Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Joe Klein on Neoconservatives and Iran

I've been increasingly alarmed by the drumbeat for war with Iran coming from the far right Jewish lobby.

So has Joe Klein who has decided to call them out. Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with Klein is worth the read.

NBC dings McCain for lying

Repeating fact-checked lines
McCain and his campaign repeated at least two lines of attack against Obama, which when first said in early July, were called "bogus," "wrong," "inflated" and "misleading" by independent fact checkers.

At his town hall today, McCain repeated that Obama wants to raise taxes on those making as little as $32,000 a year and in his campaign's response to Obama's event in Springfield, Mo., today, repeated that "...Obama’s bad judgment led him to vote in support of higher taxes 94 times...."

Of the $32,000 point, FactCheck.org called that "bogus" and "wrong." "The McCain campaign falsely claims that Obama voted to raise income taxes on individuals earning "as little as $32,000 per year," Fact Check wrote on July 8.

Obama response ad

They need to hit harder and really call McCain out and sham him out of using these ads.

"Low Road"

Obamapalooza

I was forwarded a link to Jay Cost's blog post from yesterday. I share the Jay's concerns about Obama's message of greatness and am uneasy about his acceptance speech in a 75,000 seat stadium.

I thought it was a mistake for Obama to have not campaigned in WV and KY and am concerned he is not going to do enough pressing of the flesh in blue collar strongholds.

Obama has the Obamapalooza crowd in his pocket, and he needs to be working on the voters who are skeptical about his personal greatness.

Jay has some excellent suggestions including an I 70 bus tour.

UPDATE: Just got a text from Obama. He's in Springfield MO having a town hall on economic issues.

(HT to Matt for sharing the link)

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist on Morning Joe.

Did you know John McCain was a prisoner in a POW camp!

No matter how many times Joe asked, Crist would not say Obama wants America to lose the war, and Joe wouldn't let it go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert Novak diagnosed with brain tumor

Sad news.

In statement released today Novak wrote, “I will be suspending my journalistic work for an indefinite but, God willing, not too lengthy period.”

Here's to wishing him a speedy recovery. Love him or hate him (I'm actually indifferent), Bob Novak is the most wired Republican in the country. There is no better source for what the GOP is thinking, even if he does get "used" more often than he likes to admit.

More McCain veepstakes

To update my earlier post, Chuck Todd said this morning on MSNBC that McCain was getting a lot of advice from Republicans to wait until after the DNC convention to name his veep thus stealing the Obama speech afterglow and setting a positive tone heading into the RNC convention. The fear is that McCain will seem desperate and reactive if he names his veep this week.

This is clearly good advice, but then McCain ignores good advice many times each day.

McCain's free-pass on the Judgment thing

Frank Rich wrote a provocative column yesterday arguing that Obama has become almost an acting president having filled the leadership void left by a very lame duck president and would-be Republican successor who has nothing to add or offer.

I didn't link to Rich's column yesterday because I think he greatly exaggerates Obama's place in the world.

But Rich made one point that I do want to quote because it goes back to my earlier post on McCain's lack of Judgment. McCain can't stop gushing about his superior judgment and Obama's lack of judgment and not one member of the press has the courage to ask the obvious question.
It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”
McCain was very clearly on-board not just the invasion of Iraq but Bush's disastrous plan for the occupation that included far too few troops and no planning for a post Saddam Iraq.

Let's let McCain speak for himself via the handy TPM Election Central timeline,
3/18/03 appearing on Fox's "The Factor":
O'Reilly: "All right, Senator, if you were president, what would you have done differently in the run-up to this war?"

McCain: "Nothing."

O'Reilly: "Nothing?"

McCain: "The president has handled this, in my view, skillfully."


3/24/03, MSNBC, "Hardball":
McCain: "There's no doubt in my mind that once these people are gone that we will be welcomed as liberators."


6/11/03 Fox News:
Neil Cavuto: ...many argue the conflict isn't over.

McCain: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier? Look, the -- I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the conflict -- the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Maybe we should start calling him "Mission Accomplished McCain". It has a nice ring to it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Mahdi Army

Sabrina Tavernise updates us on the status of the Mahdi Army from today's NYTs.

It seems the Mahdi Army was a criminal enterprise extorting protection money and selling necessities and greatly increased prices to it's people, beating and killing those who resisted. This, of course, on top of ethnically cleansing Sunnis.

At least for now the Mahdi Army has been driven out of power in Baghdad neighborhoods including their stronghold of Sadr City. They still exist at the margins, pull off the occasional hit and bombing, and paint signs on walls reminding a scared public that they will be back, but there is no question that this is one example of the benefit of the Surge.

Obama's Veepstakes again

On May 25th, I posted the Ward Report short list for Obama's VP, and frankly, the list has not held up well.

1. Sen. Jim Webb. Removed himself from consideration.

2. Gov. Bill Richardson. Technically speaking, he's still in the hunt, but no one seems to be talking about him much anymore. I saw him appear on one of the Sunday morning talk shows in June and was just awful at defending Obama on accused flip-flops even when he had good opportunities to tag McCain. So, Richardson may still be on Obama's list, but he's off the Ward Report list.

3. Sen. Evan Bayh. Bayh remains viable. And to correct my earlier post, Bayh is on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees. On the down side, he was an honorary neocon -- which might actually appeal to Obama.

4. Wesley Clark. Scratch Gen Clark who decided to get in a fight on national TV over McCain's military service. No one on Obama's side should ever mention McCain's military serivice, much less pick a fight about it.

So, I'm sticking with Evan Bayh as Obama's VP choice, if for no other reason than I have no idea who Obama will actually pick.

And finally add former Bush Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to the list of people who will not be Obama's Veep.

Media bias

Via The LA Times,
The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.
_____

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.

McCain Veepstakes

Sources close to the Ward Report are saying McCain will announce his Veep next week and possibly as soon as tomorrow.

Latest speculation is that McCain is leaning toward the Mullet.

The sound of desperation

Photobucket
Barry Blitt, New York Times

I continue to be amazed at the unraveling of the McCain campaign. Obama had a good week in July, which does not mean the McCain campaign will never have a good week -- in fact I'm quite certain McCain will have many big weeks in the next 100 days.

The desperation coming out of the McCain campaign is just wacko and speaks to just how much stock they put in their Iraq narrative. McCain has based his entire campaign on Iraq and watched his narrative dissolve in the last 10 days.

And just when we thought camp McCain might take a breath and regroup they come out as nutty as ever today and the MSM is now calling them on it.

Via MSNBC,
"Today, Barack Obama finally abandoned his dangerous insistence on an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by making clear that for the foreseeable future, troop levels in Iraq will be 'entirely conditions based,'" McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann said in a statement. "We welcome this latest shift in Sen. Obama's position, but it is obvious that it was only a lack of experience and judgment that kept him from arriving at this position sooner."

But the remark the McCain campaign is jumping on -- from Obama's interview with Newsweek's Richard Wolffe -- pertains to residual forces, not withdrawal from Iraq.
_____

Keeping residual forces in and around Iraq is something that Obama has consistently talked about. As Obama told the late Tim Russert at the MSNBC debate in September 2007: "The only troops that would remain [in Iraq] would be those that have to protect U.S. bases and U.S. civilians, as well as to engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq."
The press narrative is quickly becoming the collapse of the McCain campaign and renewed reports of McCain's temperament -- and it's all self inflicted.

