9/27/08

The Most Frightening Thing I Have Ever Seen

Want to see a possible future that will curl your hair?


I have a link in the sidebar for you to register to vote.

John McCain's Theater Of The Absurd

John McCain put on his little show for us, and it didn't work. So, he continued on into the absurd.
Appropriating Wanker of the Day

by dday


I hope Atrios doesn't mind, but this qualifies for serious wanker status:
After declaring he’d return to Washington to help with the bailout negotiations immediately after last night’s debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) never went to Capitol Hill today. In fact, McCain stayed largely holed up in his Arlington apartment, leaving only to go to his campaign headquarters just around the block, the New York Times reports:

Asked why Mr. McCain did not go to Capitol Hill after coming back to Washington to help with negotiations, [McCain adviser] Mr. Salter replied that “he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone."
So this diva gets the cameras assembled on Wednesday and gravely intones that he has to jet to Washington to save the economy. By Thursday he's blown up the negotiations, by Friday he's unsuspended the suspension, and she he shoots back to Washington to continue the swashbuckling, which consists of cleaning out the refrigerator and puttering around the house.

And then there's that coup de grace comment by Mark Salter, that "he can effectively do what he needs to do by phone." Um, then why couldn't he have done that on, you know, Wednesday?

I wonder what exciting reality stunts The John McCain Show will have in store for us next week? Maybe he'll eat a live scorpion to grab himself immunity!

UPDATE: I think we have our answer!

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18 . . .

. . . McCain is expected to have a front-row seat at Bristol’s wedding and to benefit from the outpouring of goodwill that it could bring. “What’s the downside?” a source inside the McCain campaign said. “It would be wonderful. I don’t know that there has ever been a pre-election wedding before.”
As usual in the McCain campaign, a good idea is described as an idea that's never been tried before.

Lord I was Was Born A Gamblin Man

John McCain has a gambling problem, in more ways than you think. His lobbyists have ties to the Corleone family, and McCain himself is up to his ears in markers! Well, not really, but, kind of! Read it

McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

As a two-time chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain has done more than any other member of Congress to shape the laws governing America’s casinos, helping to transform the once-sleepy Indian gambling business into a $26-billion-a-year behemoth with 423 casinos across the country. He has won praise as a champion of economic development and self-governance on reservations.

“One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” is what Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and a leading Indian gambling expert, called Mr. McCain.

As factions of the ferociously competitive gambling industry have vied for an edge, they have found it advantageous to cultivate a relationship with Mr. McCain or hire someone who has one, according to an examination based on more than 70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

When rules being considered by Congress threatened a California tribe’s planned casino in 2005, Mr. McCain helped spare the tribe. Its lobbyist, who had no prior experience in the gambling industry, had a nearly 20-year friendship with Mr. McCain.

In Connecticut that year, when a tribe was looking to open the state’s third casino, staff members on the Indian Affairs Committee provided guidance to lobbyists representing those fighting the casino, e-mail messages and interviews show. The proposed casino, which would have cut into the Pequots’ market share, was opposed by Mr. McCain’s colleagues in Connecticut.

Mr. McCain declined to be interviewed. In written answers to questions, his campaign staff said he was “justifiably proud” of his record on regulating Indian gambling. “Senator McCain has taken positions on policy issues because he believed they are in the public interest,” the campaign said.

Mr. McCain’s spokesman, Tucker Bounds, would not discuss the senator’s night of gambling at Foxwoods, saying: “Your paper has repeatedly attempted to insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists — and it reveals that your publication is desperately willing to gamble away what little credibility it still has.”

Over his career, Mr. McCain has taken on special interests, like big tobacco, and angered the capital’s powerbrokers by promoting campaign finance reform and pushing to limit gifts that lobbyists can shower on lawmakers. On occasion, he has crossed the gambling industry on issues like regulating slot machines.

Perhaps no episode burnished Mr. McCain’s image as a reformer more than his stewardship three years ago of the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican Indian gambling lobbyist who became a national symbol of the pay-to-play culture in Washington. The senator’s leadership during the scandal set the stage for the most sweeping overhaul of lobbying laws since Watergate.

“I’ve fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes,” the senator said in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination this month.

But interviews and records show that lobbyists and political operatives in Mr. McCain’s inner circle played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation. The senator’s longtime chief political strategist, for example, was paid $100,000 over four months as a consultant to one tribe caught up in the inquiry, records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator acted solely to protect American Indians, even though the inquiry posed “grave risk to his political interests.”

As public opposition to tribal casinos has grown in recent years, Mr. McCain has distanced himself from Indian gambling, Congressional and American Indian officials said.

But he has rarely wavered in his loyalty to Las Vegas, where he counts casino executives among his close friends and most prolific fund-raisers. “Beyond just his support for gaming, Nevada supports John McCain because he’s one of us, a Westerner at heart,” said Sig Rogich, a Nevada Republican kingmaker who raised nearly $2 million for Mr. McCain at an event at his home in June.

Only six members of Congress have received more money from the gambling industry than Mr. McCain, and five hail from the casino hubs of Nevada and New Jersey, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics dating back to 1989. In the presidential race, Senator Barack Obama has also received money from the industry; Mr. McCain has raised almost twice as much.

In May 2007, as Mr. McCain’s presidential bid was floundering, he spent a weekend at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas strip. A fund-raiser hosted by J. Terrence Lanni, the casino’s top executive and a longtime friend of the senator, raised $400,000 for his campaign. Afterward, Mr. McCain attended a boxing match and hit the craps tables.

For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were always concerned about appearances,” one former official said. “If you go around saying that appearances matter, then they matter.”

The former official said he would tell Mr. McCain: “Do we really have to go to a casino? I don’t think it’s a good idea. The base doesn’t like it. It doesn’t look good. And good things don’t happen in casinos at midnight.”

“You worry too much,” Mr. McCain would respond, the official said.

A Record of Support

In one of their last conversations, Representative Morris K. Udall, Arizona’s powerful Democrat, whose devotion to American Indian causes was legendary, implored his friend Mr. McCain to carry on his legacy.

“Don’t forget the Indians,” Mr. Udall, who died in 1998, told Mr. McCain in a directive that the senator has recounted to others.

More than a decade earlier, Mr. Udall had persuaded Mr. McCain to join the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Mr. McCain, whose home state has the third-highest Indian population, eloquently decried the “grinding poverty” that gripped many reservations.

The two men helped write the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 after the Supreme Court found that states had virtually no right to control wagering on reservations. The legislation provided a framework for the oversight and growth of Indian casinos: In 1988, Indian gambling represented less than 1 percent of the nation’s gambling revenues; today it captures more than one third.

On the Senate floor after the bill’s passage, Mr. McCain said he personally opposed Indian gambling, but when impoverished communities “are faced with only one option for economic development, and that is to set up gambling on their reservations, then I cannot disapprove.”

In 1994, Mr. McCain pushed an amendment that enabled dozens of additional tribes to win federal recognition and open casinos. And in 1998, Mr. McCain fought a Senate effort to rein in the boom.

He also voted twice in the last decade to give casinos tax breaks estimated to cost the government more than $326 million over a dozen years.

The first tax break benefited the industry in Las Vegas, one of a number of ways Mr. McCain has helped nontribal casinos. Mr. Lanni, the MGM Mirage chief executive, said that an unsuccessful bid by the senator to ban wagering on college sports in Nevada was the only time he could recall Mr. McCain opposing Las Vegas. “I can’t think of any other issue,” Mr. Lanni said.

The second tax break helped tribal casinos like Foxwoods and was pushed by Scott Reed, the Pequots’ lobbyist.

Mr. McCain had gotten to know Mr. Reed during Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, which Mr. Reed managed. Four years later, when Mr. McCain ran for president, Mr. Reed recommended he hire his close friend and protégé, Rick Davis, to manage that campaign.

