush, Hannity and RedState.com blame HER for it.) But they have to be tough, and direct, and loud enough to drive the media narrative in the direction they want it to go: toward a debate over whether John McCain is too close to Big Oil, too much of a flip-flopper to be trusted, and most importantly, a human embodiment of George W. Bush's "third term."
As Chait puts it:
Why is Obama-as-alternative failing? First, it ignores Bush. The reason people want a Democrat is that they deem Bush a failure. By letting the race become a referendum on Obama, Bush recedes in voters' minds. McCain's ad blaming Obama for high gas prices was preposterous, but you can see why he ran it. The media are covering Obama as if he's already president. So what's that Obama guy done about high gas prices, anyway? Let's vote the bum out and give McCain a shot! ...
...McCain has de-emphasized or reversed nearly every position that set him apart from Bush, most notably the tax cuts for the rich that are the heart of Bush's economic program. To prove his partisan bona fides during the primary, he boasted that "I did everything I could to get [Bush] elected and reelected." And when an interviewer suggested that McCain was different from Bush, the senator replied, "No. No. I -- the fact is that I'm different, but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush." Why haven't we seen these words in television ads?
I can't answer that question, and frankly, that bothers me. The other day, Keith Olbermann rattled off a string of votes John McCain cast against veterans' issues, in a manner tailor made for a TV or radio ad. But has the Obama campaign gone up with such an ad? Nope. Better not to touch St. John's military record. Or what about an ad hitting McCain's 95% record of voting with President Bush, or one pointing out that he has surrounded himself with the same advisors who got us into the Iraq war, or using his quotes saying he's with the president 90 percent of the time, or that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq? Where are the ads slamming McCain's 30 year tenure in Washington during which he has "changed" nothing, and his newfound ties to Big Oil?
Instead, we get these rather soft spots proclaiming the McCain attacks to be "the same old politics," but only obliquely attacking McCain's Bush-like policies. Sorry, but YAWN. Maybe the spots are designed to be soothing, but most Americans aren't political junkies who sit around decrying the politics of the past. They want STUFF: cheaper gas prices, better paying jobs and a dignified end to the Iraq war. And most of all, they want to be rid of the Bushies, the neocons, and the corporate raiders who have been stripping this country naked for nearly eight years. Tie McCain to all three of them, and do it EVERY DAY, and Obama will win this election. Let him off the hook and he will shiv you like Pookie in the prison yard.
The reluctance of the Obama campaign to go up with comparative ads -- hell, with negative ones -- rather than the gauzy, biographical ads about how much Barack loves his country (which I guess are designed to reassure little old ladies in West Palm Beach that he isn't an Islamofascist terrorist) has left a lot of us out here in "old politics land" scratching our heads. Sure, it may seem that the current strategy is working, but that's only if you discount what I think is an 8-10 percentage point gap between what many white voters tell pollsters they're going to do, and what they're actually going to do on Election Day. The McCain team isn't going to play by the Marquis de Queensbury rules. They're going to attack every single day until every American voter has at least one negative meme about Barack rattling around in the back of their minds at voting time. It's time to take off the gloves.
From what I've seen, what I've heard from Harvard friends who knew him or of him in law school, and having met the man (once) and chatted with him for a few minutes, Barack Obama seems to be a genuinely good guy (unlike McCain, who by all accounts and appearances is a completeass.) No matter what happens in November, he will leave this campaign with his honor intact, having made history, and because I really can't see him running anything other than a principled campaign. However, if in the end, McCain and his Karl Rove goon squad win the White House, once again by a 50-plus-one margin (which is the only way they know how to win,) leaving half the country embittered, enraged and hating the man in the White House for for more years, what will have been the point?