"too much a scold, too little a statesman"

Joe Klein describing McCain's performance on the morning talk shows in contrast to Obama who was "at ease" and "confident".

And Klein really doesn't like McCain's recent ad,
This is the sort of thing you put on the air when:

1. You're desperate.
2. Your Middle East policy has been superseded by events and abandoned by your allies.
3. You apparently have nothing substantive to say about America's future role in the region and the world.

Did not!

On "This Week" Stephanopoulos asked McCain if he should have not used the word "timetable" when endorsing Maliki's endorsement of Obama's timetable.

Grandpa responded by denying that he ever used the word "timetable".

And of course, McCain said exactly that: "I think it's a pretty good timetable". You will find the relevant transcript and video here.

The movie rights will be worth a real fortune

This is really extraordinary stuff and i keep thinking it really can't all be true,...that I'm being silly and gullible and will somehow ultimately be embarrassed.

Think Progress,
Last night on PBS, Bill Moyers interviewed investigative journalist Jane Mayer and mentioned that in Mayer’s new book [The Dark Side by Jane Mayer], she notes that FBI agents refused to participate in the CIA’s interrogation of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay because they determined it to be “borderline torture.” Moyers then asked, “Who were some of the other conservative heroes, as you call them, in your book?”

Mayer remembered one top Justice Department lawyer and “very conservative member of this administration” who said that after participating in White House meetings authorizing torture, he believed that “lunatics had taken over the country.”

Mayer said two other top DOJ lawyers had to develop a system of speaking codes because they feared they were being wiretapped while others described an “atmosphere of intimidation,” mainly from Vice President Dick Cheney...
You know you really have 'gone round the bend' when John Ashcroft thinks you're a 'lunatic'.

I've not read Mayer's book but it appears the most extraordinary stuff is anonymously sourced which is problematic if sometimes unavoidable. Here is the Times book review.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

For the record

July 31, 2007,
Sen. Barack Obama will propose deploying two additional U.S brigades to Afghanistan in a speech Wednesday mapping out his approach to combating terrorism, an adviser said.

McCain moving to the right of Bush

The NYTs today had a good analysis of McCain's increasing policy isolation and Bush moves to Obama on foreign policy issues. Not just on a timetable "time horizon" for troop withdrawal from Iraq, but engaging in talks with North Korea and Iran.
Republicans also say the administration’s decision to authorize high-level talks with Iran and North Korea has undercut Mr. McCain’s skepticism about engagement with those countries, leaving the perception that he is more conservative than Mr. Bush on the issue.

Essentially, as the administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.
Is this really where McCain wants to be? Depending on John Bolton to defend his policy positions?

Obama hates the troops

This is just the beginning. Desperation has set in at the McCain campaign and it's going to get very ugly.

How much does McCain really know about foreign policy?

As Obama left on his foreign trip Fred Kaplan notes the press narrative was concern over Obama's ability to manage such a trip without stumbles,
Would Obama, the first-term senator and foreign-policy newbie, utter an irrevocably damaging gaffe? The nightmare scenarios were endless. Maybe he would refer to "the Iraq-Pakistan border," or call the Czech Republic "Czechoslovakia" (three times), or confuse Sunni with Shiite, or say that the U.S. troop surge preceded (and therefore caused) the Sunni Awakening in Anbar province.
These are all, of course, now infamous fumbles of McCain's which provoked Kaplan to wonder just how much does McCain really know about foreign policy. In looking at McCain's positions of important foreign policy issues, Kaplan is not at all impressed.
Quite apart from the gaffes, in formal prepared speeches, McCain has proposed certain actions and policies that raise serious questions about his suitability for the highest office. As president, he has said, he would boot Russia out of the G-8 on the grounds that its leaders don't share the West's values. He would form an international "League of Democracy" as a united front against the forces of autocracy and terror....

Evicting Russia from the group of eight leading industrial nations may have some visceral appeal, but it has at least two drawbacks. First, all the G-8's other members are opposed to the notion. Second, the main issues that concern the G-8—for instance, climate change, energy policy, nuclear nonproliferation, and counterterrorism—cannot be fully addressed without Russia's participation.

The idea of a League of Democracy has a nice ring, especially given the United Nations' frequent obstructionism in the face of human misery and common danger. The obstructionism stems in part from vetoes by Russia or China, which, of course, would not be members of this league. But there are a few problems here as well. First, democratic nations often differ on high-profile issues (e.g., the invasion of Iraq, the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, the Kyoto Treaty, etc.). Second, very few of the world's pressing problems break down along the lines of democracies vs. nondemocracies, either by topic or constituency. Third, creating such an overtly ideological bloc as a central tool of foreign policy would only alienate the excluded nations—and possibly incite them to form an opposing bloc. The challenge is to find common solutions to global problems, not to encumber them in a new Cold War.
On this last line, I think Kaplan doesn't give McCain enough credit.

McCain and the neocons he is increasingly surrounding himself with, want to do exactly that: create a new cold war. It's all they know and it's a world order they are comfortable with. And if they and their friends can get rich in the process, who's to complain?

Ann Telnaes

sums up the last week in politics.

100 days

to Election Day

A timeline of McCain's statements on Iraq

Greg Sargent and the folks at TPM have created a comprehensive time-line of McCain's statements on Iraq, beginning in March 2003, when McCain insisted that he would have done "nothing" different than Bush in the run-up to the war, "The president has handled this, in my view, skillfully."

The time-line ends with an April 18, 2008, Hardball appearance, "But the point is that I think we are succeeding. The war was mishandled terribly for nearly four years by Donald Rumsfeld and this administration. I fought against it. I argued against. And I argued for the new strategy, which is succeeding."

Friday, July 25, 2008

McCain: 16 months a 'good timetable'

McCain has now endorsed Obama's 16 month timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

I'm guessing elected Republicans across the country are flipping out right about now.

To recap the past week,McCain had goaded and badgered Obama to tour Iraq and Afghanistan insisting that once Obama did so, he would return and agree to an unlimited occupation and concede the election to McCain. Obama had a triumphant tour of Iraq, Afghanistan, Amman, Jerusalem, Berlin and Paris with the Iraqi PM agreeing to Obama's timetable for withdrawal, the King of Jordon driving him personally to the airport, Obama speaking before a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, and President Nicolas Sarkozy proposing marriage, all of which has caused McCain to apparently suffer a psychotic break.

You can't make this stuff up.

Obama on Meet the Press

for the full hour on Sunday.

Let's see how the patrician prig does has host.

Chris Kelly on Crist for VP

Chris Kelly makes the case for Charlie Crist.

Hospital visit botched

It seems the one dark spot on Obama's otherwise remarkable trip was the botched visit to the Landstuhl Military Hospital. Although it also seems to have been mostly unnoticed.

The campaign clearly blew this one, whether they were just tired and confused about the DoDs rules, or whatever. How hard would it have been to have just flown there and Obama made the visit sans campaign staff?

Obama's FLA problem

McClatchy
Democrat Barack Obama outraised Republican John McCain by nearly $500,000 in Florida in June, validating his decision to rebuff limited public campaign financing for the general election.

Obama raised about $1.4 million in the state, while McCain collected about $900,000, according to monthly fundraising reports due Sunday.

Obama's Hispanic problem

McClatchy,
Barack Obama has picked up support from nearly all the Hispanic voters who voted for rival Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, giving him a nearly three-to-one lead over Republican John McCain among Hispanics, a poll released Thursday shows.