During his 2000 primary race against George W. Bush, Mr. McCain promoted his record of helping Indian Country, telling reporters on a campaign swing that he had provided critical support to “the Pequot, now the proud owners of the largest casino in the world.”

But Mr. McCain’s record on Indian gambling was fast becoming a difficult issue for him in the primary. Bush supporters like Gov. John Engler of Michigan lambasted Mr. McCain for his “close ties to Indian gambling.”

A decade after Mr. McCain co-authored the Indian gambling act, the political tides had turned. Tribal casinos, which were growing at a blazing pace, had become increasingly unpopular around the country for reasons as varied as morality and traffic.

Then came the biggest lobbying scandal to shake Washington.

Behind an Inquiry

At a September 2004 hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain described Jack Abramoff as one of the most brazen in a long line of crooks to cheat American Indians. “It began with the sale of Manhattan, and has continued ever since,” he said. “What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit.”

Over the next two years, Mr. McCain helped uncover a breathtaking lobbying scandal — Mr. Abramoff and a partner bilked six tribes of $66 million — that showcased the senator’s willingness to risk the wrath of his own party to expose wrongdoing. But interviews and documents show that Mr. McCain and a circle of allies — lobbyists, lawyers and senior strategists — also seized on the case for its opportunities.

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

The Abramoff saga started in early 2003 when members of two tribes began questioning Mr. Abramoff’s astronomical fees. Over the next year, they leaked information to local newspapers, but it took the hiring of lobbyists who were competitors of Mr. Abramoff to get the attention of Mr. McCain’s committee.

Bernie Sprague, who led the effort by one of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewas in Michigan, hired a Democratic lobbyist who recommended that the tribe retain Scott Reed, the Republican lobbyist, to push for an investigation.

Mr. Reed had boasted to other lobbyists of his access to Mr. McCain, three close associates said. Mr. Reed “pretty much had open access to John from 2000 to at least the end of 2006,” one aide said.

Lobbyist disclosure forms show that Mr. Reed went to work for the Saginaw Chippewa on Feb. 15, 2004, charging the tribe $56,000 over a year. Mr. Abramoff had tried to steal the Pequots and another tribal client from Mr. Reed, and taking down Mr. Abramoff would eliminate a competitor.

Mr. Reed became the chief conduit to Mr. McCain’s committee for billing documents and other information Mr. Sprague was digging up on Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Sprague said, who said Mr. Reed “did a great to service to me.”

“He had contacts I did not,” Mr. Sprague said. “Initially, I think that the senator’s office was doing Reed a favor by listening to me.”

A few weeks after hiring Mr. Reed, Mr. Sprague received a letter from the senator. “We have met with Scott Reed, who was very helpful on the issue,” Mr. McCain wrote.

Information about Mr. Abramoff was also flowing to Mr. McCain’s committee from another tribe, the Coushatta of Louisiana. The source was a consultant named Roy Fletcher, who had been Mr. McCain’s deputy campaign manager in 2000, running his war room in South Carolina.

It was in that primary race that two of Mr. Abramoff’s closest associates, Grover Norquist, who runs the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, and Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition, ran a blistering campaign questioning Mr. McCain’s conservative credentials. The senator and his advisers blamed that attack for Mr. McCain’s loss to Mr. Bush in South Carolina, creating tensions that would resurface in the Abramoff matter.

“I was interested in busting” Mr. Abramoff, said Mr. Fletcher, who was eventually hired to represent the tribe. “That was my job. But I was also filled with righteous indignation, I got to tell you.”

Mr. Fletcher said he began passing information to John Weaver, Mr. McCain’s chief political strategist, and other staff members in late 2003 or January 2004. Mr. Weaver confirmed the timing.

Mr. McCain announced his investigation on Feb. 26, 2004, citing an article on Mr. Abramoff in The Washington Post. He did not mention the action by lobbyists and tribes in the preceding weeks. His campaign said no one in his “innermost circle” brought information to Mr. McCain that prompted the investigation.

The senator declared he would not investigate members of Congress, whom Mr. Abramoff had lavished with tribal donations and golf outings to Scotland. But in the course of the investigation, the committee exposed Mr. Abramoff’s dealings with the two men who had helped defeat Mr. McCain in the 2000 primary.

The investigation showed that Mr. Norquist’s foundation was used by Mr. Abramoff to launder lobbying fees from tribes. Ralph Reed was found to have accepted $4 million to run bogus antigambling campaigns. And the investigation also highlighted Mr. Abramoff’s efforts to curry favor with the House majority leader at the time, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, a longtime political foe who had opposed many of Mr. McCain’s legislative priorities.

Mr. McCain’s campaign said the senator did not “single out” Ralph Reed or Mr. Norquist, neither of whom were ever charged, and that both men fell within the “scope of the investigation.” The inquiry, which led to guilty pleas by over a dozen individuals, was motivated by a desire to help aggrieved tribes, the campaign said.

Inside the investigation, the sense of schadenfreude was palpable, according to several people close to the senator. “It was like hitting pay dirt,” said one associate of Mr. McCain’s who had consulted with the senator’s office on the investigation. “And face it — McCain and Weaver were maniacal about Ralph Reed and Norquist. They were sticking little pins in dolls because those guys had cost him South Carolina.”

Down on the Coushattas reservation, bills related to the investigation kept coming. After firing Mr. Abramoff, the tribe hired Kent Hance, a lawyer and former Texas congressman who said he had been friends with Mr. McCain since the 1980s.

David Sickey, the tribe’s vice chairman, said he was “dumbfounded” over the bills submitted by Mr. Hance’s firm, Hance Scarborough, which had been hired by Mr. Sickey’s predecessors.

“The very thing we were fighting seemed to be happening all over again — these absurd amounts of money being paid,” Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance’s firm billed the tribe nearly $1.3 million over 11 months in legal and political consulting fees, records show. But Mr. Sickey said that the billing statements offered only vague explanations for services and that he could not point to any tangible results. Two consultants, for instance, were paid to fight the expansion of gambling in Texas — even though it was unlikely given that the governor there opposed any such prospect, Mr. Sickey said.

Mr. Hance and Jay B. Stewart, the firm’s managing partner, defended their team’s work, saying they successfully steered the tribe through a difficult period. “We did an outstanding job for them,” Mr. Hance said. “When we told them our bill was going to be $100,000 a month, they thought we were cheap. Mr. Abramoff had charged them $1 million a month.”

The firm’s fees covered the services of Mr. Fletcher, who served as the tribe’s spokesman. Records also show that Mr. Hance had Mr. Weaver — who was serving as Mr. McCain’s chief strategist — put on the tribe’s payroll from February to May 2005.

It is not precisely clear what role Mr. Weaver played for his $100,000 fee.

Mr. Stewart said Mr. Weaver was hired because “he had a lot of experience with the Senate, especially the new chairman, John McCain.” The Hance firm told the tribe in a letter that Mr. Weaver was hired to provide “representation for the tribe before the U.S. Senate.”

But Mr. Weaver never registered to lobby on the issue, and he has another explanation for his work.

“The Hance law firm retained me to assist them and their client in developing an aggressive crisis management and communications strategy,” Mr. Weaver said. “At no point was I asked by Kent Hance or anyone associated with him to set up meetings with anyone in or outside of government to discuss this, and if asked I would have summarily declined to do so.”

In June 2005, the tribe informed Mr. Hance that his services were no longer needed.

Change in Tone

After the Abramoff scandal, Mr. McCain stopped taking campaign donations from tribes. Some American Indians were offended, especially since Mr. McCain continued to accept money from the tribes’ lobbyists.

Resentment in Indian Country mounted as Mr. McCain, who was preparing for another White House run, singled out the growth in tribal gambling as one of three national issues that were “out of control.” (The others were federal spending and illegal immigration.)