The latest veteran to slam John McCain's dishonest and dishonerable advert attacking Barack Obama for canceling a visit to Ramstein medical base in Germany in deference to the Pentagon would know what she's talking about. Per Jonathan Martin at Politico:
VoteVets, the pro-Democrat group of retired military personnel, counters McCain's Black Hawk down statement with some outrage from Col. Katherine Scheirman (Ret.), the retired Chief of Medical Operations for United States Air Force in Europe Headquarters at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, who was Chief of Medical Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said in a statement:
"John McCain's new ad is dishonest and shameful, and I say that as the former Chief of Medical Operations. Senators Hagel and Reed confirmed to Bob Schieffer yesterday that Senator Obama visited the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad as a part of their CODEL, with no media present.
"In Germany, Senator Obama made the right decision to respect wounded troops, and the doctors and nurses doing crucial and time-sensitive work, by not making a visit that was characterized as a campaign event by the Pentagon. Senator Obama should be thanked for putting our military above politics. And, I would hope that John McCain would think in those same terms, the next time he is put in a similar situation.
"Senator Obama has voted for the troops when John McCain has not, most recently on the new GI Bill. I am happy that Senator Obama puts the welfare of our troops above politics."
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, MD, MHA, CPE, FACPE, is a Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org, and has twenty years experience in the Department of Defense medical system. She retired from the Air Force in 2006 with the rank of Colonel. During her time in the military, she was assigned to a number of duties where she saw 'first hand' the shortcomings of the DOD medical system and its effect on troops. Most recently, she was at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which saw the majority of those injured during the war in Iraq.
Martin notes that the Obama camp doesn't plan to go up with a counter-ad, surprisingly, unless the McCain team makes a serious TV buy. For now, Camp McCain is happy to let the media and Youtube disseminate their low blow message for free.
The McCain ad has already taken a beating from another prominent veteran: Chuck Hagel, and from other veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
McCain may feel that his new strategy will stand him in better stead with the truly nasty elements of the right which he needs to energize, but he also risks exposing the fault lines between himself and many veterans, who question his commitment to their issues, including healthcare, education, and the ever festering Vietnam MIA saga. |
On CBS's Face the Nation this morning, host Bob Schieffer asked Hagel about McCain's claim that "Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign."
"I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, 'You're less patriotic than me. I’m more patriotic,'" Hagel said. "I admire and respect John McCain very much. I have a good relationship. To this day we do. We talk often. I talked to him right before I went to Iraq, as a matter of fact. John’s better than that."
Schieffer also asked about McCain's new TV ad in which he says Obama in Europe "made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."
Hagel, who accompanied Obama on their official trip to Afghanistan and Iraq but broke off in Jordan, said, "the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds - not the taxpayers -to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign...I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing."
Hagel said he wasn't sure about all the details of the controversy, but "we saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops."
Meanwhile, Obama's GDTP lead is up a tick, to 9 points.
McCain's 'troops' hit job: the Obama Campaign responds
The Obama campaign is hitting back at John McCain's really nasty attack ad on his decision to skip a planned visit to Lanstuhl last week. A few excerpts from the campaign's response, starting with a statement from the Florida campaign chief Steve Schale:
“John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign. Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the 'civil' straight talk campaign he claimed he would run."