The Pew Hispanic Center survey found Obama with 66 percent of the Hispanic vote to McCain's 23 percent.
Given the circumstances of both campaigns, why isn't Obama's lead 10 to 1? How can Obama hope to ever be President if any Hispanic would ever vote for McCain.

Sarkozy hearts Obama

At least according to McClatchy,
PARIS — Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy staged a joint press conference in Paris Friday that was more like a romantic comedy, with Sarkozy's enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential candidate starkly evident amid many amusing moments.

The two men see eye to eye on most pressing global problems, Obama said, reiterating points he's stressed earlier this week that Iran should freeze its nuclear program and the West must win the war in Afghanistan.

But it was the mood music more than the substantive points that was most striking.

Sarkozy called Obama "my dear" and said he'd work with any American president — but "I am especially happy to be meeting with the senator."
Sadly, foreign policy based upon "unilateral bellicosity cloaked in the Utopian rhetoric of freedom and democracy" seems out of favor with our weak-kneed European allies.

And according to Joe Scarborough, Sarkozy was supposed to love Bush.

Obama and McCain's week

Not the defensive tone of the WaPo lede,
Anxious to counter the blanket media coverage that has followed Sen. Barack Obama on his overseas journey, Sen. John McCain is weighing whether to announce his running mate in the coming weeks before the spotlight shifts to China and the opening of the Olympic Games next month....
As Chuck Todd, et al notes,
The Obama campaign certainly believes it was, and that this will be the moment that Obama grabs the lead for good. If McCain never catches up at this point, his campaign's actions this week (its blistering criticism of Obama and the media, the visuals it picked, its body language, its VP games) will get second-guessed for months. We know this was a significant week; the question is was it enough to erase the doubts voters have with Obama about his ability to be commander-in-chief? But just asking: Did this week tell us more about Obama or McCain? Watching McCain chasing the news cycle and his inability to not let Obama get under his skin -- and the campaign's -- suggests that they could be reactive from this day forward.
Clearly this was a big week for Obama, but it's still early. McCain and the GOP are going to hit Obama low and hard for the next 3 months, and much of the public won't really start paying attention until after labor day. Never the less, as an Obama supporter, I love the current tone of the media coverage as evidenced by the WaPo today.

Even more exciting to me than the success of the trip was the near flawless execution of all aspects of the trip (The DoD tanked Obama on the hospital visit) by Obama's campaign. This is a very well run organization which stands in stark contrast to the ever flailing McCain campaign (and the once flailing Clinton campaign).

Militarizing the presidency

Josh Marshall raises an important issue about the militarization of the presidency.
At some points during the Republican primary campaign especially, CINC [commander-in-chief] was being used almost as a synonym for president -- much as we might substitute 'chief executive' for president. And the growing use of the term in this sense is an effective barometer of the progressive militarization of our concept of the presidency and our government itself.

We see it here in its semantic form but we can observe its concrete effect in the Bush administration's claims of almost absolute presidential power well outside of war-fighting -- almost as if the president is a kind of warlord simultaneously directing the military and the civilian governments with similar fiat powers.

We need to re-familiarize ourselves with the fact that the point of the constitution's explicitly giving the president the title of commander-in-chief was not to make him into a quasi-military figure. It was precisely the opposite -- to create no doubt that the armed forces answered not to a chief of staff or senior general ...but to a civilian elected officeholder who operates with the constrained and limited power of that world rather than the unbound authority of military command.
This is a perfect example of how the Republicans run circles around the Dems on message. Republican positions on most domestic issues are so unpopular that they should be confined to permanent minority party status, but they have learned how to define the debate in such a way as favor them despite their support of universally unpopular policies.

With the end of the cold war the GOP lost 3 presidential election in a row, but they've now found something better than the cold war -- they've got the war on terror and this war will never end!

Listen to the GOP talking heads, surrogates and shills and how they are working 24/7 to frame the presidential election as a requirement for a military strongman.

The Republicans know what they are doing. Do the Dems?

GOP losing Georgia


Bob Novak, pictured here driving to work, reported earlier this week that the GOP is worried about Georgia,
Republican strategists are privately conceding that the GOP could lose Georgia's 15 presidential electors for the first time since 1992 because of Bob Barr's ballot position as the Libertarian Party presidential candidate.
As I've been saying for weeks, Barr is going to play a big roll in this election.

But will they vote?

E.J. Dionne thinks young voters will defy stereotypes (and history) this year and actually vote.

Historically young voters have just not voted in any significant numbers. They show up for the rally, and seem to get excited about candidates but don't seem to focus enough to actually show up on election day. They're all about the party but not actually going to class.

EJ says young voters have finally started to turn-out. "According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement...electoral participation among 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 36 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2004. For the larger 18-to-29 group, participation rose from 40 to 49 percent."

Without question, the challenge to the Obama campaign is to get the under 30 crowd show up and vote, and that will require a large micro organized nationwide organization. I had a friend who organized at her college in 2000 who told me that they literally pounded on dorm room doors to get people out of bed and to the polling place and that's what it takes -- an organization to remind, drive, pester, badger people face to face to vote on election day.

If anyone can organize at this level, it's Obama so we shall see,......

VP picks

Chuck Todd said last Sunday to expect the VP picks to come before the start of the Olympics August 8.

Obama's campaign has been silent, but McCain's people are suggesting they will announce soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain forgets his own speech in Canada

The McCain narrative is quickly becoming that of a faltering old man.

MSNBC's First Read,
"I would rather speak at a rally or a political gathering any place outside of the country after I am president of the United States," McCain told O'Donnell. "But that's a judgment that Sen. Obama and the American people will make."

However, on June 20, McCain himself gave a speech in Canada -- to the Economic Club of Canada -- in which he applauded NAFTA's successes. An implicit message behind that speech was that Obama had been critical of the trade accord. Also, McCain's trip to Canada was paid for by the campaign.

Obama's Berlin Speech

Obama takes Berlin

Photobucket
photo by Callie Shell of Time

Karen Tumulty say's Obama's "soaring" speech was a hit, at least in Berlin.
"The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another," Obama said to cheers from a crowd that Berlin police estimated at more than 200,000, which had gathered in the city's central park, the Tiergarten, and stretched toward the Brandenburg Gate, about a mile away, where Reagan had spoken. From where the presidential candidate stood, atop a stage onto which he had taken a long walk alone, he could see tens of thousands of people crowded onto the Seventeenth of June Boulevard, named for a 1953 uprising against the East German government.

Drill, drill, drill

Looks like the GOP is going all in on expanded drilling as a solution to high gas prices.

This will present some problems for the Dems (who continue to struggle with message), because a majority think drilling is a part of the answer to our energy problem.

But it has a bigger downside for Republicans -- especially McCain.

Who was it that said that the defination of insantity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Drill, drill, drill is what has passed for energy policy for the last 8 years, is synonymous in the public's mind with Bush/Cheney which is synonymous with failure.

Americans by a large margin blame 'oilmen' Bush and Cheney for current gas prices and it's not exactly a secret that the only solution they have ever proposed is more drilling. Add to this T. Boone Picken's ubiquitous TV spots informing America, "I've been an oil man all my life, but this is one problem we can't drill our way out of."

And it's not very hard to rebut the 'drill soulution' on the facts, even for message challenged Dems.

The GOP and McCain need to be distancing themselves from Bush /Cheney and yet they seem to do exactly the opposite at every opportunity.

