As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Optics, People, Optics

This is a terrible, terrible idea.

With the end of the legislative session approaching, no budget in place and a $15.2-billion deficit hanging over their heads, the Assembly's Democrats on Friday unveiled their plans for the next week: a three-day vacation from the Capitol.

Their scheduled time away coincides with the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where 31 members of the Legislature are expected as delegates. But that has nothing to do with the decision not to hold sessions Tuesday through Thursday, a spokesman said.

"If we had work to do, we'd be here," said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). "It's literally silly for some of them to sit around in Sacramento."

I know that and you know that, but ordinary people who aren't political junkies don't, and when they see the commercial run by the Yacht Party that says "When the budget crisis was at its height, California Democrats left town to party," they will be unsparing in their opinion. You never give your opponent ammunition like this. At a time when real people are suffering from the lack of services and prospective cuts, you can't leave to hit the cocktail circuit at the DNC if you're an elected representative in a time of crisis and you have something to say on the matter. I know this is a Big Five question at this point, but it looks awful.

Good on Sandre Swanson for cancelling his plans to attend, by the way. Karen Bass isn't going, either, but obviously she has work to do.

Get this, here's why the break is only three days:

Even though many will not be in Sacramento, Assembly members will still get paid more than $1,000 in tax-free living expenses for the next six days because they scheduled a Monday afternoon meeting on water bond legislation and other matters, Maviglio said. Under Assembly rules, they can collect their allowance as long as they don't go four days without a meeting.

I give up.

Labels: , , , ,


The Inside/Outside Strategy On Health Care

I know that the Democratic platform, which will be ratified this week in Denver, is a worthless piece of paper, in many respects. But the movement that led to the language change in the platform - with Democrats asserting a guarantee of health care for everyone - is very much worth considering. Clearly, the movement progressives made it impossible for Democrats to ignore them on this issue:

If one thing came through in the platform hearings, it was that Democrats are united around a commitment that every American man, woman, and child be guaranteed affordable, comprehensive healthcare. In meeting after meeting, people expressed moral outrage with a health care crisis that leaves millions of Americans–including nine million children–without health insurance and millions more struggling to pay rising costs for poor quality care. Half of all personal bankruptcies in America are caused by medical bills. We spend more on health care than any other country, but we’re ranked 47th in life expectancy and 43rd in child mortality. Our nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats like pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this, less than four cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.

The American people understand that good health is the foundation of individual achievement and economic prosperity. Ensuring quality, affordable health care for every single American is essential to children’s education, workers’ productivity and businesses’ competitiveness. We believe that covering all is not just a moral imperative, but is necessary to making our health
system workable and affordable. Doing so would end cost-shifting from the uninsured, promote prevention and wellness, stop insurance discrimination, help eliminate health care disparities, and achieve savings through competition, choice, innovation, and higher quality care. While there are different approaches within the Democratic Party about how best to achieve the commitment of covering every American, with everyone in and no one left out, we stand united to achieve this fundamental objective through the legislative process.

As Paul Krugman noted a couple weeks ago, this was put front and center in the platform because the party listened to the desire for change. The middle class is overwhelmingly open to national health care, as they see that the current system is fundamentally broken.

Americans are struggling to pay medical bills and are accumulating medical debt at an increasing rate, according to a survey released today.

"A perfect storm of negative economic trends is battering working families across the United States," said the survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent research on health care [...]

Two-thirds of the working-age population was uninsured, underinsured, reported a medical bill problem or did not get needed health care because of cost in 2007.

More than two in five adults in the 19-to-64 age group reported problems paying medical bills or had accumulated medical debt in 2007, up from one in three in 2005. Their difficulties included not being able to afford medical attention when needed, running up medical debts, dealing with collection agencies about unpaid bills, or having to change their lifestyle to repay medical debts.

It's clear that there's a movement toward revamping the health care system, and it's being achieved with an inside/outside strategy. On the inside, grassroots Dems with an assist from Rep. John Conyers got the health care guarantee in the platform. From the outside, Health Care for America Now has been putting extreme pressure on Congress through an avalanche of phone calls, getting 188 members on the record on whether they support the guarantee. They've also been blasting the insurance industry and their front groups by exposing them and their tactics to block change and reinforce the status quo. There's even been a new-wave resumption of the Harry and Louise ads, with the difference being that they now understand the need for fundamental reform.

There is no doubt that enacting a universal health care plan would be immensely popular. Here's Krugman:

I know that’s not what everyone says; some pundits claim that the United States has a uniquely individualistic culture, and that Americans won’t accept any system that makes health care a collective responsibility. Those who say this, however, seem to forget that we already have a program — you may have heard of it — called Medicare. It’s a program that collects money from every worker’s paycheck and uses it to pay the medical bills of everyone 65 and older. And it’s immensely popular.

There’s every reason to believe that a program that extends universal coverage to the nonelderly would soon become equally popular. Consider the case of Massachusetts, which passed a state-level plan for universal coverage two years ago.

The Massachusetts plan has come in for a lot of criticism. It includes individual mandates — that is, people are required to buy coverage, even if they’d prefer to take their chances. And its costs are running much higher than expected, mainly because it turns out that there were more people without insurance than anyone realized.

Yet recent polls show overwhelming support for the plan — support that has grown stronger since it went into effect, despite the new system’s teething troubles. Once a system of universal health coverage exists, it seems, people want to keep it.

Obviously, the biggest barrier to this is making sure John McCain isn't elected. He literally wouldn't insure more than 5% of the currently uninsured with his health care plan, and by charging health care benefits from employers as income, his plan would massively raise taxes on the middle class. But Barack Obama's plan, as currently constructed, wouldn't get us to universality either. And he hasn't been raising the issue in a progressive way on the campaign trail, either. He has talked in the past about supporting single payer, but that was in a different context, one he doesn't see as politically possible right now.

Obama can't argue that he's a centrist on health care with no plans for increased government involvement because he likes to say things like “if I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system." Other campaigns notice him saying those things, and they send the quote to reporters. On the other hand, he can't extract the maximum political advantage from his universal health care plan because he doesn't have a universal health care plan [...]

His plan manages to occupy an uncomfortable middle space where it's neither liberal enough to really fit into the sharp liberal argument nor centrist enough to protect him from attacks of being a traditional liberal. And that's not a point of abstract logic: In the primary, he got slammed for not being liberal enough, and now he's getting slammed for being too liberal. it's almost no surprise that Obama doesn't really seem interested in making health care a defining issue. It's not really worked for him thus far.

So how do we tease out Obama and make sure he leads on health care? Jon Cohn's piece is a nice one, and suggests some tea leaves to read about Obama's priorities.

Does Obama grasp this? There are good reasons to think he does--starting with the fact that the platform language was strong even before the activists introduced their amendments. The original platform, whose principal author was veteran Obama advisor Karen Kornbluh, specified that everybody should have health coverage on a par with what members of Congress have. That's no small matter, since members of Congress get relatively generous coverage. It's the right thing to do: without a promise of sufficient benefits, universal coverage is meaningless. But following through on this promise would require passing a bigger, more expensive reform. If Obama wanted to downplay his commitment to health care, he wouldn't have made this vow so explicit.

The same goes for another potentially controversial element of his health care proposal: Making sure everybody has the option of enrolling in a public insurance plan that looks something like Medicare. A viable public plan would help keep private insurance plans honest, by setting a benchmark for affordability, benefits levels, and responsiveness. And if a public plan proved to be more efficient than private alternatives, it might eventually lure most Americans as enrollees, effectively becoming a single-payer plan by acclamation. That's why liberals love the idea--and conservatives hate it. If Obama were going to back away from some of his primary-race promises on health care, that's another place where he might do so. But the public plan, like the promise of generous benefit levels, was always in the platform--again, even before the amendments in Pittsburgh.