Franklin Ducheneaux, an aide to Morris Udall who helped draft the 1988 Indian gambling law, said that position ran contrary to Mr. McCain’s record. “What did he think? That Congress intended for the tribes to be only somewhat successful?” Mr. Ducheneaux said.

Mr. McCain began taking a broad look at whether the laws were sufficient to oversee the growing industry. His campaign said that the growth had put “considerable stress” on regulators and Mr. McCain held hearings on whether the federal government needed more oversight power.

An opportunity to restrain the industry came in the spring of 2005, when a small tribe in Connecticut set off a political battle. The group, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, had won federal recognition in 2004 after producing voluminous documentation tracing its roots.

The tribe wanted to build Connecticut’s third casino, which would compete with Foxwoods and another, the Mohegan Sun. Facing public opposition on the proposed casino, members of the Connecticut political establishment — many of whom had received large Pequot and Mohegan campaign donations — swung into action.

Connecticut officials claimed that a genealogical review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was flawed, and that the Schaghticoke was not a tribe.

The tribe’s opponents, led by the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, turned to Mr. McCain’s committee. It was a full-circle moment for the senator, who had helped the Pequots gain tribal recognition in the 1980s despite concerns about their legitimacy.

Now, Mr. McCain was doing a favor for allies in the Connecticut delegation, including Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a close friend, according to two former Congressional aides. “It was one of those collegial deals,” said one of the aides, who worked for Mr. McCain.

Barbour Griffith & Rogers wanted Mr. McCain to hold a hearing that would show that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was “broken,” said Bradley A. Blakeman, who was a lobbyist for the firm at the time.

“It was our hope that the hearing would shed light on the fact that the bureau had not followed their rules and had improperly granted recognition to the Schaghticoke,” Mr. Blakeman said. “And that the bureau would revisit the issue and follow their rules.”

Mr. McCain’s staff helped that effort by offering strategic advice.

His staff told a lobbyist for the firm that the Indian Affairs Committee “would love to receive a letter” from the Connecticut governor requesting a hearing, according to an e-mail exchange, and offered “guidance on what the most effective tone and approach” would be in the letter.

On May 11, 2005, Mr. McCain held a hearing billed as a general “oversight hearing on federal recognition of Indian tribes.” But nearly all the witnesses were Schaghticoke opponents who portrayed the tribe as imposters.

Mr. McCain set the tone: “The role that gaming and its nontribal backers have played in the recognition process has increased perceptions that it is unfair, if not corrupt.”

Chief Richard F. Velky of the Schaghticokes found himself facing off against the governor and most of the state’s congressional delegation. “The deck was stacked against us,” Mr. Velky said. “They were given lots of time. I was given five minutes.”

He had always believed Mr. McCain “to be an honest and fair man,” Mr. Velky said, “but this didn’t make me feel that good.”

Mr. Velky said he felt worse when the e-mail messages between the tribe’s opponents and Mr. McCain’s staff surfaced in a federal lawsuit. “Is there a letter telling me how to address the senator to give me the best shot?” Mr. Velky asked. “No, there is not.”

After the hearing, Pablo E. Carrillo, who was Mr. McCain’s chief Abramoff investigator at the time, wrote to a Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbyist, Brant Imperatore. “Your client’s side definitely got a good hearing record,” Mr. Carillo wrote, adding “you probably have a good sense” on where Mr. McCain “is headed on this.”

“Well done!” he added.

Cynthia Shaw, a Republican counsel to the committee from 2005 to 2007, said Mr. McCain made decisions based on merit, not special interests. “Everybody got a meeting who asked for one,” Ms. Shaw said, “whether you were represented by counsel or by a lobbyist — or regardless of which lobbyist.”

Mr. McCain’s campaign defended the senator’s handling of the Schaghticoke case, saying no staff member acted improperly. The campaign said the session was part of normal committee business and the notion that Mr. McCain was intending to help Congressional colleagues defeat the tribe was “absolutely false.”

It added that the senator’s commitment to Indian sovereignty “remains as strong as ever.”

Within months of the May 2005 hearing, the Bureau of Indian Affairs took the rare step of rescinding the Schaghticokes’ recognition. A federal court recently rejected the tribe’s claim that the reversal was politically motivated.

Making an Exception

That spring of 2005, as the Schaghticokes went down to defeat in the East, another tribe in the West squared off against Mr. McCain with its bid to construct a gambling emporium in California. The stakes were similar, but the outcome would be far different.

The tribe’s plan to build a casino on a former Navy base just outside San Francisco represented a trend rippling across the country: American Indians seeking to build casinos near population centers, far from their reservations.

The practice, known as “off-reservation shopping,” stemmed from the 1988 Indian gambling law, which included exceptions allowing some casinos to be built outside tribal lands. When Mr. McCain began his second stint as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee three years ago, Las Vegas pressed him to revisit the exceptions he had helped create, according to Sig Rogich, the Republican fund-raiser from Nevada.

“We told him this off-reservation shopping had to stop,” Mr. Rogich said. “It was no secret that the gaming industry, as well as many potentially affected communities in other states, voiced opposition to the practice.”

In the spring of 2005, Mr. McCain announced he was planning a sweeping overhaul of Indian gambling laws, including limiting off-reservation casinos. His campaign said Las Vegas had nothing to do with it. In a 2005 interview with The Oregonian, Mr. McCain said that if Congress did not act, “soon every Indian tribe is going to have a casino in downtown, metropolitan areas.”

Prospects for the proposed California project did not look promising. Then the tribe, the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, hired a lobbyist based in Phoenix named Wes Gullett.

Mr. Gullett, who had never represented tribes before Congress, had known Mr. McCain since the early 1980s. Mr. Gullett met his wife while they were working in Mr. McCain’s Washington office. He subsequently managed Mr. McCain’s 1992 Senate campaign and served as a top aide to his 2000 presidential campaign. Their friendship went beyond politics. When Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, brought two infants in need of medical treatment back to Arizona from Bangladesh, the Gulletts adopted one baby and the McCains the other. The two men also liked to take weekend trips to Las Vegas.

Another of Mr. McCain’s close friends, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, was a major investor in the Guidivilles’ proposed casino. Mr. Cohen, who did not return calls, was best man at Mr. McCain’s 1980 wedding.

Scott Crowell, lawyer for the Guidivilles, said Mr. Gullett was hired to ensure that Mr. McCain’s overhaul of the Indian gambling laws did not harm the tribe.

Mr. Gullett said he never talked to Mr. McCain about the legislation. “If you are hired directly to lobby John McCain, you are not going to be effective,” he said. Mr. Gullett said he only helped prepare the testimony of the tribe’s administrator, Walter Gray, who was invited to plead his case before Mr. McCain’s committee in July 2005. Mr. Gullett said he advised Mr. Gray in a series of conference calls.

On disclosure forms filed with the Senate, however, Mr. Gullett stated that he was not hired until November, long after Mr. Gray’s testimony. Mr. Gullett said the late filing might have been “a mistake, but it was inadvertent.” Steve Hart, a former lawyer for the Guidivilles, backed up Mr. Gullett’s contention that he had guided Mr. Gray on his July testimony.

When asked whether Mr. Gullett had helped him, Mr. Gray responded, “I’ve never met the man and couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

On Nov. 18, 2005, when Mr. McCain introduced his promised legislation overhauling the Indian gambling law, he left largely intact a provision that the Guidivilles needed for their casino. Mr. McCain’s campaign declined to answer whether the senator spoke with Mr. Gullett or Mr. Cohen about the project. In the end, Mr. McCain’s bill died, largely because Indian gambling interests fought back. But the Department of Interior picked up where Mr. McCain left off, effectively doing through regulations what he had hoped to accomplish legislatively. Carl Artman, who served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Indian Affairs until May, said Mr. McCain pushed him to rewrite the off-reservation rules. “It became one of my top priorities because Senator McCain made it clear it was one of his top priorities,” he said.