McCain's veepstakes


It would appear that McCain's list is down to the mullet, Mormon and mo.

Matt is convinced it's MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seen here sporting his rockin' mullet. (What does it say about the future of a party whose young shining star wears a mullet?).

But Bob Novak says even though the Veep pick remains unknown, “former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney now leads all speculation. He is getting a boost from private polls that show his presence on the ticket puts McCain ahead in Michigan -- changing that state from Blue to Red.” I'm convinced McCain's camp will give Novak the first leak to make nice for pimping him so bad earlier this week.

Finally, Gov. Charlie Crist want's the job so bad he got married. Securing Florida would be huge for McCain and Crist delivering FLA is a much better bet than either the mullet or the Mormon delivering their respective states.

Obama's Berlin Speech

Didn't see, hear or read the speech but Chris Cillizza's first impressions seem positive.

McCain's Foreign Policy Frustration

Joe Klein has a good column online at Time discussing McCain's sudden foreign policy crisis.

And I don't think it's over the top to call it a crisis, given that foreign policy is really all McCain brings to the table.
McCain's greatest claim to the presidency — his overseas expertise — now seems squandered. He has appeared brittle and inflexible, slow to adapt to changes on the ground, slow to grasp the full implications not only of the improving situation in Iraq but also of the worsening situation in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan. Some will say this behavior raises questions about his age. I'll leave those to gerontologists. A more obvious explanation is that McCain has straitjacketed himself in an ideology focused more on enemies (real and imagined) than on opportunities. "It is impossible to ignore the many striking parallels between [McCain] and the so-called neoconservatives (many of whom are vocal and visible supporters of his candidacy)," writes the Democratic diplomat Richard Holbrooke in a forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs. "I don't know if John has become a neocon," says a longtime friend of the Senator's, "but he sure has surrounded himself with them."
Clearly, Klein just doesn't see McCain as having any real foreign policy wisdom and he makes some good points. Klein concludes
He has also taken a rather exotic line on Russia, which he wants to drum out of the G-8 organization of major industrial powers (a foolish proposal, since none of the other G-8 members would abide by it). His notion of a "League of Democracies" seems a transparent attempt to draw a with-us-or-against-us line in the sand against Russia and China. But that's the point: McCain would place a higher priority on finding new enemies than on cultivating new friends.

The sudden collapse of McCain's Middle East policy is a stunning event, although McCain's regional stridency raised questions from the start. This is a long campaign — with, I fearlessly predict, at least one major Obama downdraft to come — but John McCain seems panicked, and in deep trouble now.[emphasis mine]
There is no question that Obama is going to have a set back. Having been here so many times I really struggle not to get over-confident about this race. It's going to be fun to watch it all play out, and I have a feeling it will stay close until the last week.

Grandpa digging in

Is it just me or is John McCain aging before our eyes?

It is now universally agreed that McCain got it wrong (misspoke, if you prefer) on his insistence that his beloved Surge ™ lead to the Anbar Awakening.

But Grandpa's not giving in, damn it!
"He told reporters during an unscheduled stop in a super market that, what the Bush administration calls "the surge" was actually "made up of a number of components," some of which began before the president's order for more troops.

It's all a matter of semantics, he suggested."

Castro?

The McCain campaign's latest ad compares Obama to Castro. The ads running in South FLA and would indicate that McCain is really concerned about being the first Republican to ever lose the Batista vote.

Remember two months ago when a high minded McCain insisted on running "a respectful" campaign?

Good times.....

Remember the McCain campaign shake-up?

Remember 3 weeks ago when Bush-Cheney 2004 veteran Rick Schmid took over the campaign to bring message focus and discipline and save the campaign?

Good times.....

McCain's judgment

The McCain campaign is pushing hard the meme of his superior judgment -- and Obama's total lack thereof -- in hopes of casting so much doubt on Obama as to defeat him in November.

Many times a day McCain uses his rabid support for the war in Iraq as the primary evidence for his wisdom and judgment and Obama's opposition as evidence of his dangerous failings.

Never mind recent events involving Maliki. McCain's real problem is that public opinion polling since mid 2005 has consistently showed 60% of Americans believed getting into Iraq was a mistake and the so called success of the Surge has not shaken this belief. As recently as July 10th, 60% of Americans did not think victory in Iraq was necessary to win the broader war on terror and the latest CNN poll showed 68% of Americans oppose the war in Iraq.

Americans are past Iraq are are not going to ever believe McCain was 'right' to support the war from the beginning no matter how well the Surge may have gone.

And yet McCain has gone 'all in' on Iraq to the point of sounding nuts these past few days.

What the hell kind of judgment is that?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

perverse perspective?

Matthew Yglesias,
Haven't we reached an odd moment in our history when the burgeoning consensus among the media is that one of Barack Obama's big problems is that he's too good at drawing big crowds? His vulnerability is that he's a charismatic guy who people want to see talk? It's a bit of a perverse perspective.

McCain cancels press availablity today

Ben Smith thinks he knows why,
He hasn't explained what he meant by juggling the timeline on the surge and Awakening (though his staff did the best salvage job possible); whether he meant that Obama was deliberately selling out the country; whether he shares his campaign's grievance with the press; or what he thinks of his staff's genocide-themed attack.
More simply put: McCain needed to stop the bleeding.

McCain for God

Remade foreign policy playing field?

I freely concede that I'm in the tank for Obama and it's a real struggle for me to look on the race objectively, but how is Obama's trip to the Middle East not a complete triumph?

I was concerned about the trip (I still flinch at the site of Dukakis in the tank) , and really stunned at just how well Obama has conducted himself.

McCain went 'all in' on Iraq which was always a bad idea, but it's really all he's got.

Check out the lede from the WaPo 'analysis',
Sen. Barack Obama, on his first and likely only overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has remade the campaign's foreign policy playing field, neatly sidestepping Republican charges that he has been naive and wrong on Iraq and moving to a broader, post-Iraq focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, McCain responded by insisting the war is over, he won it, but we can't leave now with the war won, and all,.....Oh, and Obama is a traitor!

Ann Telnaes Cartoons

You need to check out this animation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain attempts to rewrite history

I did not see the interview but Marc Ambinder quotes McCain mocking Obama and re-writing history in Iraq,"Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening."

As Spenser Ackerman bluntly says, McCain is completely... wrong on the facts.
The colonel in question is now a one-star general, and his name is Sean MacFarland. He was commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, based in Ramadi in 2006 and early 2007 and is a key figure in embracing the Anbar Awakening before it even had that name. Here he is explaining what was going on to Pam Hess, then of UPI, on September 29, 2006, at least two months before Bush decided upon the surge, and about three before he announced it to the public.
As anyone paying attention knows, the so-called Anbar Awakening predated the Surge by probably a year and is unrelated to the Surge. McCain it would seem is either a liar, or more likely, profoundly ignorant of what is actually going on in Iraq. Did Couric call McCain on this?

The point of the Surge was to quell the violence in Baghdad and it certainly appears to have accomplished great deal in this regard, along with segregated neighborhoods and a couple years of ethnic cleansing. But then it's not exactly a surprise that thousands of additional troops would tap down violence in the area of the troops. The goal of the Surge however was to allow a peaceful space for political reconciliation between Sunni, Shia and Kurd, and that is another matter.

And by the way, is it just me or is McCain's whole Surge thing starting to sound less like political rhetoric and more like a psychotic episode?