Most striking of all, perhaps, is the sheer amount of attention--and apparent priority--health care gets in the platform. Health care is the first policy issue the document takes up in depth. No other platform in recent memory dealt with health care so prominently--or in such detail. Even in 1992, the last year in which a Democratic nominee seriously proposed universal coverage, the platform relegated health care to lesser status: It appeared ninth in a long list of measures to improve economic security. Priorities like deficit reduction, public investment, and agriculture all came before it.

The goal for activists is to continue with an inside/outside strategy, one that keeps the current broken system in the minds of the public to overcome their fear of the unknown, pressures Obama and Congress to act, and build support everywhere. I do think it's possible, more than at any time since 1992.

Labels: , , , , , ,


So Exotic

It never got mentioned on Barack Obama's trip to strange and wondrous Hawaii that John McCain met his second wife there.

Labels: , , , ,


Biden Offers a Moment - Progressives Must Seize It

One thing Joe Biden does bring to the ticket is a working-class perspective. He's still one of the poorest members of the US Senate, and he shares a lot of similarities to my dad - commuting on the train every day and returning home to the family, the wife who's a teacher. This video taken as part of SEIU's "Walk a day in my shoes" program, where Biden spent a day working as a custodian in Cedar Rapids, IA, is very instructive:

Think of the difference between this and the guy with 7-12 houses (who knows how many?), who chides working Americans by telling them they couldn't possibly pick crops in Yuma for $50/hour, and the difference between Democrats and a conservative movement that believes owning 7 homes is indicative of the American dream.

We're going through an ideological shift in this country. Liberal positions are gaining credence and Biden is in a great place to help win the argument, to make that fear of change a little less fearful. And he can come out and credibly make a statement like this - and make it stick.

There’s not a single good reason for any worker—especially any union member—to vote against Barack Obama. There’s only one really bad reason to vote against him: because he’s not white.

A lot of good union people just can’t get past the idea that there’s something wrong with voting for a black man. Well, those of us who know better can’t afford to look the other way.

[There’s] no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism—and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.

(Good for AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka for that one.)

Obama fits in the "old progressive" tradition of the Bidens of the world. He's a free market Democrat who believes in pragmatic, gradual, incremental change. I really don't see a liberal shock doctrine with this guy, even though most of the far-reaching progressive change in this country did come swiftly. Forcing that rapidity of movement is up to us to push from the bottom up. We do have to act fast.

I think an Obama Administration can be very cautious and centrist OR pretty darn liberal. Where it falls will depend on circumstances and how progressives stand up and fight. Biden's choice doesn't really change that - he'll be an asset in the Senate, but he won't approach things in a transformative way. It's really up to us.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Oh Biden: A ticket to win

Just finished watching the Obama-Biden joint event. Obama had a fiery speech which set Biden's blue-collar story in good context (the similarities between the two candidates' backgrounds are palpable, despite the differences in location). Obviously the "change" thing is going to be something of a trip wire with a 36-year Senator on the ticket, but framing it as a change from George Bush isn't that assailable. And Biden's character and personal story provides a good strength to the ticket as well. I thought this line from Obama - "Joe Biden is what so many others pretend to be -- a statesman with sound judgment who doesn't have to hide behind bluster to keep America strong" - was interesting, especially considering that Biden kind of defines bluster in some ways. The difference is that he is also clear-eyed enough to see the facts through the posturing. And he's passionate about it, too.

Biden's speech, using notes instead of the TelePrompTer, was solid and had a lot of rise and fall to it, and of course this was the highlight:

In so doing, he got off the best line of the day, a reference to McCain's multiple homes, noting that McCain might have a bit of trouble sitting down to consider the kitchen table problems faced by ordinary Americans.

"He'll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at," Biden quipped.

Biden, who used much of his speech to link McCain to Bush, also offered a glimpse of how he'll deal with the fact that he's praised McCain in the past, painting McCain as having nothing in common with the earlier McCain he admired.

He "gave in to the right wing of his political party, and gave in to the swift boat politics that he once so deplored," Biden shouted.

Interestingly, Biden also revealed that he may be taking on McCain's war service as an issue a little more frontally than Obama may be willing to do.

"These times require more than a good soldier," Biden said. "They require a wise leader." He went on to describe Obama as "a clear eyed pragmatist who will get the job done."

There was also the line "You can't change America when you know your first four years as President looks exactly like the last eight years of George Bush's Presidency."

Senate Republicans are already praising the Obama-Biden ticket.

Look, I don't want to oversell Joe Biden. Here's his lowest moment, when he fell all over himself to support the bankruptcy bill, a horrible piece of corporate welfare. I called the post "Biden in Two-Thousand Never." But what Biden does do is open up the argument. It suggests that Obama knows that his personal charisma and the recoil from Bush is not enough, and having a partner in making the case that a new direction is necessary is paramount.

There was a hope in the early days of the Obama campaign that different would be enough. Different in aesthetics and experience and age and ideas. Different would assert change. Kathleen Sebelius would have represented change. Visually, her and Obama on a stage together would have been the most powerful image of political transformation in decades. But a choice like her presupposed belief. Otherwise, you'd be adorning a cathedral that had no promise of parishioners.

Turned out not to be true. So they needed an arguer. Someone able to make the case that the other guy is wrong, and Obama is right. That's, fundamentally, what Biden represents. Biden doesn't presuppose belief. He's a persuader. Sometimes at great length, sometimes to the point of virtual self parody, but fundamentally, his political style has always been to argue until everyone else agrees.

For progressives, this is encouraging pick. More encouraging than Bayh, or Kaine, or even, in a way, Sebelius. More encouraging than picks who might have been more progressive, but less pugnacious. Elevating Biden suggests that the Obama campaign has decided to have an argument. Not try to win on momentum and inspiration and GOTV, but to engage, and win, an argument about which set of ideas is better for the future of the country. And in Biden, they've engaged at the point of greatest vulnerability and opportunity for Democrats: National security.

One thing that you see from Barack Obama is that, in spite of the perceived idealism, he does what is necessary to win. McCain had to recalibrate his campaign in June; Obama is doing so now. The race to the finish favors Obama.

...Let me agree with Stoller that Biden is an "old progressive" - generally with liberals on a lot of issues, but not of the same mindset as the new progressive movement.

Labels: , , , ,


No excuses: Ron Fournier needs to be recused or fired

I don't think the enormity of Ron Fournier's hit piece on the Obama-Biden ticket can be fully appreciated. This story will be in every small-town paper, and quite a few big ones, by tomorrow. As newspapers reduce their staffs and rely more heavily on wire services, Fournier's reporting and his style as the Washington bureau chief will be more and more prominent. What's more the media swarm takes their cues from sources like the AP. Fournier is a Villager who needs to be cut down. Now.

Fournier's attack on the ticket - that Obama's pick displayed weakness, that he chose the status quo over a reinforcing pick - isn't the most egregious perspective in the world. Obama did fill the gaps in the resume. But as Steve Benen (in his new digs) notes, it was a lazy analysis:

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

But much more important is Fournier's personal history with this campaign and these candidates. He famously told Karl Rove to "keep up the fight" while Pat Tillman's case was raging. He considered joining the McCain campaign earlier this year:

Before Ron Fournier returned to The Associated Press in March 2007, the veteran political reporter had another professional suitor: John McCain's presidential campaign.

In October 2006, the McCain team approached Fournier about joining the fledgling operation, according to a source with knowledge of the talks. In the months that followed, said a source, Fournier spoke about the job possibility with members of McCain's inner circle, including political aides Mark Salter, John Weaver and Rick Davis.

He simply has no business covering the Presidential campaign. It's one thing for an openly conservative columnist - Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol - arguing against the Democratic nominee. It's another thing for a purportedly "objective" journalist, running the AP's Washington office at a time where the wire service has more influence than ever - offering a slanted take without disclosing his bias. The AP has a Ron Fournier problem, and now it's all of our problem.