The new guidelines were issued on Jan. 4. As a result, the casino applications of 11 tribes were rejected. The Guidivilles were not among them.

Eat The Rich

Look at this:
Merrill Lynch & Co. paid its chief executives the most, with Stanley O'Neal taking in $172 million from 2003 to 2007 and John Thain getting $86 million, including a signing bonus, after beginning work in December. The company agreed to be acquired by Bank of America Corp. for about $50 billion on Sept. 15. Bear Stearns Cos.'s James ``Jimmy'' Cayne made $161 million before the company collapsed and was sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co. in June.
Now go read the whole thing.

The Separation Of Church & State: Um, WTF?!

This is not good. It's the kind of thing that really pisses me off. Oy vey!
Pulpit politics

By Libby

If there's a heaven and the Founding Fathers are looking down at us from it, they must be wondering why the hell they saved us from England in the first place. They did this in 04 as well, but of course no one was prosecuted except for some 'liberal' church in California, so they're at it again.
Setting the stage for a collision of religion and politics, Christian ministers from 22 states will use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse candidates — defying a federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups.

The ministers' advocacy could violate the Internal Revenue Service's rules against political speech with the purpose of triggering IRS investigations. That would allow their patron, the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, to challenge the IRS' rules, a risky strategy that one defense fund attorney acknowledges could cost the churches their tax-exempt status.

Congress made it illegal in 1954 for tax-exempt groups to support or oppose political candidates publicly.

"I'm going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him," said the Rev. Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.
Needless to say, by the time the legal challenges wend their way through the system, the election will be long over. The only justice we might ever see is if these churches finally lose their tax-empt status so they can never subvert the separation of church and state again.

Biden On McCain's Debate Performance

Obama Agrees As A Tactic

The right is trying to spin the debate. They want you to think Obama agrees with McCain on many things. Here are most of the instances of agreement Obama said. I have tried to include as much of Obama's answer as necessary to show that he uses agreement as a tactic.

Obama starts out with agreement usually, and then moves on to the disagreements. It disarms the other guy, and makes the point more, well, pointy. Obama has mad skills, that's all.
And he's also right that oftentimes lobbyists and special interests are the ones that are introducing these kinds of requests, although that wasn't the case with me.

But let's be clear: Earmarks account for $18 billion in last year's budget. Senator McCain is proposing -- and this is a fundamental difference between us -- $300 billion in tax cuts to some of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the country, $300 billion.

Now, John mentioned the fact that business taxes on paper are high in this country, and he's absolutely right. Here's the problem: There are so many loopholes that have been written into the tax code, oftentimes with support of Senator McCain, that we actually see our businesses pay effectively one of the lowest tax rates in the world.

And what that means, then, is that there are people out there who are working every day, who are not getting a tax cut, and you want to give them more.

It's not like you want to close the loopholes. You just want to add an additional tax cut over the loopholes. And that's a problem.

But that's Senate inside baseball. But let's get back to the core issue here. Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families.

They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

And so John likes -- John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong.

You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shiite and Sunni. And you were wrong. And so my question is...

And, John, I -- you're absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, you know, coming from you, who, you know, in the past has threatened extinction for North Korea and, you know, sung songs about bombing Iran, I don't know, you know, how credible that is. I think this is the right strategy.

Now, Senator McCain is also right that it's difficult. This is not an easy situation. You've got cross-border attacks against U.S. troops.

So obviously, our policy over the last eight years has not worked. Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also create an environment in which you could set off an arms race in this Middle East.

Now here's what we need to do. We do need tougher sanctions. I do not agree with Senator McCain that we're going to be able to execute the kind of sanctions we need without some cooperation with some countries like Russia and China that are, I think Senator McCain would agree, not democracies, but have extensive trade with Iran but potentially have an interest in making sure Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon.

And I'm glad that Senator McCain brought up the history, the bipartisan history of us engaging in direct diplomacy.

Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who's one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran -- guess what -- without precondition. This is one of your own advisers.

Now, understand what this means "without preconditions." It doesn't mean that you invite them over for tea one day. What it means is that we don't do what we've been doing, which is to say, "Until you agree to do exactly what we say, we won't have direct contacts with you."

There's a difference between preconditions and preparation. Of course we've got to do preparations, starting with low-level diplomatic talks, and it may not work, because Iran is a rogue regime.

But I will point out that I was called naive when I suggested that we need to look at exploring contacts with Iran. And you know what? President Bush recently sent a senior ambassador, Bill Burns, to participate in talks with the Europeans around the issue of nuclear weapons.

Again, it may not work, but if it doesn't work, then we have strengthened our ability to form alliances to impose the tough sanctions that Senator McCain just mentioned.

And when we haven't done it, as in North Korea -- let me just take one more example -- in North Korea, we cut off talks. They're a member of the axis of evil. We can't deal with them.

And you know what happened? They went -- they quadrupled their nuclear capacity. They tested a nuke. They tested missiles. They pulled out of the nonproliferation agreement. And they sent nuclear secrets, potentially, to countries like Syria.

When we re-engaged -- because, again, the Bush administration reversed course on this -- then we have at least made some progress, although right now, because of the problems in North Korea, we are seeing it on shaky ground.

And -- and I just -- so I just have to make this general point that the Bush administration, some of Senator McCain's own advisers all think this is important, and Senator McCain appears resistant.

He even said the other day that he would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain, because he -- you know, he wasn't sure whether they were aligned with us. I mean, Spain? Spain is a NATO ally.

No, actually, I think Senator McCain and I agree for the most part on these issues. Obviously, I disagree with this notion that somehow we did not forcefully object to Russians going into Georgia.

I immediately said that this was illegal and objectionable. And, absolutely, I wanted a cessation of the violence, because it put an enormous strain on Georgia, and that's why I was the first to say that we have to rebuild the Georgian economy and called for a billion dollars that has now gone in to help them rebuild.

Because part of Russia's intentions here was to weaken the economy to the point where President Saakashvili was so weakened that he might be replaced by somebody that Putin favored more.

Well, I think Senator McCain's absolutely right that we need more responsibility, but we need it not just when there's a crisis. I mean, we've had years in which the reigning economic ideology has been what's good for Wall Street, but not what's good for Main Street.

And there are folks out there who've been struggling before this crisis took place. And that's why it's so important, as we solve this short-term problem, that we look at some of the underlying issues that have led to wages and incomes for ordinary Americans to go down, the -- a health care system that is broken, energy policies that are not working, because, you know, 10 days ago, John said that the fundamentals of the economy are sound.

I'm pretty sure the preceding counts as an ass-woopin'. They are in different leagues. One's a thinker, the other a bruiser. Why isn't this election opening up? Oh, it is. Obama up 4.3 in the RCP poll.

Here is Byron York's moronic piece claiming all the instances of agreement mean something they don't. What a tool.

Naomi Klein On The Bailout

But I think that it’s important to stress that this is money that could be used for actively preventing foreclosures. They could be using this money - a fraction of it - to keep people in their homes. They could be stimulating and rebuilding the fundamentals of the economy by investing in infrastructure, public works projects, a green-style New Deal - all of the investments that are so desperately needed. New technology, investing in the real economy and getting away from this casino economy. And because they want to throw all this money at Wall Street, that is money that will not be available for those real investments.

Naomi Klein h/t C&L
I think she is making an important point; if we bailout the status quo, it remains, then grows, again. We should think hard about how we decide to save our economy. It may be much smarter to consider the hundreds of billions of dollars we need to borrow as an investment, rather than a bailout.

Oh, and jail the bastards, and take their mansions and their jets.

williamyard On The Debate

From TNR:
I tend to be easily pleased, perhaps more so than Ms. Fairbanks. Then again, I prefer low-scoring pitchers' duels to ERA-busting slugfests. A universe is born, expands, and burns itself out in the time between the second and third pitch to the clean-up hitter with two outs and a guy on third in the bottom of the eighth of a scoreless game. It's easier to notice as we age and everything slows down.