Next, a flashback from St. John of Surge:
Senator McCain in 2007: “How can we possibly find honor in using the fate of our servicemen to score political advantage in Washington? There is no pride to be had in such efforts. We are at war, a hard and challenging war, and we do no service for the best of us-those who fight and risk all on our behalf-by playing politics with their service.” [Congressional Record, 5/24/07]
The campaign also offers a point by point rebuttal of the McCain ad, including the charge that Obama "hasn't held a single hearing on Afghanistan." To that, the campaign responds that such hearings are held at the full foreign relations committee level, and not by Obama's subcommittee, as is confirmed by both Republican Dick Lugar and the committee's chairman, Joe Biden. And besides:
McCain Missed Every Armed Services Committee Hearing In The Last Two Years That Discussed Afghanistan. A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain’s committee has held six hearings that included the word “Afghanistan” in the title or Central Command — which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan. McCain missed them all. [ABC News, 7/17/08]
On the charge that Obama "voted against funding our troops," the campaign cites Factcheck.org and the Associated Press:
Annenberg Fact Check: Saying Obama Voted Against Troop Funding Is “Oversimplified To The Point Of Being Seriously Misleading, Which Is Exactly The Problem With McCain’s Ad.” “As recently as April 2007, Obama voted in favor of funding U.S. troops again, but this time Democrats added a non-binding call to withdraw them from Iraq. McCain (who was absent for the vote) urged the president to veto that funding measure, because of the withdrawal language. President Bush did veto it, and McCain applauded Bush's veto. Based on those facts, it would be literally true to say that ‘McCain urged a veto of funding for our troops.’ But that would be oversimplified to the point of being seriously misleading, which is exactly the problem with McCain's ad.” [FactCheck.org, 7/22/08]
AP Fact Check: The McCain Ad’s Charge That Obama Voted Against Troop Funding Is “Misleading.” “The ad's most inflammatory charge — that Obama voted against troop funding in Iraq and Afghanistan — is misleading. The Illinois senator consistently voted to fund the troops once elected to the Senate, a point Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton made during the primaries when questioning whether his anti-war rhetoric was reflected in his actions.” [AP, 7/18/08]
And on the main charge, that Obama "found time to go to the gym, but not to visit the troops," made ironically, using video of Obama visiting U.S. troops in the war theater, the campaign provides the following:
Obama Has Been Clear: He Did Not Want Visit to Wounded Soldiers To Be Perceived as Political, Which The Pentagon Had Ruled It Would Be, And Never Planned To Bring Media. "We had scheduled to go, we had no problem at all in leaving, we always leave press and staff off -- that is why we left it off the schedule. We were treating it in the same way we treat a visit to Walter Reed which I was able to do a few weeks ago without any fanfare whatsoever. I was going to be accompanied by one of my advisors, a former military officer." Continued Obama, "And we got notice that he would be treated as a campaign person, and it would therefore be perceived as political because he had endorsed my candidacy but he wasn’t on the Senate staff. That triggered then a concern that maybe our visit was going to be perceived as political. And the last thing that I want to do is have injured soldiers and the staff at these wonderful institutions having to sort through whether this is political or not or get caught in the crossfire between campaigns." "So rather than go forward and potentially get caught up in what might have been considered a political controversy of some sort," Obama said, "what we decided was that we not make a visit and instead I would call some of the troops that were there. So that essentially would be the extent of the story." [ABC News, 7/26/08]
Obama Visited Wounded Troops at Walter Reed Last Month. The AP wrote, “Barack Obama stopped by Walter Reed Army Medical Center Saturday to visit wounded war veterans, a group that he has said endures substandard care under the Bush administration. The presumed Democratic nominee, who was in Washington to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, slipped into the facility shortly after 9 a.m. without stopping to speak to the small group of reporters who follow him. The visit wasn’t on his public schedule.” [AP, 6/28/08]
Obama Visited Wounded Troops In Baghdad’s Green Zone. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “On Monday, Sen. Obama stopped into a combat support hospital in the green zone of Baghdad, some of you may have seen the show on HBO called Baghdad ER, that was this hospital.” [Fox, 7/25/08]