Think about it: That year, Rove was engineering the president's re-election -- a campaign Fournier was covering as an AP reporter -- and Fournier urged Rove to "keep up the fight"? Even if that phrase was not written in connection with the campaign, that kind of communication is just wrong. If Fournier could produce emails from 2004 in which he urged top Democratic strategists to "keep up the fight," it would certainly remove doubts about his relationship with Rove, but I suspect Fournier cannot [...]

The problem for Fournier is that the now-public email exchange with Rove simply amplifies long-running concerns about his political tilt and its manifestation in his work.

For instance, in the months before Fournier was privately bonding with Rove and urging the White House to "keep up the fight," this was the lead Fournier wrote for a straight-ahead news article about then-Democratic front-runner Howard Dean receiving Al Gore's endorsement:

Dean hopes the coveted endorsement eases concerns among party leaders about his lack of foreign policy experience, testy temperament, policy flip-flops, campaign miscues and edgy anti-war, antiestablishment message.

Gee, not many Rovian talking points embedded in that AP article, eh?

Boehlert's article is long and filled with material about Ron Fournier's biased reporting. Fournier even invented the idea that Al Gore "invented the Internet."

This is not something to be dismissed and I'm not the only one who thinks this. Ron Fournier is destroying the AP and driving the clubby, sneering, insider journalism that has damaged this country. He needs to be stopped. Jonathan Singer has the contact for the Associated Press and I expect a lot more actions on this in the coming days. For now...

Contact the Associated Press (updated)... Kathleen Carroll (Fournier's boss) at or (212) 621-1500. Be POLITE, but be FIRM. Let them know that you don't want to see them serve as stenographers and amplifiers for pure spin by the McCain campaign.

UPDATE: MoveOn jumps in.

This isn't an isolated incident for the AP reporter who wrote this story, Ron Fournier--who was recently appointed as the AP's Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief. Media watchdog group Media Matters wrote a report showing that Fournier's presidential coverage has consistently smeared Democrats and favored John McCain.

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

Here are their emails:

Michael Oreskes, AP Managing Editor,
Ron Fournier, AP reporter and Washington D.C. Bureau Chief,
After you email them, please help us track our progress by reporting your email here:


UPDATE II: Jane at FDL has created a neat little letter to the editor tool that was very successful the last time they used it, generating 15,000 LTE's to a Nedra Pickler story earlier this year. And then there's this:

The Washington Bureau Chief of the Associated press, Ron Fournier, commands speaker's fees of up to $10,000 per appearance.

As of this writing, Fournier appears to available for booking through the All American Talent & Celebrity Network. I called to confirm that he was still listed with the agency, but I haven't heard back yet [...]

Here's AP's ethics policy on outside appearances:

Employees frequently appear on radio and TV news programs as panelists asking questions of newsmakers; such appearances are encouraged.

However, there is potential for conflict if staffers are asked to give their opinions on issues or personalities of the day. Advance discussion and clearance from a staffer's supervisor are required.

Employees must inform a news manager before accepting honoraria and/or reimbursement of expenses for giving speeches or participating in seminars at colleges and universities or at other educational events if such appearance makes use of AP's name or the employee represents himself or herself as an AP employee. No fees should be accepted from governmental bodies; trade, lobbying or special interest groups; businesses, or labor groups; or any group that would pose a conflict of interest. All appearances must receive prior approval from a staffer's supervisor.

A shill and a cheat.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Kewl Kidz

Setting aside the merits of Joe Biden for a second, late last night as the news nets were announcing the pick David Shuster said something like "Barack Obama has now betrayed his supporters by not giving them the first opportunity to hear his choice..."

Simply an amazing statement on a variety of levels. Actually, who betrayed the public is you, the media, again, because you just couldn't stand not being insiders for ten minutes and waiting out the pick and maybe using those resources of staking out potential candidates' homes and working the phones on, I don't know, illegal wars and torture. The press only breaks out their investigative skills every four years so they can scoop their competition by 20 seconds. Would it have killed them to embargo the story and let the campaign play it out the way they wanted? Would it have mattered to anyone?

This secret was so tantalizing to them, making it necessary to marshal the full resources of the American media, while eight years of secret government and secret law received no such attention. The discovery of the pick was an end in itself, justifying their clubby, insider self-images as the coolest kids in the room. And then, after they've undermined the rollout, they blame the candidate.

It's going to get lost because it happened so late at night, but it was a shining example of how the media works.

...Brilliant. The LA Times ran with a Tim Kaine pick (they got it right in the print edition). They broke their word to their subscribers!

Labels: , , , , , ,


Who's Joe Bidden?

My sister was drawn in by the Presidential race this year, and she actually watched a couple of the debates. After one of them, she called me up and said "Who's Joe Bidden?"

Well, now she'll know.

Of everyone on the short list, Biden was clearly the best. He's spent a lifetime in the Senate, so it's a pick that fills in the gaps and doesn't reinforce, but it should be mentioned that Dick Cheney, a "fill-in-the-gaps" pick for George W. Bush, did pretty well for the ticket from an electoral standpoint. What he did for the nation is another matter, but I don't see Obama offering the same kind of power to his VP.

On most issues, Biden is pretty solidly in the center of the Democratic Party. Not a fiery progressive, but not a conservative Democrat. He's a liberal whose lifetime voting record includes some working across the aisle, of course, but he's pretty clear in his beliefs. His LCV score is 84, and his record on the middle class, actually, is solidly progressive. The bankruptcy bill was horrendous, and being the Senator from MBNA doesn't mollify it, but his replacement (and I'm going on the record that it'll be his son Beau, the Attorney General of Delaware who's headed to Iraq next year) won't vote against banking industry interests, either, and those parochial votes are inevitable when an industry is concentrated in a state or region. I hope this doesn't dissuade Obama from seeking bankruptcy bill reform as he has advocated.

On foreign policy, he's incredibly knowledgeable and obviously an asset, though he does represent the foreign policy establishment view much of the time, which is too interventionist for my taste. He voted for the war but sought in the Biden-Lugar amendment and end date for the authorization, and he always fretted about what happens the day after we enter Baghdad. That concern was proven prophetic.

Most important, he has the traditional profile of a Vice President - he's a hard-core attack dog. Here:

Taking aim at McCain’s foreign policy approach earlier this year, Biden said:

John McCain remains wedded to the Bush Administration’s myopic view of a world defined by terrorism. … He would continue to allow a tiny minority to set the agenda for the overwhelming majority. It is time for a total change in Washington’s world view.

In an interview with ThinkProgress in May, Biden criticized McCain’s “overwhelming lack of sophistication when it comes to foreign policy.”

Biden has called the Bush administration “the worst administration in American foreign policy in modern history, maybe ever. … Every single thing they’ve touched has been a near disaster.” And in an interview last year, he suggested that “we should be acquiring and accumulating” information “for possibly bringing criminal charges against members of this administration at a later date.”

The GOP is out with an attack ad about Biden, saying he thought Obama wasn't ready to be President in a recent debate, and dredging up a 2005 quote that Biden "would be honored to run with or against John McCain." But that's a short-term issue. In the long term, Biden will attack, and attack, and attack some more. And he's extremely comfortable making the Democratic argument on national security. Ezra Klein offered the best take on this a couple months ago:

In the 2008 election, he was the only Democrat who really figured out how to talk about Republicans and foreign policy. All the other candidates on the stage started from the presumption that Republicans were strong on national security, and voters needed to be convinced of their failures and then led to a place of support for a Democratic alternative. Biden dispensed with all that. He started from the position that Republicans had been catastrophic failures on foreign policy, and their ongoing claims to competence and leadership should be laughed at, and even mocked.

When Rudy Giuliani said, simply, "America will be safer with a Republican president," Obama responded with a traditional, more-in-sadness-than-in-anger statement. "Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics. America’s mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united." The release goes on in this way for eight more lines.