I enjoyed the debate. I watched the first half-hour on CNN's website and listened to the rest on XM's POTUS channel as I drove home.

It was a "proud to be an American" moment. Both those guys could have been better, I suppose, but each of them individually--their contrasting stories and styles--and the two of them clinching and sparring as one unit reminded me how fortunate we are to have our system of governance.

I'm happy for Ole Miss. The debate for them must have been a cathartic act of public grace, like during Mass on Holy Thursday when we line up to wash each others' feet, kneeling then seated, giving then receiving.

Both men wore neckties. I hate neckties, and will wear one only under duress. But in this case it's a job interview, so they had to dress up. Have you ever interviewed someone for a job? What an honor it is to do so, to be asked to pass judgment on someone who wants to work for you. An unusual, almost archaic ritual of dominance and submission. In this case job applicants who will go so far as to debase themselves by wearing a necktie. Politicians are whores, and as y'all who know me a bit will confirm, I mean that in a good way. In this regard I wanted to reach out to McCain, the more flustered of the two, with his constant nervous chuckle, and say, there there, John, it's okay, we may not all agree with you but you can relax, we don't bite.

I particularly liked the fact that they both stayed true to themselves, to the classes to which they both appear iconic. Lehrer (amused, unflappable, terrific) kept trying to bait them into directly confronting each other. I think they are far less comfortable doing so than allowing their surrogates to do the dirty work. They are both friends of democracy; Obama at one point stopped himself from responding to one of McCain's criticisms by siding with Lehrer who had been trying to start a new line of questioning. In other words, Obama caught a couple jabs after the bell but played by the rules. I was reminded that patriots can be found in the cockpit of a fighter jet as well as behind the bar in a court of law.

That whole spat about talking to Iran without "preconditions" struck me as ironic, because I'd bet my next paycheck that the impetuous McCain would be much more likely to order Air Force One to be fired up in the middle of the night to fly off to secretly meet with somebody or other than would the circumspect, process-obsessed Obama. Then again, so much of this election has been about Bachelor Number One accusing Bachelor Number Two of being Bachelor Number One.

by williamyard

Debate Reaction

I thought it was painfully obvious McCain was out of his league. He wouldn't look at Obama, he resorted to talking points and attacks instead of thinking (maybe because thinking is hard for McCain).

McCain had a couple good minutes, but they were few and far between. Obama owned him. Here is a reaction I agree with:
"There will be those, like the oaf Chris Matthews, who will think that McCain's attitude shows him to be a leader. I think it shows that he was not raised well. His refusal to look at Obama throughout the debate, his dismissive tone of voice when continually speaking of Obama in the third person as though he were not there, his inability to say anything good about his opponent, all showed him to be a natural bully or someone who has been taught to be a bully."
Yeah. Mean Mr. McCain. It showed last night.

Then there is the crap about Obama agreeing with McCain. Look, that is a tactic. You start off with whatever you can agree with, then, when you're finished with that, you state your disagreements. It's called being thorough. Obama's grace is another reason McCain looked so old and mean.

It was a rout. McCain even called himself a maverick at one point because he had nothing of substance to say. Obama seemed to be all substance. Thoughts?

R.I.P. Paul Newman


Paul Newman died last night. He was 83, and died at his home. He was awesome.

9/26/08

Obama's Not Perfect Either

This from Swampland....
A radio advertisement running in Wisconsin and other contested states misleadingly reports that Mr. McCain “has stood in the way of” federal financing for stem cell research; Mr. McCain did once oppose such federally supported research but broke with President Bush to consistently support it starting in 2001. . . .

Mr. Obama’s campaign did not announce it was running its new radio spot that said Mr. McCain “has stood in the way, he’s opposed stem cell research.” That ad concluded, “John McCain doesn’t understand that medical research benefiting millions shouldn’t be held hostage by the political views of a few.”

The radio advertisement correctly asserts that Mr. McCain’s running mate, Ms. Palin, is against the use of federal funds for stem cell research. But since 2001, Mr. McCain has consistently supported the financing. Last year, he voted for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which Mr. Bush vetoed, and in 2004 signed a letter to the president with 57 other senators, urging him to change his policy on stem cell research. The campaign has said Ms. Palin will defer to Mr. McCain on the matter should they win the White House.

As backup for the advertisement’s implication that Mr. McCain is against stem cell research financing, Mr. Vietor of the Obama campaign pointed to a recent report in The Los Angeles Times that Mr. McCain had told evangelical leaders he was open to learning more about their concerns, though the article stated, “McCain did not offer any indication he would change his mind.”

Sarah Palin Lacks Curiosity

What is the difference between elitism and curiosity? Depends on who's answering!

Read the post below from undiplomatic. It's what we have all been trying to say about her.
Palin, Passports, Fake Snobs, and Real People

The more I think about Sarah Palin’s comments about getting a passport, the more angry I get. In case you missed it, Katie Couric asked her why she didn’t get passport until last year:
I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate from college. Their parents get them a passport and give them a backpack and say, “go off and travel the world.” No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact I’ve had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.
Notice that she never came out and says what she really means. Rich people. Snobs. Elitists. You know — the kind of people who get passports. Them.

I guess I’m one of them, given that I’ve traveled all over the world.

There’s only one problem with that, however. I don’t come from a super-elite background. My parents were middle class. My dad did well in his chosen profession, but lived in a time when that didn’t translate to a high salary. My mother was a homemaker. We always lived comfortably, and when I was 14, my parents retired to Florida. Again, they had a nice home, but no palace — they paid $60,000 for it.

Like Sarah Palin, my parents helped put me through college (though I only went to two schools, not six, and the second only because my parents no longer could afford the first school after it instituted a massive tuition hike). Scholarships paid for part of my expenses, and upon graduation, I got a scholarship to study for my Ph.D. During graduate school, I held down two jobs — as an associate instructor and as manager of a local record store. Later on, I was a line cook in a wings joint and delivered pizzas.

After I left graduate school, I worked a series of jobs, sometimes doing evening odd jobs to pick up some extra money. I never made more than $30,000 a year until 1996 or 1997. So other than the fact that my parents helped along the way, I wasn’t any more of “that culture” than she was.

I got my first passport in 1994. I was 32 years old. My first trip, not counting Canada, was to Kosovo to look at human rights abuses. When I first arrived in-country, my fellow delegates teased me because I was taking so many pictures.

Even though I had studied Russian, French, and Serbo-Croatian in college and graduate school, even though I had studied history and at one point hoped to teach it, I had never been overseas. I wanted to go, but my parents were retired and already were helping to the degree they could. I didn’t really feel I could ask them for, to paraphrase the Sarahnator, a passport and a backpack.

I’m not that different from Sarah Palin. Except for one small thing. I was curious about the world. I really really wanted to see it. I was dying to learn what it had to offer. But even after I started working, I remained too poor to travel. That didn’t stop me from dreaming.

If you’ve read my bio, you know I’ve been to between thirty and forty countries — last time I counted, I think it’s thirty-five or thirty-six. And I’ve seen all of them in the past fourteen years. I’ve been lucky — much of it has been paid for by the organizations for which I worked. But not all of it — there are many parts of the world that I’ve seen on my own (or with Molly) and on my own nickel. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Well, except Ukraine.

So I don’t object to the fact that Sarah Palin didn’t have a passport until last year. Maybe, as she said, she didn’t have the money. She was a mother of four (Trig was not yet born), and had a family to raise. What bothers me about her answer is that she thinks only rich people want to travel, that only elites are interested in the rest of the world.