McCain Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt: “We Follow The Rules” Banning Political Campaigning On Military Bases. “With Department of Defense rules prohibiting political campaigning on military bases, it was determined that in some cases McCain could visit the installations as a senator but could not engage in any political activity or have news media present. McCain campaign officials said Thursday they intentionally did not campaign on military property. ‘We follow the rules,’ said senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt.” [CNN.com, 4/3/08]
The campaign also points to McCain's voting record on troop funding:
Obama Voted For And McCain Voted Against $360 Million for Armored Vehicles for Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, Obama voted for and McCain voted against providing $360.8 million for armored tactical wheeled vehicles for units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and $5 million to establish ballistics engineering research centers at two major research institutions. The measure against which McCain voted also required such centers to advance knowledge and application of ballistics materials and procedures to improve the safety of land-based military vehicles. [HR 2863, Vote 248, 10/5/05, Passed 56-43: R 13-42 D 42-1 I 1-0]
Obama Voted TWICE Against And McCain Voted TWICE For Keeping Capital Gains Tax Cuts, Rather Than Using the Savings to Replace or Repair Equipment for Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, Obama voted for and McCain voted against repealing the extension of capital gains tax cuts and use the savings to repair, rehabilitate or replace the equipment used by the Army and Marine Corps in Afghanistan & Iraq. A week later, prior to the issuance of a conference report regarding that measure, Obama voted for and McCain voted against a measure to “insist that conference report include funding to strengthen America's military, as contained in Senate-passed amendment, instead of any extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends (which do not expire until 2009), as contained in House-passed bill.” [HR 4297, Vote 8, 2/2/06, Passed 44-53: R 1-52 D 42-1 I 1-0; HR 4297, Vote 18, 2/14/06, Failed 45-55: R 1-54 D 43-1 I 1-0]
McCain Voted Against Providing An Additional $322 Million for Troops’ Safety Equipment, Including Body Armor. In 2003, McCain voted against an amendment to provide an additional $322 million for battlefield clearance and safety equipment for U.S. troops in Iraq. As National Journal noted, the amendment would have provided funding for “soldiers' body armor, communications and other equipment.” The increased spending would have been offset by a reduction in Iraqi reconstruction funds. [S 1689, Vote 376, 10/2/03, Passed 49-37: R 46-0 D 2-37 I 1-0; National Journal’s CongressDaily, 10/3/03]
McCain Opposed $1 Billion For Equipment For National Guard. In 2003, McCain opposed providing $1 billion for equipment for the National Guard and Reserves. [S 762, Vote 116, 4/2/03, Passed 52-47: R 51-0 D 1-46 I 0-1]
Though they left off his longstanding opposition to bills that would increase funding for veterans' healthcare, and his opposition to the Jim Webb-authored G.I. Bill for the 21st Century. This is, after all, the same John McCain whose ratings with veterans groups are shockingly low. As ThinkP reported after McCain's run-in with a well-read vet at one of his town hall meetings:
As for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — with whom McCain claims to have a “perfect voting record” — both groups vigorouslysupported Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) GI Bill that McCaintirelesslyopposed.
John McCain. Campaign first.
I agree with TPM's Greg Sargent that the Obama team's explanation for the cancelled visit should have been clearer, since from all the credible reporting that's out there, they are correct that the Pentagon informed the campaign, late in the game (on Wednesday) that it would violate DoD rules for the candidate to visit with campaign staff (he had no Senate staff with him, since they had gone home following the Mideast portion of the trip.) The question wasn't whether cameras could tag along, but how the Senator would make the visit unstaffed. I suppose he could have gone alone, just with his Secret Service detail, but the campaign apparently decided the logistics wouldn't work at that late hour.
The bottom line is that McCain is attacking Obama for not caring enough about the troops to visit them, during a trip in which he started the friggin thing by VISITING THE TROOPS. And since McCain knows better, he is engaging in exactly the kind of down and dirty politics that did him in in 2000, and his supposed friend John Kerry in in 2004. For once, I agree with Joe Klein. It smacks of desperation, and raises questions about his temperament, and fitness to be president. But sometimes in politics, desperation is all you've got, and if you're a basically nasty guy, as McCain is, you use it. Or as a very witty blogger, Wisco, over at Griper Blade, puts it:
With the way things are shaking out, you might expect John McCain to do something different. And he is -- kind of. He's not abandoning the tried and untrue "referendeum on Obama" strategy that failed so well for Clinton. He does what Republicans often do when their ideas aren't working; he assumes he's not being a big enough dick about it.