Biden, by contrast, laughed at Giuliani. He mocked him. "The irony is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency, is here talking about any of the people here," said Biden at one of the debates. "Rudy Giuliani... I mean, think about it! Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There's nothing else!" Giuliani, of course, took umbrage, and said Biden lacked foreign policy experience. This led to my favorite YouTube of the campaign, in which Biden dismantles Giuliani, live on television, while walking to his car.

That's exactly what you need in a VP. Lieberman was terrible as an accommodating drip in 2000. Edwards was terrible as a Sunshine Boy in 2004. Biden is the more traditional model.

Overall, Obama shows his confidence in picking someone with a high profile and outsized ego, and saying that he'll be able to handle him. Good choice, especially when considering the alternatives given.

Labels: , , ,


Friday, August 22, 2008

Why We Must Tread Lightly

Aerial bombings are not 100% effective and they inflame local populations. They are death to a counter-insurgency campaign.

US-led coalition forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan yesterday, most of them children, the country's Interior Ministry said.

The coalition denied killing civilians. Civilian deaths in military operations have become an emotive issue among Afghans, many of whom feel international forces take too little care when launching air strikes, undermining support for their presence.

"Seventy-six civilians, most of them women and children, were martyred today in a coalition forces operation in Herat province," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Obama wants to add troops to Afghanistan. That may mean that there will be less air strikes as the troops on the ground actually create security for the population. But the insurgents usually can only be reached by air. And when you misfire things like this happen. And anyway, it's not like you can roll back the clock on 76 deaths. That's more families stung by war, vowing revenge.

Meanwhile the Taliban is running roughshod over Pakistan, enacting major bombings and attacks.

I think if I was asked to be Vice President I'd say "No."

Labels: , , , ,


Friday Random Ten - Pre-DNC Edition

I will be attending the DNC Convention, and with my credential I should be on the floor on Wednesday with the California delegation. I really have no idea what I'll be doing there - it seems very overwhelming to me, to be honest. There are so many panels and discussions, it's like Netroots Nation times 10. The Big Tent, a space for bloggers, should be cool. Maybe me and the Lovely & Talented girlfriend will just hang out there. Should be a fun week, anyway.

Here's your music:

I Don't Live Today - Jimi Hendrix
Juicebox - The Strokes
The New Year - Death Cab For Cutie
I Was A Lover - TV On The Radio
Can't Wait One Minute More - Civ (I have no idea why I like this song)
Northern Whale - The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Izzo/In The End - Jay Z/Linkin Park
Leave The Biker - Fountains Of Wayne
We're The Same - Matthew Sweet
I Heard Love Is Blind (live) - Amy Winehouse


Prevenge - They Might Be Giants

Labels: ,


Prop. 8: The Hallmark Factor

The very interesting aspect of the gay marriage debate out here in California is how corporate America has made their bet. Companies like PG&E have donated heavily to the "No on 8" side, and now we see Hallmark, about as conservative (not in their politics, but in their style and outlook) a company as you can find, coming out with same-sex marriage cards (just in time for me to get one for a certain couple in a few weeks!):

Most states don't recognize gay marriage — but now Hallmark does.

The nation's largest greeting card company is rolling out same-sex wedding cards — featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. “Two hearts. One promise,” one says [...]

The language inside the cards is neutral, with no mention of wedding or marriage, making them also suitable for a commitment ceremony. Hallmark says the move is a response to consumer demand, not any political pressure.

“It's our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can,” Hallmark spokeswoman Sarah Gronberg Kolell said.

Apparently they weren't relevant enough to the American Family Association, which is commencing a protest of the company. AFA is one of the many hatemongers trying desperately to inspire their troops over Prop. 8. But I think Hallmark's decision is far more instructive.

Corporations have balance sheets and shareholders. They don't make these kind of decisions frivolously. They know that history is bending on the side of justice. They know that equality is on the way.

Labels: , , ,



CNN has a shot of each potential Vice-Presidential candidate's home up, with another camera staked out at Midway Airport in Chicago. It's exceedingly weird, as if they're waiting for OJ or something. It's just killing the Village that they have to wait like the mere plebes for this decision. Georgia10 had a great take:

I flip to CNN, where a perky Kyra Phillps leads in to "political expert" Bill Schneider for an update. Schneider blurts out with frustration what has been echoed by pundits across the channels all morning: they keep saying "I don't know" and "it's anybody's guess" and "I wish there was some insider information I could give you, but...." Schneider and other are pressed for any hints, any indication of who He or She will be, and the pundits keep coming up dry.

It's beautiful.

In one fell swoop, by choosing to disclose his vice-presidential pick directly to voters through text messaging rather than revealing his pick through choice leaks to the press, the Obama camp has given us a momentary reprieve from having to watch smirk-faced pundits gloat about "inside scoops" and "my sources tell me." No "scoops" for the Villagers, followed by anti-climactic press conferences to the people as an afterthought. No "special access" to them, no matter how much they clamor. Technology has allowed the Obama camp to keep all, reporter and regular citizen alike, on the edge of their seats.

The text message thing was kind of brilliant, not only for the technological possibilities and the harvesting of contacts, but just to ramp up the suspense. And watching these media types flail about, reporting on absolutely nothing, spending hours dying for their insider access, is nothing short of priceless.

Labels: , ,


The Al Franken Decade

He's leading in the latest poll. Maybe it's thanks to ads like this:

Good work, Al. Us comedians turned politicos have to stick together.

Labels: , , , , ,


He'll Make It Rain!


Labels: , ,


The Withdrawal Chronicles

OK, so there are a lot of reports adding color to this US-Iraq agreement on a withdrawal timetable.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said several difficult issues remain, including whether U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes. But the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss the agreement publicly, said key elements of a timetable for troop withdrawal once resisted by President Bush had been reached.

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

There are two departures here: one from the major Iraqi cities, scheduled for next summer (something counter to the counter-insurgency strategy), and one removing combat troops from the country, scheduled for the end of 2011. The move from the cities coincides with the transfer of the "Sons of Iraq" program, the payment of Sunnis to continue fighting Al Qaeda, to the Iraqi government. Now, the Maliki government doesn't want the Sunnis integrated into the security forces:

West of Baghdad, former insurgent leaders contend that the Iraqi military is going after 650 Awakening members, many of whom have fled the once-violent area they had kept safe. While the crackdown appears to be focused on a relatively small number of leaders whom the Iraqi government considers the most dangerous, there are influential voices to dismantle the American backed movement entirely.

“The state cannot accept the Awakening,” said Sheik Jalaladeen al-Sagheer, a leading Shiite member of Parliament. “Their days are numbered.”

....The Shiite-dominated government has never been pleased with the continuing American plan to finance and organize Sunni insurgents into militia guards, charging that they will stop fighting only as long as it serves their interests.

“These people are like cancer, and we must remove them,” said Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti, commander of the Iraqi Army’s 5,000-strong Muthanna Brigade, which patrols west of Baghdad, said of the Awakening leaders on his list for arrest.

Maliki probably feels he can dump the Sunnis, or round up the Awakening groups and just murder them, once the American troops are tucked away out of the cities. I think this is a big mistake from Maliki, expecting that the Sunnis will just be steamrolled, but if there's unrest US troops will be available to step in and cut down the Sunnis for the Prime Minister. That's why this is staggered, but I think Maliki's making a very healthy assumption about this.

That leads us to the expected "conditions on the ground" caveat that will be put into this deal. It's clear that who is implementing this deal matters - whether the timeline is delayed, whether permanent bases are installed, etc.

This allows the Bush Administration (and, to a lesser extent, McCain) to argue that the surge worked, and now we're experiencing the benefits. But on the other hand, it's a real collapse of their strategy that timelines are poison and leaving equals losing. Here's Dan Froomkin:

In agreeing to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraqi cities by June, and from the rest of the country by 2011, President Bush has apparently consented to precisely the kind of timetable that, when Democrats called for one, he dismissed as "setting a date for failure." Bush can call it an "aspirational goal" until he turns blue, but a timetable is exactly what it is, thank you very much.