UPDATE: Via Yglesias, here's an article McFarland co-wrote which makes it clear that Anbar Awakening predated the surge. McFarland was out of Anbar by February 2007 -- just as the first Surge forces were arriving. The article never mentions any troop increases and the word "surge" never appears.

A Presidential Moment


John McCain's fawning deference to Gen David Petraeus has struck me as bizarre and over the top. The President doesn't take orders from the General, or let them dictate war policy. Just ask Gen Douglas MacArthur. And I've been very surprised that someone hasn't called McCain on this -- or Bush for that matter.

Given McCain's deference to Petraeus, I thought it could be difficult for Obama to do otherwise. But today, at his press conference in Amman, Obama give a very presidential answer,
"As commander on the ground, not surprisingly, [Petraeus] wants to retain as much flexibility as possible in terms of accomplishing their goal," Obama said in a 52-min. question-and-answer session atop a mountain overlooking the Jordanian capital. "What I emphasized to him was that if I were in his shoes, I'd probably feel the same way. But my job as a candidate for President and a potential Commander in Chief extends beyond Iraq." Later in the press conference, Obama added, "The notion is that either I do exactly what my military commanders [say] or I'm ignoring their advice. No, I'm factoring in their advice, but placing it in the broader strategic framework that's required."
Afghanistan isn't Gen Petraeus' problem. But it's the president's problem and the current President is starting to understand the simply math of Iraq and Afghanistan. Something has got to give, and given the situation in Afghanistan, it's going to be Iraqi troop levels.

When is someone going to ask McCain about this?

McCain Meltdown

In New Hampshire today McCain said, "It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign."

Joe Klein questions McCain's temperament to be POTUS,
This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.

Nothing to do with luck

Dan Balz provides a wrap-up in this morning's WaPo of Obama's successful trip through Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yglesias takes exception to Balz's suggestion that Obama's Iraqi policy success with al-Maliki was a "combination of agility and good fortune that has marked his campaign."
There's no denying that good fortune played a role here, but one does need to consider the possibility that Obama got "lucky" here because he and his team, unlike John McCain and his team, aren't driven by hubris and neo-imperial fantasies. Maliki doesn't like the McCain plan for open-ended occupation because it's not politically tenable in Iraq. And one reason Obama and other progressives have long opposed open-ended occupation is precisely because we realized that it's not politically tenable in Iraq. Obama got "lucky" with the timing (or, rather, Maliki seems to have decided to help him out) but in an important sense what carried the day here was that Obama's policy is sensitive to realities in Iraq in a way that McCain's isn't.
This is an important point that doesn't get made enough. Iraqis in particular, and the larger Muslim world in general, will never accept the US occupation of Iraq. Never. The US military will always be a target. Always.

Maliki's government must stand for re-election in December* and they will not survive an agreement for a lengthy, much less permanent, occupation. Unlike Japan, Germany or South Korea, Iraqis do not believe the US is only present to protect them from an external threat. Iraqis rightly see their sovereignty challenged.

There is no mystery here.

* This post was corrected to reflect the actual month of the provincial elections.

Brooks on 'The Culture of Debt"

David Brooks has a good column today on modern, rabid consumerism and where it has lead us.

We must clean up predatory lending whose effects on the elderly poor are especially pernicious, but many simply need to get over obsessive consumerism that drives families apart trying to pay for even bigger houses, cars, and yearly weeks at Disney World.

Much of the current financial crisis was driving by artificially low interest rates and yearly (or more) refinancing of homes to remove equity -- that only existed in a bubble -- to purchase excess.

We've driven the nation to the brink of a liquidity crises to buy stuff.

Obama's Afghan policy

In an interview with the Financial Times, former national security adviser and Obama supporter Zbigniew Brzezinski expressed concern about the US getting in deeper in Afghanistan.
Mr Brzezinski warned: "It is important for US policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognize that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution . . . We are running the risk of repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made . . . Our strategy is getting in deeper and deeper."

He added that while the Soviets invaded the country thinking there was a communist Afghan elite on which they could rely, "we have to be careful not to overestimate the appeal of the democratic Afghan elite, because we run the risk that our military presence . . . will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us".
_____

"This is a very dangerous period of time with very unpredictable consequences," he said, referring to tensions between Iran and Israel and the US. "You have three countries doing a kind of death dance on the basis of confusion, division and fear.

"If we end up with war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran at the same time, can anyone see a more damaging prospect for America's world role than that?" he asked. "That's the fundamental foreign policy dilemma at the back of this election. A four-front war would get us involved for years . . It would be the end of American predominance."
Afghanistan is a feudal state that is as primitive as any nation on earth with no sense of national identity. There is no foundation upon which to build a representative government any time soon and my concern is that Afghanistan could redefine "quagmire" in the minds of everyone paying attention around the world.

I highly recommend Rory Stewart's The Places in Between to understand 'modern' Afghanistan.

Moving to Obama?

E. J. Dionne sees increasing parallels between the 1980 election and today.

As I've written here before, the nation's mood was very different in 1980. The 1970's, when people my age started to become aware of the larger world around us, represented a long funk for the U.S. and Americans craved change. In the midst of the humiliating Iran hostage crisis, Carter boosted the hawkish Ronald Reagan's talking points by moving in Reagan's (and the nation's) direction with a harder line on the Soviets and increasing military spending. Dionne sees today's GOP saddled with an unpopular President now moving in Obama's direction on Foreign Policy.
The Obama camp has gleefully noted that over the last week, the administration and McCain have moved closer to Obama's foreign policy positions on issue after issue. Obama called for diplomacy with Iran, and Bush has taken the first steps in that direction, with McCain's support. Obama has long said that more American troops were needed in Afghanistan. McCain made a statement to the same effect last week.

Bush also endorsed a "general time horizon" for pulling American troops out of Iraq, although the administration was at great pains to distinguish between its "time horizon" and the 16-month "timeline" that Obama has proposed.
_____

The upshot in all these cases: Obama's positions have come to look safe and reasonable, undercutting McCain's core argument about Obama's inexperience. And if the Bush administration is seen as moving his way, Republicans can hardly dismiss Obama's ideas as dangerous or impractical.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's about Obama stupid?

The political buzz tonight will be the NYT's rejection of a McCain OP/ED which CNN published here.

The NYTs wanted McCain's plan for Iraq, similar to Obama's which they published last week. All the got from McCain was an attack on Obama's plan -- which they evidently refused to publish.

Michael Scherer will fill you in.

The False Messiah Argument

Michael Scherer has an interesting post at Swampland talking about the McCain strategy to make a "false Messiah argument" against Obama.

The McCain camps latest attack ad against Obama (the second negative ad in 4 days) "ostensibly about gas prices" (all Obama's fault) but much more subtly, Scherer argues, the ad paints Obama as a false messiah.
At first it sounds like the rush of a river, then the chants become clear. They are Obama's minions, chanting his name in a kind of creepy, almost Orwellian repetition. Watch this theme develop over the coming months. As it stands, the McCain campaign already likes citing Oprah Winfrey's claim that Obama is "The One," like Keanu Reeves in a trench coat. The McCain campaign is trying to turn Obama's enormous enthusiasm and crowds against him, to find a kryptonite for his superpowers. This is an arrogance argument,..., but it is also a cultural argument. Subcultures are inherently insular. They have rules, customs and assumptions of their own. They tend to embrace lofty, abstract rhetoric. They also exclude. And in a political campaign, you do not want to exclude. In this spot, McCain is not just campaigning against Obama the man, but Obama the movement and Obama the subculture. He is trying to convince regular voters that Obama supporters are not regular. They are true believers, even worshipers. And it could be an effective attack, for at least two reasons. 1. America has a tradition of seeking out regular people as presidents, not demigods. 2. The conventional wisdom in politics today is you win by tearing down your opponent's strengths.