I’m reminded of that scene in Breaking Away where Dave (the main character) has seen his dreams shattered when a visiting Italian cycling team sabotages his bike. His mother, while consoling him, goes to her purse and pulls out a passport. Dave, surprised, asks why she has it. And his mother says something like, well, I always wanted to see the world, and who knows — I might. Every once in a while, when they ask me for i.d. when I write a check at the grocery store, I pull it out and remind myself of my dream. It’s a lovely moment, one that captures the dreams of many folks.

But apparently not those of Sarah Palin. She never talks about wanting to see the Pyramids, or the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China, or the Wailing Wall, or the Sydney Opera House, or Big Ben, or Rio de Janiero, or the Eiffel Tower, or even the parts of Russia she can see from her house. Such desires aren’t a sign of elitism, but rather curiosity.

Unlike Cindy McCain, I met Mother Theresa (and have the photos to prove it). I’ve also met the Dalai Lama and Jose Ramos-Horta — in the case of the latter, before he was famous — we used to have coffee together at the UN Human Rights Commission because no one else wanted to be seen talking to him.

But the people I remember most are not those who are famous. I’ve walked through the slums of Calcutta and the villages of southern Sudan. I’ve gone to refugee camps. I’ve helped teach self-defense to sex workers. I’ve witnessed the horrors of an orphanage run by a government whose values do not include taking care of abandoned children. I’ve eaten local cuisine from street stalls — and once got so sick I almost died.

Along the way, I have met so many good and kind people. Most of them didn’t have passports either. In fact, many of them didn’t have a college education, and more than a few didn’t have a job, a house, sanitation, or clean drinking water. But they always welcomed me into their homes, giving me a chance to learn from them and to witness their courage, resiliance, and joy.

In other words, I’ve lived. I’ve seen many of the wonders of the world. And I hope to see much, much more.

I’m not the only one. Remember “Wherethehellis” Matt, the guy who had himself filmed dancing all around the world and then put it online? He never went to college. Before he found a corporate sponsor (which occurred only after his first online video was a hit), he paid his own way, doing odd jobs.

Is he an elitist? What about all the fine young men and women in the Peace Corps? Mormon (and other) missionaries? Doctors and nurses who travel to help in crises and operate on children with cleft palates? Volunteers for MercyCorps, Christian Children’s Fund, Catholic Charities, Lutheran World Relief, American Jewish World Service and other faith-based charities? Little old ladies who go on group tours to Europe?

To paraphrase John McCain, I guess we’re all elitists now.

I’m no saint. I don’t claim to be one. But I know I have one quality that Sarah Palin never will: curiosity about what exists beyond my corner of the planet.

And I know that when it comes to the rest of the world, Sarah Palin is one thing I’ll never be: a snob.

Hertzberg On Palin's Use Of Language

Read a real wordsmith. Hendrick Hertzburg does a nice evisceration of Palin's Couric interview....
Foreign Countries

The second installment of Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin aired last night. The topic was the great wide world. One exchange deserves special study. From the transcript provided by CBS:
COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It’s funny that a comment like that was kinda made to…I don’t know, you know…reporters.

COURIC: Mocked?

PALIN: Mocked, yeah I guess that’s the word, mocked.

COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

COURIC: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right next to, they are right next to our state.
This seems to be a case of incoherence of thought leading to incoherence of syntax. Pronouns wander in search of antecedents like Arctic explorers in a blinding snowstorm. Homophones confuse the transcriber. For example, one of the Governor’s answers could as sensibly, or insensibly, be rendered as
PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And they’re…
In the “Putin rears his head” answer, jagged shards of the hasty briefings lately stuffed into Palin’s pretty head clang tinnily against one another. “We send those”—those? those what?—”out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this powerful nation, Russia.” Those what? We send what? My hunch is that this alarming jumble must have something to do with the path that Russian intercontinental missiles would take on their way to the lower Forty-eight and/or the air-defense installations that NORAD maintains in the state Palin is executive of. But who knows? The whole thing reads like something rendered from the Finnish by Google Translate.

For a seventy-two-year-old cancer survivor to have placed this person directly behind himself in line for the Presidency was an act of almost incomprehensible cynicism and irresponsibility. It makes a cruel—what’s the word?—mockery of his slogan. “Country First” indeed.

P.S. In the Seattle Times, Hal Bernton reports that Governor Palin has “balked” at opportunities to visit Russia on any of those “trade missions” she boasted of. Bernton writes:
Opportunities abound for Alaska governors to engage in Russian diplomacy, with the state host to several organizations focusing on Arctic issues. Anchorage is the seat of the Northern Forum, an 18-year-old organization that represents the leaders of regional governments in Russia, as well as Finland, Iceland and Canada, Japan, China and South Korea.

Yet under Palin, the state government—without consultation—reduced its annual financial support to the Northern Forum to $15,000 from $75,000, according to Priscilla Wohl, the group’s executive director. That forced the Forum’s Anchorage office to go without pay for two months.
On the other hand, she has met Henry Kissinger and the president of Afghanistan.

There She Is, Miss Alaska

Sarah Heath (Palin), Miss Alaska, 1984 (1984? Orwell? Beuller?)

video

The Truth Is Slowly Emerging II

Bush is a war criminal, and now Alberto Gonzales is willing to say so....

Report: Bush Directed Gonzo To Ashcroft's Hospital Bed

Murray Waas reports on the website of the Atlantic that Alberto Gonzales is now telling investigators that he was being personally directed by President Bush when, as White House counsel, Gonzales made a much-discussed late-night visit in 2004 to the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, in order to get Ashcroft to certify that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program was legal.

During Congressional testimony last year, Gonzales repeatedly refused to answer persistent questioning from Sen. Chuck Schumer as to whether the president, or Vice President Cheney, had directed him to seek out Ashcroft in the hospital.

Cheney himself told CNN's Larry King shortly afterward: "I don't recall that I gave instructions to that effect."

It's an important question, because its answer would shed light on the extraordinary lengths to which the president was willing to go to see the wiretap program reauthorized. At the time of the hospital-room meeting, Ashcroft, in Waas's words, "had been in intensive care for six days, was heavily medicated, and was recovering from emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder."

Waas adds:

Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey has said that he believes that Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who accompanied Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital room, were trying to take advantage of Ashcroft's grievously ill state--pressing him to sign the certification possibly without even comprehending what he was doing--and in the process authorize a government surveillance program which both Ashcroft and the Justice Department had concluded was of questionable legality.

Gonzales' claim has come to light as part of an investigation being conducted by the Inspector General for the Department of Justice into whether Gonzales lied to Congress. In a separate story posted today, Waas reports that DOJ investigators are also looking into whether Gonzales created a set of fictitious notes to provide a rationale for the president's reauthorization of the program.

Gonzales had claimed during his testimony that at a 2004 meeting just prior to the Ashcroft hospital visit, Congressional leaders had given their support to the program. Four of those leaders have since denied that. President Bush had cited Gonzales' notes of the Congressional meeting as a rationale for reauthorizing the program. But the notes weren't written until days after the meeting, and after Bush and Gonzales had officially reauthorized the program. Gonzales has told the investigators that Bush personally directed him to write the notes, though it is unclear when. Investigators believe that, depending on when they were written, the notes could be evidence of an effort to provide a post-hoc justification for the reauthorization of the program.

You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry

McCain pissed off Letterman.
Late-night host David Letterman was furious when Senator John McCain canceled an appearance on the Late Show at the last moment, claiming he had to catch a plane for Washington to deal with the economic crisis, but instead continued making other appearances in New York until the next morning.

After complaining loudly to fill-in guest Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night's show, Letterman was still slamming McCain on Thursday. "See these chairs right here?" Letterman asked his audience, pointing to some empty seats. "That's because we like to have folks come out and visit. And one of the people who was going to come and visit with us last night was Senator John McCain -- what a tremendous hero ... and a tremendous role-model -- and he was supposed to be on the show."