Bush has repeatedly warned that politics and public opinion should have no role in the decision about when to leave Iraq, but apparently he just meant American politics and public opinion. A clear majority of Americans has favored a withdrawal timetable for several years now, putting anti-war Democrats in control of Congress in 2006.

Bush ignored them. But in the end, he bowed to the will of the Iraqis' elected representatives. After five and a half years of occupation, it was their turn to put a gun to Bush's head: The timetable was the price they demanded for agreeing to let American troops remain in the country beyond the expiration of a United Nations mandate in December.

This, of course, won't be Bush's problem, it'll be the problem of the next President. And that's the real question - how this impacts the Presidential race. Obama put out this statement:

I am glad that the Administration has finally shifted to accepting a timetable for the removal of our combat troops from Iraq. Success in Iraq depends on an Iraqi government that is reconciling its differences and taking responsibility for its future, and a timetable is the best way to press the Iraqis to do just that. I welcome the growing convergence around this pragmatic and responsible position.

"Senator McCain has stubbornly focused on maintaining an indefinite U.S presence in Iraq, but events have made his bluster and record increasingly out of touch with reality. While Senator McCain continues to offer unconditional military and economic support for Iraq, I strongly believe that we need to use our leverage with the Iraqi government to ensure a political settlement. In addition to a timetable, we should only train Iraqi Security Forces if Iraq's leaders reconcile their differences, and we must insist that Iraq invests its $79 billion surplus on rebuilding its own country. It's time to succeed in Iraq and to honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women by leaving Iraq to a sovereign Iraqi government."

McCain is in danger of being marginalized, with the whole country, the Democrats, and BUSH on one side, and his small band of neocon brothers on the other. He'll argue that the surge worked and this shows why his judgment is superior, but it's a strategy focused on the past, and Obama has one focused on the future. I think Obama will benefit from this.

And in the end, this development will be more important than the number of houses McCain owns, though not now.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Team Obama Continues Their Push On The John McCain Show

Another ad:

Hilariously, the McCain campaign put together a new ad today as well, and it opens with - I kid you not - "Celebrities don't have to worry about family budgets, but we do."

Yeah, I guess when you don't even know how many homes you have, a family budget is hard to set. Who knows how many mortgages you're paying?

I think this is a case of McCain punching himself out. The "celebrity" sneer is just pathetic considering McCain's fabulous life, and even the "You can't say that to me, I was a POW" defense is ringing stale among the punditocracy. McCain's one-note, totally negative campaign is sinking.

Good for the Obama campaign to keep the pressure on.

UPDATE: Don't forget to take your virtual walking tour of The John McCain Show's McMansions.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


John Chiang's Leadership

One of the few bright spots of this 8-week budget roller coaster has been the leadership of State Controller John Chiang, who stood up and simply said "no" to the shock doctrine tactics of the Governor and his attempts to slash state worker salaries to the minimum wage and eliminate the jobs of thousands of others. Schwarzenegger's talk of compromise among the legislature and right-wing Republicans didn't extend to state workers, and he took Chiang to court to force him to uphold his executive order. As a result of Chiang at least offering resistance, the workers have a reprieve for August.

State workers targeted by a gubernatorial order to cut their pay to federal minimum wage have dodged that bullet - at least for August.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge Wednesday set a hearing to decide the pay dispute for Sept. 12, too late to affect this month's state payroll.

Judge Timothy Frawley's timetable ensures that 145,000 state employees and an additional 30,000 managers and supervisors will receive full pay for August.

This doesn't happen unless Chiang goes to back for those employees. And the grassroots in California is grateful. Frank Russo reports on a meeting in Oakland:

California Controller John Chiang spoke to the Alameda County Democratic Lawyer’s Club yesterday at a small restaurant in Oakland and had a lot to say about the state employee pay order. But he had a lot more to say, about his approach to government, helping average Californians, and his values and philosophy about government while speaking for over a half hour without notes and then taking questions.

From the beginning, he was treated as a rock star—introduced by club President Meredith Brown, as “the man who stood up to the man.” He covered a lot of territory—and was paid rapt attention as he challenged this body of lawyers to continue their good work for the betterment of society. He even worked in themes from the Obama campaign, as he prepares to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and appear on the national stage. Josh Richman, a reporter and “blogger” for the Oakland Tribune attended this meeting and you can see his write up for a feel of what transpired as well.

Read the whole thing for Chiang's comments, which are great. Hopefully he'll repeat them at the DNC this week. Amazing what can happen to Democrats if they stand up for themselves, isn't it?

Labels: , , , ,


Still At It

I often chronicle the voter suppression and intimidation machinations from the right. There's also the use of US Attorneys to investigate Democrats at fortunate times for their Republican opponents. Despite the high-profile nature of the Don Siegelman case and others, this element of the Republican machine hasn't been shut down. In fact, it's in full force in a Senate race in Mississippi.

As federal courtwatchers wonder if the Mississippi Beef Plant investigation will entangle Senate candidate Ronnie Musgrove, a Federal Election Commission check shows U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee contributed to his opponent.

Greenlee was nominated for the U.S. attorney post in 2001 by President George W. Bush, supported by Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott.

On Oct. 11, 2002 - just weeks before then-U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker won another term in Congress - Greenlee made a donation of $200 to Friends of Roger Wicker [...]

In U.S. District Court, where Greenlee is the chief prosecutor, two Georgia company executives recently pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution to then-Gov. Musgrove’s 2003 re-election campaign. They admitted they hoped to ask Musgrove for help as they realized the Mississippi Beef Plant construction project was in trouble.

The project ultimately failed, leaving hundreds of people out of work and the state of Mississippi holding the bag on millions of loan guarantees. Two men have gone to prison on related fraud charges.

However, Musgrove has not been indicted and repeatedly insists he did nothing wrong.

Scott Horton has taken notice of this one, as it shares similarities with the Siegelman case that he's been following closely - a former Democratic governor in the Deep South, a Republican operative masquerading as a US Attorney, and trumped-up charges designed to take down Musgrove. These executives plead guilty to the illegal contributions in a plea deal:

The three, all executives with The Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga., were largely left off the hook on the more serious charges that they had swindled the state out of at least $2 million and had left the plant’s vendors and contractors holding the bag. Instead, they were allowed in a plea bargain to confess to trying to buy influence with Musgrove by steering $25,000 to the then-governor’s unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2003.

The orchestrated guilty pleas — and the prosecutors’ suggestion that more indictments could be forthcoming — are a boon to the campaign of Republican Roger Wicker, who was appointed to the vacant Senate seat in December but is considered vulnerable. They leave a cloud over Musgrove in voters’ minds and provide more fodder for negative campaign ads from the G.O.P. camp, even though Musgrove has not been charged with any wrongdoing and there’s nothing in the court records to document he did anything illegal.

Well, maybe we can get somebody over at the Justice Department to investigate. Or I know, an independent body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights! Anyone know any of their new hires?

It looks like Hans von Spakovsky, an old TPM favorite, is back in business. The former Justice Department official, whose nomination to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to his long record of support for restrictions on voting rights, has been hired as a "consultant and temporary full-time employee" at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) the agency confirmed to TPMmuckraker [...]

Among Spakovsky's duties will be overseeing the USCCR's report on the Justice Department's monitoring of the 2008 presidential elections, a source inside the USCCR told TPMmuckraker.

Spakovsky's hiring is at the request of Commissioner Todd Gaziano, who works for the conservative Heritage Foundation on FEC issues and has defended Spakovsky in the press before. According to a federal government source, Gaziano has recommended Spakovsky at the government's highest payscale -- which would work out to about $124,010 annually if Spakovsky was to stay for an entire year.