Here's the ad:

McCain: I know what they want,...

This is going to get ugly fast for John McCain.

McCain was interviewed on the Today Show this morning and said the following,
I have been there too many times. I've met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that's what happens when you win wars, you leave.
This is quickly becoming absurd. While the views of the US military command must be considered, is Iraq a sovereign nation or not?

Regardless of the views of the DoD, Under what authority would the U.S. occupation continue?

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki could not be more clear. As recently as this morning his spokesman in English said 2010 would be a good timetable for a U.S. exit of combat troops.

In 2004, McCain "thought it obvious" that the US "would have to leave" at the request of the elected Iraqi government, so when exactly did such a departure become controversial?

Maliki spokesman: 2010 soon enough

Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh further clarified his remarks from the weekend saying in English a U.S. withdrawal by 2010 is soon enough.

To the laughter of news readers around the world, expect the White House to seek another "clarification" today.

The McCain campaign will suggest another interpretation error and that Maliki meant "2110."

It was Maliki's translator!

The NYTs reports this morning that the interpreter for the Der Spiegel interview worked for Maliki’s office, not the magazine.

Der Spiegel
provided The Times with an audio recording of the Maliki interview which the Times had independently interpreted. The Times confirmed that Maliki "seemed to state a clear affinity for Mr. Obama’s position, bringing it up on his own[!] in an answer to a general question on troop presence".

Finally, the Times and WaPo confirm that the nonretraction retraction came at the request of the White House.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A nonretraction retraction

Based upon a couple emails, it seems some people are not getting Yglesias' post taking issue with attempts by others to take back Maliki's endorsement of Obama's 16 month timetable.

so let me attempt to clarify. The point is that those who claim to be speaking on Maliki's behalf claiming he was misunderstood or mistranslated are not claiming he does not support a 16 month timetable.

In otherwords, we've only seen nonretraction retractions. As Matt noted at the link above, Maliki stood before everyone and said "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes." At the time, Maliki made it clear he was not endorsing a presidential candidate and so called retractions saying he wasn't doing what he said he wasn't doing does not mean 16 months is not "the right timeframe for a withdrawal".

The statement will be retracted when Maliki says something to the effect that any timeframe is a bad idea, I do not support a time table, events on the ground blah, blah, blah.

But we know Maliki will not say this because he has repeatedly insisted on a timeframe for withdrawal for weeks to anyone and everyone who will listen.

When did Freddie and Fannie go wrong?

NYTs national economic writer Peter Goodman takes a skeptical view of the 'too big to fail' view of financial institutions including the most recent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac . Goodman is skeptical because for so long,
...saving businesses from collapse was the sort of thing that happened on other shores, where sentimental commitments to social welfare trumped sharp-edged competition. Weak-kneed European and Asian leaders were too frightened to endure the animal instincts of a real market, the story went. So they intervened time and again, using government largess to lift inefficient firms to safety, sparing jobs and limiting pain but keeping their economies from reaching full potential.
But then we are not talking about bailing out a bloated Japanese grocery store chain. The problem with this financial crises in general, and Fannie and Freddie in particular, is that the mortgage market involves trillions of dollars of investment from all over the world. As much as half of all US mortgages totaling 6 TRILLON DOLLARS are held by Fannie and Freddie and they raised the capital to buy those mortgages from US and global investors (China for instance is in for hundreds of billions of dollars) who loaned the money on the understanding the Fannie and Freddie had the backing of the US Government. We want this money to flow into our economy and subsidize home ownership for obvious reasons. To allow Fannie and Freddie to collapse would stagger the entire world economy with the worst damage done to our own for years to come. This would be a financial calamity of Biblical proportions, home values collapsing taking families with them (imagine being 60 and ready to retire when your home looses two thirds it's value), untold bank failures, dogs and cats living together...

The scandal is not bailing out Fannie and Freddie -- we have no choice. The scandal was the lack of regulation during the rise of the housing bubble that allowed Fannie and Freddie to buy a trillion plus dollars of sub-prime mortgages ( how much no one seems to know and just how sub-prime no one seems to be saying but would be an excellent first question) thus removing all risk from the institutions who made the risky loans. WTF!?

And for an excellent analysis of this bipartisan scandal see Julie Creswell's tale of the greatest lobbying effort in US history from last Sunday's Times. Fannie and Freddie seemed to have someone from everyone's family on their payroll. Their ability to buy off both parties was truly breathtaking.

Wow, journalism

The AP does a decent job following up on the al-Maliki endorsement of Obama's withdrawal plan.

The Walkback

Yglesias is unconvinced by the attempted walkback of al-Maliki's endorsement of Obama's withdrawal plan.
You can read the full statement at the link, but this summary really tells you what you need to know, namely that the walkback (a) doesn't involve Maliki on the record, (b) says the reports are inaccurate but doesn't name inaccuracies, and (c) was issued through CENTCOM. Basically, this morning we saw Maliki speaking in person and endorsing Obama's plan to end the occupation in no uncertain terms. By the late afternoon, an Iraqi government spokesman was pretending this never happened in a statement released by the occupying army. That's hardly even a serious effort at bamboozlement.
And for those who might have doubted it, the military's response to al-Maliki's call for a time table should make it clear that they are an occupying army.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

US Central Command acking as Maliki publicist

Not surprisingly, US Central Command has issued a statement from Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, who CentCom insists speaks for the iraqi government, advising that the PM was mistranslated and only likes Obama's plan a little.

Apparently, translators from around the world are unable to understand Iraqi officials who discuss U.S. withdrawal.

When did CentCom take over for Iraqi Foreign Ministry?

Ezra Klein on Maliki's Statement

Ezra,
To really understand the importance of Maliki's comments, you need to consider their opposite. Imagine if Maliki had walked in front of the cameras and said, "at this stage, a timetable for withdrawal is unrealistic, and we hope our American friends will not bow to domestic political pressures and be hasty in leaving Iraq just as the country improves." It would be a transformative moment in this election. John McCain would talk of nothing else. The cable shows would talk of nothing else. Magazines would run thousands of covers about "Obama's Iraq Problem." Obama would probably lose the race.

Dramatic social change

Comes with time, patience and education. A major mistake made on both the left and the right is the belief that winning a majority in a legislative body will allow them to ram their strong views down the throat of the nation with impunity, which seems to only result in pols voted out of office.

Here is dramatic example of what I'm talking about,
Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces
As I've been saying for years, the nations shifting demographics don't work for the GOPs politics of hate. Gay marriage will soon enough be widely accepted but those who advocate for acceptance, need to be patient and spend time educating and preparing the public to see the issues as the advocates do.

Another example is the public's changing view of going 'green', and we can all thank Al Gore for forcing a national conversation, and GWB for making the contrasting views seem unbelievable dumb.

Ackerman gives some background

Spencer Ackerman, who knows about as much about Iraq as any journalist, offers some important background on what has brought Maliki to this point. In a nutshell, "Unconditional Surrender Bush" again greatly overreached.