"So at the last minute he calls up," Letterman continued, "and he says, 'Ah, I can't make it. ... The economy is about to crater.' ... He says, 'I have to race back to Washington, DC.' ... Right away, I say, 'Whatever you need to do' -- because am I going to be the reason people are standing in breadlines?"

Letterman explained that he was initially understanding when he found out that McCain had not yet left New York but was in an interview with Katie Couric, because "that's news and this is nonsense," but he was far more upset when "we find out today, he didn't really leave until this morning."

As the audience groaned and booed in sympathy, Letterman continued, "You can see, 24 hours ago, I felt like a patriot. I felt like I was helping out. ... And now, I'm just feeling like an ugly date. ... I feel used. I feel cheap. I feel sullied."

"It's like you're getting a call from Batman," Letterman concluded. "'Love to talk, got to go, Dave. Gotham is about to go belly-up.' ... Well no, it's like he stopped off, had a facial."

On Wednesday's program, Letterman showed his audience a raw live feed of McCain being made up for his appearance with Couric -- at exactly the same time he would have been appearing with Letterman -- and that has caused an additional minor scandal at CBS.

A source at CBS told the New York Post that executives there "were pretty aggravated" and were complaining that anybody but Letterman would have gotten fired for "something like that." But the source explained that "they were not about to start a fight with Letterman. ... We're in the middle of a heavy, heavy news cycle and Letterman is Letterman. He does whatever he wants and always has."

Quote Of The Day II: Digby

Even though McCain and Palin have revealed themselves as the Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan of politics and they're both running around without their panties, it's not obvious to me that this will ultimately work against them. In this freak show of an election anything can happen. The Dems should take no chances.
h/t Digby

Quote Of The Day: Atrios

Palin

Wingnut Kathleen Parker says she should go.

I'm actually a little sympathetic to Palin. Her problem isn't so much that she speaks in gibberish, the problem is that she doesn't speak in Official Washington Gibberish. John McCain spouts gibberish all the time, as do all politicians, but it's often the kind of gibberish which is part of the Beltway dialect. It's pundit-approved gibberish. Whether or not it makes any sense is irrelevant. Whatever Palin's knowledge of domestic or foreign affairs, her biggest problem is that she's obviously completely unfamiliar with the basic contours of the core political discourse of our country. Gibberish is fine as long as it's the right kind of gibberish.
The sheriff is a.......

The Lies McCain Will Tell Tonight


Considering that McCain thinks he has already won the debate, here are some lies he told at the debate he won, not yet, or something.....
h/t democracyarsenal.org
10 Claims John McCain will make in tonight's debate
Posted by Max Bergmann

Here are ten claims to watch for from John McCain tonight:

Claim 1: McCain will say his foreign policy is different from that of George W. Bush. Reality: On the critical issues, ranging from advocating the invasion of Iraq only days after 9/11 to declaring premature victory in Afghanistan, to saber rattling on Iran and refusing to use tough diplomacy, John McCain's policies are in lock step with those of George W. Bush.

Claim 2: John McCain will tout his judgment, saying he hates war. Reality: John McCain has taken a dangerously aggressive approach to foreign policy advocating attacking six different countries in the last eight years. Moreover, McCain retains many of the same Neocon advisors who pushed for the war in Iraq in the first place.

Claim 3: McCain will say he has long been a critic of the war in Iraq. Reality: McCain was an early supporter of the Iraq War, linking Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. He supported the Rumsfeld strategy of going with a minimal number of troops and said the war would be "easy." He continued to argue for staying the course until 2006.

Claim 4: McCain will take credit for the "surge" and argue that the troop increase is responsible for the entire decline in violence and that as a result we have succeeded. Reality: Military leaders have acknowledged that there were numerous reasons for the reduction in violence including the Anbar Awakening and political engagement with Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, McCain confused the sequence of events in Iraq arguing that the troop increase caused the Anbar Awakening, even though the Anbar Awakening came first. Moreover, General Petraeus has warned that it is too early to declare victory as John McCain and his allies are doing.

Claim 5: McCain will say he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reality: McCain has continued to make Iraq the number one priority and has not explained how he will keep large troop levels in Iraq while meeting the requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere laid out by military commander and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has shown little interest in Afghanistan saying we can just "muddle through" in 2003 and declaring victory in 2005. In fact, McCain had no policy on Afghanistan until July 15, 2008 and Afghanistan did not come up once in all of the major speeches during the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, Barack Obama and progressives have been sounding the alarm for years.

Claim 6: McCain will say he will get Osama Bin Laden and go after Al Qaeda. Reality: John McCain was a strong early supporter of the Iraq war - a war that resulted in assets and focus being pulled away from the hunt for Bin Laden and Afghanistan. While Obama has supported going after high-value targets in al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan, McCain has criticized Obama for a position that has now become official U.S. policy.

Claim 7: McCain will cite his response to the crisis in Georgia as evidence of good judgment. Reality: McCain recklessly issued bellicose statements without waiting for all the facts, while Barack Obama, other world leaders, and even President Bush took a more measured approach. McCain then went on to claim that "we are all Georgians." In fact, McCain has had a dangerous policy towards Russia for some time, proposing to kick them out of the G8 - a policy that would preclude any cooperation on critical issues such as nonproliferation.

Claim 8: McCain will say that talking to Iran is weak and naive. Reality: There is a bipartisan consensus on the need to talk to Iran. Five secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker all agreed recently that we have to talk to them directly. Obama's plan calls for tough direct diplomacy in combination with sanctions and other pressures. McCain's plan of refusing to talk is the same policy that George Bush pursued until very recently - a policy that has failed and that if continued will one day force the U.S. to make a no-win decision between attacking Iran or allowing it to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

Claim 9: McCain will say he can work effectively with our allies. Reality: John McCain has a long history of belligerence and heated rhetoric towards our allies. In the run up to the Iraq War he called France and Germany "vacuous and posturing" and referred to them as our "adversaries." Recently he said he might not meet with Spain's Prime Minister and on top of that he is quite unpopular internationally.

Claim 10: McCain will say he will cut wasteful defense spending. Reality: McCain has been all over the map on defense spending. His plan to add about 200,000 ground troops to the military would cost $25 billion a year. Meanwhile, in his budget plan released in July he promised to cut $160 billion from the budget by opposing the Future Combat System, yet he now criticizes Obama's promise to cut spending on that same program. See the data after the jump.

GENERAL FOREIGN POLICY

Claim 1: McCain will say his foreign policy is different from that of George W. Bush. Reality: On the critical issues from advocating the invasion of Iraq only days after 9/11 to declaring premature victory in Afghanistan to saber rattling on Iran and refusing to use tough diplomacy John McCain's policies are in lock step with those of George W. Bush. •

After 9/11, John McCain advocated attacking Iraq, Iran, or Syria instead of staying focused on the real threat in Afghanistan. "That's where the tough part of this whole scenario is going to begin. And that is that, after the Taliban are overthrown -- which I believe they will be -- I have very little doubt in my mind -- after bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on -- Saddam Hussein is still bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the Iranians are still supporting terrorist organizations, as are the Syrians. That's where the tough choices and decisions are going to be made." [MSNBC, Hardball, 10/3/01]

• Like George Bush McCain completely misjudged the difficulties of invading Iraq, saying that the war would be "easy." McCain said, "I believe that the success [in Iraq] will be fairly easy." McCain also said, "I believe that the United States military capabilities are such that we can win a victory in a relatively short time... I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time." In January 2003, McCain again predicted the same about invading Iraq, saying, "we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." In March 2003, McCain repeatedly said that US troops would be welcomed as liberators. Chris Matthews asked McCain, "Do you believe that the people of Iraq or at least a large number of them will treat us as liberators?" McCain answered: "Absolutely. Absolutely." Two weeks later, McCain said: "There's no doubt in my mind that once these people [loyalists to Saddam] are gone that we will be welcomed as liberators," McCain said. [MSNBC, Hardball, 3/12/03; 3/24/03; CNN, "Larry King Live," 9/24/2002; CNN, 9/29/02; CNN.com, 1/22/2003]

• McCain has consistently failed to accurately assess the situation in Afghanistan, calling the war in 2005 a "remarkable success" and said that "nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America." On CNN McCain said, "[C]ould I add, it was in Afghanistan, as well, there were many people who predicted that Afghanistan would not be a success. So far, it's a remarkable success." On Fox, McCain said, "Think we should have had a larger peacekeeping force. But nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America and nobody is running terrorist training camps to orchestrate attacks on the United States of America." [CNN, 3/2/05. Fox News, "Hannity & Colmes," 4/10/03]

Claim 2: John McCain will tout his judgment saying he hates war.
Reality: John McCain has taken a dangerously aggressive approach to foreign policy advocating attacking six different countries in the last eight years. Moreover, McCain retains many of the same Neocon advisors who pushed for the war in Iraq in the first place.