Looks like we're in good hands.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


AK-Sen: The Alaskan Wolverine

This is Ted Stevens' idea of reaching out to the voters - challenging them to a fight:

As more and more people called in to the show asking questions about his upcoming trial and indictment, Stevens' patience seemed to wane. At about forty minutes into the show, host Steve Heimel stepped in to break up a shouting match between Stevens and a caller.

"Excuse me, Steve," the caller said, "but the senator is a big boy and can take care of himself. He's been in the game a long time."

"You're damned right I can take care of myself," Stevens responded. "Any time you want to come, friend."

Vote Stevens - Or So Help Me, I'll...

This compilation of some of the calls is hilarious.

And after a haranguing like this, he actually had the cluelessness to tell a primary opponent in a debate that the people of Alaska don't care about his corruption charges.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, this is a good interview with Mark Begich. This is particularly good about Russia and Georgia:

"But Russia saw they could go into Georgia and we would have no real response except saying 'please get out.' ... I think we have to re-engage with Russia, and not just have George Bush watching the volleyball tournament in the Olympics while Georgia's getting invaded. That perception is very important, and I think he needs to take it a little more seriously," he added.

Given that Russia has started running bomber patrols off of Alaska in the aftermath of the Georgia crisis, Begich has cause for some local concern over Bush's stewardship of global affairs. While rattling off an itemization of the state's military capabilities, including C-17 cargo planes and F-22 stealth fighters, Begich noted that the "strong military" state is one of America's most strategic ports. Still, he doesn't see force as the only component necessary to improve America's leverage in global affairs.

"One thing the [Sen. Barack] Obama campaign will reestablish is our rapport with countries all over this globe, so that we have the capacity to negotiate with Russia when they are pushing the envelope like they did in Georgia," Begich said, adding: "He'll provide the oomph we need to do that."

Because neither Presidential candidate will be up in Alaska this year, and the state is close at that level, Begich is as much a surrogate as anybody, and he's doing a great job helping both Obama and himself.

Labels: , , ,


McCain's Fabulous Life, Day 2

McCain's house gaffe made probably every major paper this morning, and was featured on every nightly newscast. A good example is this USA Today piece, featuring one of the best paragraphs ever:

McCain, who has portrayed Obama as an elitist, is the son and grandson of admirals. The Associated Press estimates his wife, a beer heiress, is worth $100 million. Obama was raised by a single mother who relied at times on food stamps, and went to top schools on scholarships and loans. His income has increased from book sales since he spoke at the 2004 Democratic convention.

Hilarious. Among the other developments: the DNC put out a funny video asking random folks if they remember how many houses they own:

Josh Marshall notices that the McCain household staff budget went up 50% last year to $273,000 a year. Inflation's tough for everybody.

And even a fount of conventional wisdom like Chris Cillizza gets why this matters:

In politics, there is nothing worse than appearing out of touch.

From time immemorial, a candidate who is effectively portrayed as forgetting about the "little" people, of having "gone Washington," of living higher on the hog than voters, loses.

Class remains a powerful motivator for many voters in the country. Politicians are forever trying to cast their candidacies as closely rooted in the communities from which they sprung -- a purposeful attempt to ensure that voters know that the candidate "understands the problems of people like you." Put simply: The worst thing you can call a politician is an elitist.

And so, seen through that lens, it makes perfect sense why Democrats have picked up on John McCain's comment that he wasn't sure about how many houses he and his wife own -- comments made to Politico's Mike Allen and J-Mart -- and why Republicans have fought back so quickly and so hard.

By the way, the progressive movement needs to take a little credit for this one. We harped on McCain's comment at the Saddleback Forum that $5 million dollars connoted being rich, which Obama connected to the current controversy yesterday. Brave New Films and the AFL-CIO have teamed up to drive the "McCain is the real elitist" angle hard, and they put a video out on Wednesday about his many houses. That clearly prompted the Politico writers to ask the question to McCain, leading to that priceless moment.

And I have to say the Obama new media team has been very solid on this in providing information. This is what can happen when everyone works together.

...I forgot to mention the 9-car entourage to Starbucks for a latte yesterday. McCain is not doing himself any favors. And of course this is ticky-tack, but as I've constantly said, this is how the media works in the modern age, and anyway McCain started this whole "elitist" thing, and being out of touch with what's happening in the world and the economy actually does matter.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Obama's VP

An interesting choice. Didn't expect that one.

Labels: ,


The Art Of War

What was so great about Team Obama springing to action yesterday was that it stood in contrast to the usual difference in campaign fighting styles between Democrats and Republicans. There was worry that Obama wouldn't be likely to attack in the same fashion as McCain, and would resort to "shame on you" entreaties. In actuality, he has been offering lots of contrast in local spots, but yesterday's action was swift, to the point, and overwhelming. McCain's rebuttals were scattershot, and if he's resorting to going back to the well of Rezko and William Ayers (the second ad made by an "independent" group managed by McCain's own paid consultant), well, that's good for muddying waters but it doesn't answer the major point.

However, there's another aspect that Democratic Presidential candidates must learn - the power of SUSTAINED attacks aimed at defining the opponent. The GOP does not make this a one-day affair. They continue to mock their opponent in any way possible to cut into them and make them a ridiculous figure. Peter Daou has the blueprint:

Expanding the theme, it's worth noting that the rightwing attack machine has been effective in the past because it serves a singular purpose: diminishing opponents through mockery and marginalization. Bloggers have referred to recent presidential campaigns as "genital-swinging contests" (we're using the clean version). That crude image underlines the strategy: make your opponent look small - or smaller. Shrinkage, for Seinfeld buffs. Think of how Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh and their cohorts operate - it's all about the laughter, the joking, the snide remarks, the scoffing. It's about cutting someone down to size, making them look meek and meager.

Democrats have been stumped by the technique, missing the underlying purpose and getting sidetracked by the minutiae of the attacks. 'Rovian' is an overused adjective, but it is mistaken as a strategy of attacking an opponent's strength as an end in itself, when that's just one tactic in the larger mission of systematically belittling the opponent. Going after their strength is a logical part of reducing their stature.

Democratic/progressive attacks generally run the gamut from negative character association (X is just like Y) to policy contrasts (we can handle the economy better than X) to one-off hits and 'Macaca moments' (X flubbed the name of a country) to impugning the attacker (look how nasty my opponent is). These can be effective, particularly the latter, but they are qualitatively different from the rightwing machine's diminishment of an opponent's character. That's something that Democrats don't do as well. It's less about negative frames, contrasts, rapid response, and all the other mainstays of political strategy and more about making your opponent the butt of a joke.

And this has flipped with the "doesn't know how many houses he has" comment. But it must be sustained. It's not like there aren't additional facts to add into the stew. McCain's net worth is $36 million dollars, almost 40 times that of Obama. McCain has butlers. BUTLERS! There's still the matter of getting McCain on the record about the exact number, and detailing - in excruciating detail - all the homes. There are potential events like ringing keys at the DNC and visits to all the compounds. If McCain does indeed pick rich venture capitalist Mitt Romney, then the whole thing is amplified.

The important thing is that the attack is SUSTAINED. The best example of this is the right's war on George Soros, where they clamped down and simply didn't let go:

Soros himself is now cautious about who he funds, refusing to act as lead donor in controversial initiatives where his presence could endanger the project's credibility. Similarly, various programs and groups are now more cautious about taking Soros's money because they're worried about the association. Thus, these projects don't get funded, and good work doesn't get done.

It's been a remarkable coup for the Right, who realized, in 2004, that Soros was readying to step up as an aggressive liberal donor and politicized his money so effectively that he couldn't fully inhabit his role in the liberal fundraising universe. It's been an extraordinarily effective effort to starve edgy initiatives of funding. Conversely, liberals have never put much energy into marginalizing conservative donors. If you called something Olin-funded, or Coors-funded, people would scratch their heads. Sheldon Adelson, the gambling tycoon who's pumping tens of millions into the right wing advocacy group Freedom's Watch, isn't even a household name among liberal political professionals. Yet Soros, who spent most of his life funding democratization efforts in the post-Soviet bloc, is somehow radioactive. It's nuts.