Link
...When those negotiations [to extend the U.S. occupation beyond the UN mandate] began, the U.S. reportedly presented the Iraqis with terms so breathtaking that they'd embarrass Lord Curzon. Bush wanted unilateral control of Iraqi airspace; legal immunity for all U.S. troops and contractors; the unilateral right to arrest and detain any Iraqis his commanders desired, and for unspecified periods; and several military bases. When Maliki indicated discomfort over acting like Gaius Baltar on Occupied New Caprica, Bush gave another indication of his "friendship and cooperation" -- blackmail.

All this came in a political context that Bush was either unattentive to or dismissive of. Despite spotty media coverage in the U.S., the deal prompted a massive backlash in Iraq, where basically every organized political force not part of Maliki's government rejected it. Maliki's allies were likely to lose the looming provincial elections already; now he had given them the albatross of clear collaborationism. And something similar was at work in the U.S.: the candidate with a clear and consistent history of opposition to the Iraq war won the Democratic primary, while the Republican candidate backed an endless occupation that he said might last a hundred or even a thousand years.
Maliki is a politician after all, and saw no upside to surrendering his country to a permanent occupation upon the demand of the most unpopular POTUS in history. And as Spencer points out, Maliki's down side might be severe or even fatal, "Maliki surely thought, if I sign this deal, my people will run my body through the streets and hoist me from a fucking lamppost. Not that the electricity works, but still."

(HT to Andrew Sullivan)

Marc Ambinder on Maliki's announcement

Al-Maliki's Announcement: A Big Deal:
This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq's Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there's no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what's left to argue? to argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren't equivalent to Iraq's, but... Malik isn't listening to the generals on the ground...but the "hasn't been to Iraq" line doesn't work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We're fucked.".....
Look for McCain to declare victory in Iraq and spend the next 5 months insisting that Obama's plan was a call for retreat -- which he has been doing anyway.

Maliki endorses Obama plan (updated)

I'm really stunned by this, and have no idea what to make of it. Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in an interview with Der Spiegle has expressed support for Barack Obama's 16 month timetable for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.
When asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned." He then continued: "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
Where does this leave McCain who -- as Josh Marshall notes -- has built his whole campaign around Iraq. How does McCain respond to this?

Only last week McCain insisted he and Maliki were BFFs who called each other every 20 minutes and McCain assured the American people that when Maliki repeatedly said he wanted a timetable for U.S. withdrawal of combat troops what he really meant was that he wanted them in Iraq for 100 years.

And while I certainly thought Maliki was clear earlier, how does Bush and McCain spin this?

In a lengthy post you should read, Josh thinks Maliki has just "cut McCain off at the knees" and half expects the White House to strong-arm a retraction -- which would appear to all the world for exactly what it is.

So McCain will now run on the economy,......and oil drilling?

UPDATE: Sen John McCain has issued the following statement: "Sen Barack Obama Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq, and he has wanted to surrender for a long time." McCain continued, "I intend to seize this opportunity to educate Sen. Obama Prime Minister Maliki along the way."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The George W. Bush Sewage Plant

The San Francisco Department of Elections has approved a ballot measure to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the "George W. Bush Sewage Plant".

Brian McConnell, leader of the self-proclaimed Presidential Memorial Commission said the sewage treatment plant would be "an enduring tribute" to the president.

I'm guessing this will win big, but it will be interesting to see the vote tally.

Walk Score

Walk Score is a very cool web site that will give you the "walkability score" for any given street address in the US.

A score of 90 to 100 is a "walkers paradise" meaning you could live without a car with everything you could need is within a reasonable walk. 70 to 89 would be a very walkable neighborhood, etc.

As it happens, I live at one of the most walkable addresses in the United States.

dons walkability shot

For comparison sake, 155 Riverside Drive in NYC's upper west side scored a 94.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

North Carolina

Via TPM, the latest Rasmussen numbers show McCain's lead in NC a mere 3 points, 48% to 45%.

The enthusiasm gap coupled with the Bob Barr campaign are going to swing states like NC blue.

You read it here first, Obama will win North Carolina.

And let me repeat, the biggest campaign story not being reported is the very negative effect Barr will have on McCain's campaign.

Reports of his fundraising crisis were greatly exaggerated

Obama campaign raised $52 million in June.

There is every rational reason to expect June to be Obama's worst month going forward, with campaign fatigue taking a toll following the Clintons concession.

The baseless, and often conflicting, reports of Obama problems that seem to be endlessly repeated by the press -- and even left-leaning pundits -- has become absurd.

Thankfully, Kane has put together a handy list. How many of these have you heard?

Obama is too black
Obama is too white
Obama's lack of Washington experience problem
Obama's Hispanic problem
Obama's Asian problem
Obama's Jewish problem
Obama's Catholic problem
Obama's Muslim problem
Obama's Black voter problem
Obama's White voter problem
Obama's reliance on young people problem
Obama's elderly problem
Obama's women problem
Obama's White elderly women voter problem
Obama's white collar problem
Obama's blue collar problem
Obama's Reverend Wright problem
Obama's problem with not being vetted
Obama's Muslim perception problem
Obama's elitist perception problem
Obama's Big State problem
Obama's problem with the Right
Obama's problem with the Left
Obama's Hillary Clinton problem
Obama's Bill Clinton problem
Obama's Ronald Reagan problem
Obama's Jesse Jackson problem
Obama's Michelle Obama problem
Obama's bowling problem
Obama's lapel pin problem
Obama's problem with Hillary voters
Obama's Pledge of Allegiance problem
Obama's NAFTA problem
Obama's FISA problem
Obama's public financing problem
Obama's Populist message problem
Obama's moving to the center problem
Obama's problem with speaking against Iraq invasion
Obama's problem with the paranormal
Obama's 50 State problem
Obama's gun problem
Obama's abortion problem
Obama's Social Security problem
Obama's Foreign policy problem
Obama's Healthcare problem
Obama's flip-flop problem
Obama's surrogate problem
Obama's Appalachian problem
Obama's Isreal problem
Obama's Pakistan problem
Obama's Iran problem
Obama's Cuba problem
Obama's Florida problem
Obama's popularity problem
Obama's problem with living abroad
Obama's problem with not traveling abroad
Obama's aloofness problem
Obama's patriotism problem
Obama's endorsement problem
Obama's Union problem
Obama's Business problem
Obama's working class problem
Obama's problem with FOX News
Obama's problem with Rush Limbaugh
Obama's problem with internet whispers
Obama's small donor problem
Obama's big donor problem
Obama's Liberal voting record problem
Obama's stadium convention problem
Obama's problem with leading McCain in the polls
Obama's Bubba Gap problem
Obama's arugula problem
Obama's orange juice problem
Obama's fundraising problem
Obama's problem with problems

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carter got energy right

From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution,
“Americans, who hate to be told they must change, roundly condemned Carter’s memorable “Crisis of Confidence” speech of July 15, 1979. In it, Carter outlined a program for achieving energy independence: ‘On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.’””

He continues, “It turns out that Carter was right after all. He was right in seeking to raise the fleet auto mileage standard to 48 miles per gallon by 1995. (Even U.S. automakers admitted at the time that they could easily achieve 30 mpg by 1985.) Carter was right in exhorting Americans to turn down their thermostats, even if he did look nerdy in a cardigan while urging us to do so.
Carter had a whole list of proposals that if enacted would have averted not only our current energy 'crisis' but also have forced the Big 3 automakers on to much more stable ground, and actually Internationally competitive.