Meanwhile, guess what Fox News and right wing talk radio are going to spend the next week talking about? If you tuned in to Fox's "fair and balanced" coverage at any time today, you already know.
BTW, you'll recall in 2000 that one of the most dramatic moments of the Republican primary was the debate in which John McCain demanded an apology from George W. Bush for insinuations made on his behalf that McCain had abandoned fellow veterans. Let's take a walk back in time, to a campaign in which John McCain was cast as the hero, and when the old boy could still draw a crowd. See if this doesn't strike you as funny as it did me:
THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE VETERANS ISSUE; Five Senators Rebuke Bush For Criticism of McCain
By MARC LACEY Published: February 5, 2000, NEW YORK TIMES
Gov. George W. Bush was slammed today by five senators who, like his chief rival, fought in Vietnam for using a veterans activist to criticize Senator John McCain's record on veterans issues.
The incident also drew a rebuke from an official of Mr. Bush's father's administration.
On Thursday Mr. Bush shared a stage in Sumter, S.C., with J. Thomas Burch Jr., chairman of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Committee, who said Mr. McCain, hailed as a hero for surviving five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, had opposed measures dealing with Agent Orange and gulf war syndrome as well as legislation to help families of soldiers missing in action in Vietnam.
''He came home, forgot us,'' Mr. Burch said.
In the letter to Mr. Bush, the senators said: ''We are writing to express our dismay at the misinformed accusations leveled by your surrogate.''
''These allegations are absolutely false,'' said the letter signed by Senators Max Cleland of Georgia, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles S. Robb of Virginia, all Democrats, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican and one of Mr. McCain's few supporters in the Senate.
''Indeed,'' it went on, ''Mr. Burch was a leading critic of President Reagan's and your father's policies on POW/MIA issues, and he vehemently opposed a historic effort led by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs carried out on a bipartisan basis which resulted in the declassification of millions of documents and the identification and return to the United States of the remains of hundreds of American servicemen who were missing in action.''
The senators wrote that Mr. McCain was a leader on veterans issues. ''We hope you will publicly disassociate yourself from these efforts, and apologize to Senator McCain.''
Referring to the senators, Mr. McCain said: ''Their friendship is all the honor I need in my life, and more than compensates for the temporary irritation of baseless attacks by apparentlydesperate political campaigns.''
Aides to Mr. Bush said he never questioned Mr. McCain's status as a war hero and called the McCain campaign's efforts to counter Mr. Burch's criticism desperate.
''This shows that the McCain campaign is worried about the strong support Gov. Bush has from veterans,'' said Scott McClellan, a Bush spokesman.
... Campaigning in South Carolina today, Mr. McCain drew crowds so huge that organizers have been searching out bigger venues.
At a medieval-theme restaurant in Myrtle Beach this morning, well over a thousand people packed every inch of floor, stair and hallway space, even spilling out the front door.
Mr. McCain, clearly buoyed by the energy of the room, gave a stump speech in which he declared, ''A primary ended on Tuesday night and a crusade began.''
Later in the day, a crowd squeezed into a National Guard armory here, where a sign on the front door read: ''Occupancy by more than 720 persons is dangerous and unlawful.'' The audience was pushing the limit but everybody's attention was on the table of McCain stickers, posters, pamphlets and contribution forms, all of which were moving briskly.
Despite the aura of excitement, Mr. McCain is warning his backers against overconfidence, noting that polls, and a campaign's fortunes, can sway dramatically from one moment to the next.
''I've been involved in too many campaigns to have any degree of confidence here,'' Mr. McCain said aboard his campaign bus, which is trailed by two overflow buses.
''I'm pleased we're doing well at this particular time. We've seen a huge swing -- 20 points or more in South Carolina. I think the message there is that it can swing back just as easily.''
Mr. McCain said he is seeking to assemble the same type of coalition that had propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency, a broad-based, centrist approach he said President Clinton had also successfully employed.