That's because, even after they've destroyed the guy, they're still going after him, like in this Michelle Malkin piece claiming that there's some clause in the DNC platform that will open up the money gates for him in an Obama White House. One, what does a billionaire like Soros need with more money? Two, if anyone ought to know about corporate welfare programs, it'd be conservatives, particularly those like Malkin who might as well get a paycheck directly from Scaife or Olin.

It's real simple; you choose your target, find a line of attack, and relentlessly hammer it in various ways, with total message discipline from surrogates (I'm looking at you, Russ Feingold). And you do it every day for about 3 months.

That's how you fight fire with fire. I would love a high-minded battle of ideals, but I'm not going to sit around waiting for it to happen.

Labels: , , , , ,


The Most Gracious Hosts

Those boffo Olympics are sure the talk of the town, aren't they? Breaking ratings records and world records! Excitement personified!

Here's what is happening off camera:

Six Americans detained by police this week could be held for 10 days, according to Chinese authorities, who appear to be intensifying their efforts to shut down any public demonstrations during the final days of the Olympic Games.

Since the Games began, no foreigners are known to have been detained for more than a few hours. Most of the approximately 40 non-Chinese involved in a handful of unauthorized, small-scale demonstrations have been deported.

A short statement faxed Thursday by Beijing police to foreign news agencies said the six foreigners were apprehended for "upsetting public order" and would be subject to the 10-day detention. It identified one of the six, detained Tuesday, as "Thomas."

These are mostly videobloggers from Students for a Free Tibet who had been broadcasting video of protests, sometimes using the live streaming technology of Qik, around the world. You always cut the communication lines first.

It could be worse, they could be this elderly couple, headed to the re-education camps:

In the annals of people who have struggled against Communist Party rule, Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying are unlikely to merit even a footnote.

The two women, both in their late 70s, have never spoken out against China’s authoritarian government. Both walk with the help of a cane, and Ms. Wang is blind in one eye. Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country’s long streak of fast economic growth.

But the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of “re-education through labor” this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games.

Their crime is APPLYING to protest. Not protesting, just wanting to do so.

I'm so glad China got these two weeks of free propaganda on the world stage! Never mind the illegal detention and the re-education camps. That Bird's Nest is exquisite!

Labels: , , , ,


Wouldn't Want A Leftward Drift!

It's totally absurd that the media critics far and wide have come out of the woodwork to cluck their tongues and shake their heads at MSNBC's decision to give Rachel Maddow a prime-time show, on the ground that it could reflect a dangerous leftward drift (because liberals don't watch news shows). This is the same so-called liberal media that has seen cable shows from Tucker Carlson (conservative), Joe Scarborough (conservative ex-Congressman), Glenn Beck (batshit crazy wingnut), Michael Savage (scumbag wingnut), Alan Keyes (crazy scumbag wingnut conservative), Sean Hannity (see above), Bill O'Reilly (ditto), etc., etc. Now one liberal finally gets a show and this could cause a dangerous imbalance in the force. (I consider Olbermann more of a Bush-hater than an actual liberal). Glenn Greenwald demolishes this argument quickly and quietly.

For years, cable news -- well beyond just Fox -- has been suffuse with the hardest-right ideologues. Virtually every Karl Rove disciple not formally with the McCain campaign is now employed in some capacity in the media. Dan Bartlett just joined CBS News as a "political analyst", and just today, Time announced that it has hired Mike Murphy, GOP strategist and former chief McCain adviser, as a new columnist and new poster at Swampland, and he promptly wrote a column filled with trite Rovian platitudes about how Obama is "irresistible to the wine-and-cheese lovers" but can't connect with the salt-of-the-earth working-class People because Obama "reminds them of the Ivy League whiz kids they've dealt with at work during the latest downsizing." [...]

Maddow is unquestionably one of the smartest and most incisive commentators anywhere on television -- perhaps the smartest. One would think that the presence of smart commentary in the wasteland known as "cable news" would be cause for celebration among those super-Serious intellects at TNR. Zimmerman even brings herself to recognize that Maddow's "no mere histrionic provocateur" and "has proved herself to be a savvy commentator with quick, smart takes on the news of the day." But no matter. She's a liberal -- and, therefore, to the Tucker-Carlson-loving Sacha Zimmermans of the world, her mere presence is likely to infect and degrade our political discourse with shrill, overheated, fringe, sickly partisan rhetoric -- "refusing to acknowledge anything but spite, paranoia, and conspiracy theory when it comes to the other side."

The reaction to Maddow's show highlights just how suffocatingly narrow, and right-wing, the spectrum of mainstream political discourse in America is. Hiring Michael Savage, Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson to host their own shows didn't jeopardize NBC's news brand, just as giving Glenn Beck -- Glenn Beck -- his own show didn't jeopardize CNN's. Most mainstream political and media figures even continue to insist that Fox is a legitimate news organization because Brit Hume confines his overt right-wing talking points to the Sunday show. But the presence of a liberal on MSNBC instantaneously destroys traditional principles of Journalism.

This is going to be appointment television for liberals, and the ratings are almost sure to go up in the time slot. But the fear and loathing over Maddow's ascension has little to do with ratings. It's about genuinely progressive ideas and perspectives "infecting the discourse," as it were. Now, the chattering class does a pretty good job of neatly avoiding whatever Olbermann puts on his show and ensuring none of it shapes the narrative. With Maddow there as well that will get slightly more difficult, but only slightly so. This will be a 2-hour island on a sea of conventional wisdom and rigid narrative.

I will note that the Finemans and Alters of the world who come on with Olbermann do end up reflecting the viewpoint of the host. A lot of them are just eager to please, anyway. So more liberals they might have to curry favor with in order to stay on the air might be a good thing. Whether it gets reflected in the broader narrative, I'm not sure.

Labels: , , , ,


Thursday, August 21, 2008

2012 Campaign Begins

The Man Called Petraeus puts out his first dogwhistle:

Gen. David Petraeus is used to controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, but his publicized thoughts on an Army chaplain's book for Soldiers put him squarely in the middle of the ongoing conflict over religious proselytizing in the U.S. military.

The book is "Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel," by Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William McCoy, and according to Petraeus' published endorsement of the work, "it should be in every rucksack for those times when soldiers need spiritual energy."

But the endorsement - which has spurred a demand by a watchdog group for Petraeus' dismissal and court martial on the grounds of establishing a religious requirement on troops - was a personal view never intended for publication, the book's author now says.

"In the process of securing … comments for recommending the book I believe there was a basic misunderstanding on my part that the comments were publishable," McCoy said in an Aug. 19 email to "This was my mistake."

This endorsement has been on the book for close to a year. Petraeus must have been starting to worry that nobody would find out about it!

Can't you hear the theocon right, musing, "I knew that Gen. Petraeus was a good Christian man! If only he were our guy instead of this McCain fellow. I'll bet Petraeus wouldn't consider one a' them baby killers for his Vice President..."

McCain's doing his best to keep the fundies in the tent this time around, but in their heart, they want the guy who writes blurbs on the "Jesus in the foxhole" book.

Labels: , , , ,


Pants On Fire-Gate

I mean, it's getting to be ri-god-damn-diculous.

How do you not remember, or remember when it didn't happen, that you met Mother Teresa? Even worse? How do you remember, incorrectly, that that is how you adopted your daughter? Here is what McCain's campaign Web site used to claim about his wife, Cindy:

Cindy led 55 medical missions to third world and war-torn countries during AVMT's seven years of existence. On one of those missions, Mother Teresa convinced Cindy to take two babies in need of medical attention to the United States. One of those babies is now their adopted daughter, 15 year old Bridget McCain.

It isn't true:

The McCain campaign had also put out the story that Mother Teresa “convinced” Cindy to bring home two orphans from Bangladesh in 1991.