(HT to Jackie who forwarded the link)

Bush seeks to block access to contraception

I'm as shocked as Matt!
I, for one, am absolutely shocked to see a pro-life administration taking action to reduce the availability of contraceptives. Up until now, I had always thought that the pro-life movement was a totally sincere effort to reduce the incidence of abortions by any means necessary. This makes it look like their convictions about the metaphysical status of the fetus are really just of a piece with a whole set of reactionary attitudes about women's sexuality and gender roles.
Unwanted babies as a 'just punishment for a sinful life'.

JibJab's first video

Who doesn't remember "This land is your land"? Well, now it's time for some campaigning!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Appeasement

Neville Chamberlain George Bush has decided to join multilateral talks with Iran for the first time.

From the AP,
In a break with past Bush administration policy, a top U.S. diplomat will for the first time join colleagues from other world powers at a meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, The Associated Press has learned.

William Burns, America's third highest-ranking diplomat, will attend talks with the Iranian envoy, Saeed Jalili, in Switzerland on Saturday aimed at persuading Iran to halt activities that could lead to the development of atomic weapons, a senior U.S. official told the AP on Tuesday.

Official contacts between Iran and the United States are extremely rare and although Washington is part of a six-nation effort to get Iran to stop enriching and reprocessing uranium, the administration has shunned contacts with Tehran on the matter.
John Bolton will have something to say about this!

Atlanta is world's most dangerous airport

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is so dangerous that Georgia's governor fears for his wife's safety in all public areas of the airport and on the parking lots. Gov Sonny Perdue wants his wife to carry a gun whenever she visits Hartsfied.

Keep this in mind when making travel plans.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama at the Brandenburg Gate?

As you have probably heard, Der Spiegel has been reporting that the Obama Campaign is considering a speech at the Brandenburg Gate (think "Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!") on July 24, while returning from Iraq.

TPM has been following the story and has the latest.

A speech at the historic gate would be very dramatic, but it's a bad idea for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

While Obama drawing an enormous Berlin crowd might play well domestically for some, others will not like it, and the audience doesn't get to vote.

Much better would be the President of the United State, Barack Obama, on his first trip to Europe standing before the gate announcing to the world the end of the dark ages and the United States is back to assume it's role as the indispensable nation. Now that, would be dramatic.

Obama's plan for Iraq

I'm late getting to this because I've been tied up all day, but Barack Obama has an OP/ED in today's NYTs outlining his plan for Iraq.

It speaks for itself so I don't have anything to add.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

AB agrees to InBev offer

This is a dark day for St. Louis.

And despite what the talking idiots on Fox 2 are yammering about, InBev is not moving it's world HQ to St. Louis.

Sanford goes blank on national TV

SC Gov Mark Sanford removed himself from the GOP veepstakes when he drew a blank on CNN when asked if there were any significant differences between Bush's and McCain's economic policies.
SANFORD: Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of -- I'm drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. Take, for instance the contrast on NAFTA. I mean, I think that the bigger issue is credibility in where one is coming from, are they consistent where they come from.
Here's the video. A word of warning, it's painful to watch.

Protest votes don't work

Daniel De Groot makes the case that protest votes for third parties do not "punish" an offending political party, rather "being defeated generally causes a party to move toward the party that won, not toward the idealists who refused to support them in protest." The party moves to where the votes are, which is almost always in the middle.

Some of Daniel's examples,
  • 1952 - After 6 consecutive defeats, the Republicans nominate Eisenhower and abandon policy planks to kill Social Security and roll back the New Deal. Make no mistake, Eisenhower was far too liberal for the Republican base.

  • 1968 - After the defeats of 1960 and 1964, Republicans nominate another (relative) moderate, Richard Nixon over the conservative pick, Ronald Reagan. Nixon picks a nationally unknown VP from a liberal state (Maryland) to further placate voters that he is not too far to the right.

  • 1992 - After 3 big defeats, 2 of which entailed running actual liberal candidates, Democrats pick DLC moderate Bill Clinton.

McCain "Makin' stuff up"

A new Obama radio ad to run in VA and OH calls McCain "shameful" for "makin stuff up" about Obama.

It's pretty good and exactly the kind of reply a campaign should run when an opponent misstates your positions or record. Shame them enough with blunt responses and they get tagged as liars.

Obama has 5 point Missouri lead

According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll of 800 likely Missouri voters.

Obama's lead widened to whopping 16 points "when respondents were asked which man could better handle the economy. Those polled also preferred Obama by similar or larger margins on other domestic matters, including global warming, gas prices and health care."

Further evidence that FLA is in play

Via South Florida Sun-Sentinel,
An escalating number of voters registering as Democrats is providing evidence that the 2008 election could produce a wave of support for Barack Obama — and trigger a decades-long shift of party allegiance that could affect elections for a generation.

The numbers are ominous for Republicans: Through May, Democratic voter registration in Broward County was up 6.7 percent. Republican registrations grew just 3 percent while independents rose 2.8 percent.

Democrats have posted even greater gains statewide, up 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the Republicans.

"It's a huge swing," says Marian Johnson, political director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "I looked at that and said, 'Wow.'"
Wow indeed.

Bush plans to increase pace of Iraqi withdrawal



The New York Times reports today that even as Bush and McCain attempt to demonize Obama's plan to bring troops home, and even as they break off talks with the Iraqi government rather than agree to a time table for withdrawal, Bush plans to increase the pace of withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.

Although the GOP has been declaring victory in Iraq all year, they really don't believe it, or they would not be heretofore so resistant to troop reductions. The motivation here is the need for more troops in Afghanistan and there being no other option. We simply don't have the troops to wage two long-term wars at the same time.

The Taliban has intensified their insurgency and are inflicting increasingly higher numbers of NATO casualties as the chart at left shows.

213 American soldiers and marines have been killed in Iraq so far this year. There have been 143 military casualties in Afghanistan this year, 78 of which were American. Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the No. 2 U.S. military commander in Iraq, said that the number of attacks in Iraq on U.S. and Iraqi forces averaged 200 per week this June. Keep these numbers in mind as you hear declarations of victory.

Negotiations for Long-term occupation of Iraq a bust

U.S. and Iraqi negotiations for a long-term occupation have ended and will be left to the next administration.

Despite repeated instance from the WH and McCain campaign that Maliki's request for a time table for troop withdrawal didn't mean he wanted a time table for troop withdrawal, Mikiki won't enter into any agreement that doesn't include a time table for troop withdrawal.

To the shock of the White House and McCain, it seems if you call a nation 'sovereign' long enough, they start to believe it and think they can control what goes on in their own country.

Bush "Pioneer" and political appointee selling access

Well, this is embarrassing.

The London Sunday Times has Stephen Payne (pictured here clearing brush with Bush in Crawford) , a Bush pioneer and a Bush appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, caught on tape selling access to Cheney and Condi for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.” Payne was speaking to an exiled former leader of Kyrgyzstan.

Here is the video at the Times website.

Two words to Dems inclined to gloat: Marc Rich.

Stop Whining!

George Will takes up the McCain campaign's election year economic slogan on "This Week",


WILL: On two points. … We’re not in a recession as commonly defined. That is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We may be running there though. Even Bernanke says so.

WILL: We’re not however. Unemployment is just about the post-war average at 5.5 percent. His second point that we’re a nation of whiners: we are the crybabies of the western world. In fact, we have an extraordinarily low pain threshold.
I hope and pray that Republicans everywhere continue to beat this drum loud and hard.