Mrs. McCain, it turns out, never met Mother Teresa on that trip. (Once contacted by the Monitor, the campaign revised the story on its website.)

The worst part of this: McCain started crying when he brought up the story to Rick Warren.

Nothing this guy says is true. I'm surprised his answer to "how many houses do you have" wasn't "Houses? I live in box by Capitol Hill!"

UPDATE: Like I said, liar. TV pundits like McCain lie about things all the time. Just ask Lou Dobbs.

Politicians need a host of skills, but there was one that the old John McCain was proud not to possess: the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

On Tuesday, while perched on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, McCain proved that he's mastered that trick.

"It is time for America to get serious about energy independence, and that means we need to start drilling offshore at advanced oil rigs like this,'' McCain said, from the giant, 10,000-barrel-per-day structure owned by Chevron and Exxon Mobil. Barack Obama has said that offshore drilling "won't solve our problem. . . . He's wrong, and the American people know it," McCain said.

Unfortunately, although many Americans believe that offshore drilling will provide real relief from high energy prices, it's the new McCain who's wrong. Before he switched positions, McCain opposed lifting the ban on offshore drilling and had this to say: "Those resources, which would take years to develop, would only postpone or temporarily relieve our dependency on fossil fuels." That's still true [...]

Last year McCain received a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters - an organization whose members aren't given to chaining themselves to trees. His lifetime score from the group is just 24 percent. That's less than one-third the ratings given to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Earlier this summer, McCain backed a gas tax holiday. That's another bad idea. It would have helped to keep demand high and deprived the nation of money needed to repair collapsing roads and bridges. He has opposed moves to eliminate subsidies for oil companies and, until recently, opposed tax incentives to stimulate production of alternative energy sources.

In an issue that will hit home hard in New Hampshire this winter, McCain has also opposed additional funding for the national low-income fuel assistance program because he didn't like how its cost would be borne. Now, however, he says he will support "whatever is necessary to help people meet literally incredible challenges this winter." But what about next year?

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Returning The Party To The People

I hate to get off the McCain house train (and really, I hate to), this is a great move by Team Obama.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign will call next week for the creation of a commission to revise the rules for selecting a presidential nominee in 2012, with a goal of reducing the power of superdelegates, whose role became a major point of contention during the long battle for the Democratic nomination between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The commission also will be urged to redraw the nominating calendar for 2012 to avoid starting the primaries and caucuses so early, and also to look specifically at ensuring more uniform rules and standards for those caucuses.

Up for grabs: no more Super Tuesdays, moving back the calendar to at least February, adding absentee voting to caucuses, and reducing superdelegate power.

Primary reform isn't a sexy topic, but given the clusterfuck that we endured this spring it's absolutely essential to rebuild the stature of the party. Obama is doing the right thing, and by the way the Clinton campaign is involved in this as well.

This shows Obama is listening to the rank and file. I'm as encouraged by that as almost anything he's done so far.

Labels: , , , , ,


The POW Card

This really is quite amazing. I didn't imagine that every response, every excuse by the McCain campaign would be tied to his POW service, all the while keeping up the fiction that he's reluctant to talk about it. But that's exactly what's happened, to an embarrassing degree.

Speaking to the Washington Post, aide Brian Rogers, in full damage-control mode, acknowledged that his boss had "some investment properties and stuff," but added: "This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison."

That the McCain campaign could incorporate his service in Vietnam into a campaign spat over his property portfolio is not so surprising. The Senator has, rightfully or not, used his history as a POW shrewdly and repeatedly throughout this campaign. Earlier this week, for instance, amidst speculation that the Senator may have received in advance the questions to a values forum between him and Obama, spokeswoman Nicole Wallace declared: "The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous."

When Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Senator John Edwards, ridiculed McCain's health care policy, his aides didn't respond with a substantive retort. Rather, they declared that their boss knew what it was like to get inadequate care "from another government." Even earlier, when the topic was about earmarks, McCain criticized Sen. Hillary Clinton for proposing funds for a museum celebrating Woodstock. He didn't know what there was to celebrate, he said, because he was "tied up" during the music festival.

The Senator has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, he offered that his knowledge of music "stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile." Dancing Queen, however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain's plane was shot down.

There are a dozen more of these. And it's actually offensive at this point. Brandon Friedman at VoteVets has had enough.

1. Being a POW is not an excuse for everything.

The bottom line is that we're sick of hearing about this as a justification for everything John McCain does or doesn't do. This instance is only the latest example, as others have noted.

The fact is, John McCain's service during Vietnam was honorable and he sacrificed a great deal. But his service to the country carries no more weight than that of any other POW. Likewise, while McCain has given so much to his country, thousands of veterans--past and present--have given as much or more. In this war alone, thousands of troops have lost limbs, been paralyzed, and been burned beyond recognition. So to see McCain resort to playing the POW card when answering legitimate questions, in my mind, cheapens that experience. And by cheapening his own experience in war, he degrades all of our experiences in war. He turns the horrific incidents we've all seen, touched, smelled, and felt into a lame excuse to earn political points. And it dishonors us all [...]

But there's also another issue here:

2. Thousands of veterans are homeless--that is, they have ZERO homes.

John McCain seems to forget that while he and his wife own at least eight houses, there are currently over 150,000 homeless vets on America's streets. The only "houses" they own are cardboard boxes under a bridge. Many of these vets served alongside John McCain in Vietnam. Some might have even been POWs. Either way, thousands of them have suffered immeasurably overseas, in the service of their country.

It's really crazy and it's reaching the level of out-and-out parody. Every time anything happens to McCain, troll liberal blog comments and you'll get half a dozen "but he was a POW!" If that acerbic stance goes mainstream, forget it. McCain is shot. I can't believe he's still trying this.

But it's just like a loudmouth pundit to have absolutely no self-awareness.

...I guess some in the media are defending McCain on this, and that's no surprise: he's one of them.

Why do the media idiots love him? Because he’s one of them.

Why do they give him a pass on his totally fraudulent references to elitism? Because they do that shit all the time.

Why do they love his insanity-based foreign policy? Because he says all the absurd, superficially strong-sounding stuff that makes good TV.

They love him like Chris Matthews loved Tim Russert. They love him like David Brooks loves Tom Friedman loves Richard Cohen loves Fred Hiatt. They love him like the Slate editorial board loves any idiot with a contrary position. They would go to bat for him because it’s tribal, because they get him, on a fundamental level. He’s good TV people. He’s one of them.

Keep defending him, guys. And make sure you repeat the quote when you do it. Because you don't actually have a whole lot of credibility anyway, and as long as you mention clearly that John McCain doesn't know how many houses he has, people will get the message.

Labels: , , , , ,


Collect All 10!


If we can get a garden gnome in front of all of them, I can die a happy man.

...I love hey, we only have four houses as some kind of rebuttal. That's not helpful to the cause.

This has bloodied McCain and the right is scratching back like a wounded animal. But they've got nothing. And this is an example of the drip-drip-drip here.

It turns out that a few months ago, a McCain family corporation closed on a second multi-million-dollar beach condo in the same building in exclusive Coronado, California -- at around the same time that John McCain offered his somewhat tone-deaf observation that struggling homeowners were "working at second jobs" and "skipping a vacation" in order to make mortgage payments on time.

Cindy McCain discussed the timing of the second condo purchase in a June interview with Vogue magazine (not online) that's newly relevant in light of the explosive controversy over John McCain's inability to recall how many homes the McCains own.

And in another fun fact that could pour fuel on this controversy, Cindy told her interviewer that the reason they needed a second beach condo in the Coronado building was that the first was too crowded because her kids were staying there and as a result she "couldn't get in the place."

Cindy continued: "So I bought another one."

Also of note: McCain pays $270,000 for butlers and maids.

Glorious. have to love this article where McCain muses that even billionaires can be poor, and calls lobbyists "birds of prey" even though they all work on his campaign.'s the infamous audio, by the way.

...too funny.

Labels: , ,