• In 2000 McCain called for overthrowing the regimes of Iraq, North Korea and Libya - In 2000 Republican primary campaign McCain argued that the United States should overthrow Iraq, North Korea and Libya. "McCain called Tuesday for the overthrow of Iraq, Libya and North Korea if they continue to develop weapons of mass destruction. "I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback.'" [Agence France Presse, 2/16/2000]

• Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks McCain advocated going after Syria and Iran. "After bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on -- Saddam Hussein is still bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the Iranians are still supporting terrorist organizations, as are the Syrians. That's where the tough choices and decisions are going to be made." [MSNBC, Hardball, 10/3/01]

• After 9/11, McCain supported invading a number of countries. During an appearance on CNN's "Newsnight with Aaron Brown," John McCain said, "once we take care of the problem in Afghanistan and eradicate al Qaeda, and either kill or capture bin Laden, then we have to move to the next country." [CNN, "Newsnight with Aaron Brown," 11/23/01]

• McCain's extreme foreign policy views have made him the Neocons' candidate the past decade. In the 2000 campaign, McCain argued that the United States should overthrow Iraq, North Korea and Libya in a policy he called "rogue state rollback." Neoconservatives have had a prominent role in the McCain campaign. "Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives -- including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser -- to develop the senator's foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign." Robert Kagan, one of the most prominent neoconservatives, also wrote McCain's speech at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. [Agence France Presse, 2/16/2000. NY Times, 8/16/08. WSJ, 3/6/08. Wonk Room, 3/17/08. NY Times, 4/10/08]

IRAQ

Claim 3: McCain will say he has long been a critic of the war in Iraq. Reality: McCain was an early supporter of the Iraq War linking Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. He supported the Rumsfeld strategy of going with a minimal number of troops and said the war would be "easy." He continued to argue for staying the course until 2006.

• McCain fully endorsed the Bush-Rumsfeld plan for invading Iraq with few troops. On Face the Nation in 2002 McCain said, "I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past... I don't believe it's going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991." McCain, like Rumsfeld, thought air power would make up for fewer troops and like Rumsfeld, he never thought about the aftermath. McCain said on Larry King in 2002, "Our technology, particularly air-to-ground technology is vastly improved. I don't think you're going to have to see the scale of numbers of troops that we saw, nor the length of the buildup, obviously, that we had back in 1991." He said later on Hardball, "I believe that the kind of technology and the kind of military that we have today doesn't require massive numbers of troops. You might have noticed the conflict in Afghanistan, we had a few soldiers on the ground and used very incredibly accurate air power." McCain later predicted in late 2002 McCain said that "We're not going get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad." [CBS, Face the Nation, 9/15/02. CNN, Larry King Live, 12/09/02. MSNBC, Hardball, 10/16/02. CNN, Late Edition, 9/29/02]

• McCain was one of the most fervent war supporters and supported the President's approach throughout the course of the war. McCain was a cheerleader for invading Iraq, said "I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time." He hyped the threat of Iraq saying Saddam Hussein is a "threat to civilization." He also said that failing to remove Saddam from power would "make the violent century just passed seem an era of remarkable tranquility in comparison." In the midst of looting following the invasion McCain praised Rumsfeld, saying "I'm a great admirer of Rumsfeld." He added "I think the president is blessed to have two extremely talented people (Powell and Rumsfeld), experienced people, working for him, and others, but particularly those two." [CNN Late Edition, 9/29/02. Washington Times, 2/14/03. MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]

• McCain said Bin Laden and Saddam connected because they share "common cause." "But what I think it's ample evidence of is that bin Laden will do anything he could to harm the United States of America, and he has common cause with Saddam Hussein who will do anything he can to harm the United States of America. And the two of them together can make a very potent recipe." [NBC Today Show, 2/13/03]

• McCain said mistakes were made but favored continuing the President's failed strategy saying that we need to "stay the course" with the President's Iraq strategy in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. McCain was a forceful advocate of continuing the President's approach in Iraq. Throughout 2004, 2005, and 2006 McCain consistently said we should "stay the course" in Iraq. In 2005 on ABC McCain said "some serious mistakes were made, but...I think we've got to stay the course here." In 2006 McCain said on CBS Bush had "laid out recently a pretty cogent argument why we must, quote - I hate to use the phrase - stay the course'[in Iraq.]" [NPR, 4/28/04. ABC News, 10/24/04. Fox, 8/14/05; ABC News, 9/25/05; CBS News, 6/29/05; The Hill, 12/8/05. MSNBC, 6/8/06. CBS News, 9/24/06]

Claim 4: McCain will take credit for the "surge" and argue that the troop increase is responsible for the entire decline in violence and that as a result we have succeeded. Reality: Military leaders have acknowledged that there were numerous reasons for the reduction in violence including a willingness to talk to our enemies though the Anbar Awakening and the ceasefire with Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, McCain confused the sequence of events in Iraq arguing that the troop increase caused the Anbar Awakening, even though the Anbar Awakening came first. Moreover, General Petraeus has warned that it is too early to declare victory as John McCain and his allies are doing and that political progress is still slow in coming.

• A number of factors caused the reduced levels of violence in Iraq, including a willingness to talk to our enemies in the Sunni insurgency, and the Shi'a cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. Levels of violence in Iraq have fallen because of four factors: 1) the increased American military presence and new counterinsurgency tactics; 2) an alliance among a number of Sunni tribal groups against Al Qaeda in Iraq; 3) the segregation of the population along sectarian lines, thanks to massive ethnic cleansing; and 4) a cease fire by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. [Washington Post, 9/8/08]

• McCain confused the history of the surge. McCain misstated the history of the surge in an interview with Katie Couric. McCain said, "Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history." In reality, the Anbar Awakening preceded the surge. [CBS, 7/22/08]

• The Anbar Awakening, which began well before the President's announcement of the "surge" in January 2007, was crucial to the decline in violence. The Obama campaign was quick to note that the Anbar Awakening began in the fall of 2006, several months before President Bush even announced the troop escalation strategy, which became known as the surge. (No less an authority than Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, testified before Congress this spring that the Awakening "started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge.") Furthermore, progressives noted that the sheik who helped form the Awakening, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, was assassinated in September 2007, after the troop escalation began. [NY Times, 7/24/08]

• General Petraeus himself has pointed out that the situation is more complicated than how John McCain and his allies portray it. "This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not war with a simple slogan." [BBC News, 9/11/08]

AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN

Claim 5: McCain will say he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reality: McCain has continued to make Iraq the number one priority and has not explained how he will keep large troop levels in Iraq while meeting the requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere laid out by military commander and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has shown little interest in Afghanistan saying we can just "muddle through" in 2003 and declaring victory in 2005. In fact, McCain had no policy on Afghanistan until July 15, 2008 and Afghanistan did not come up once in all of the major speeches during the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, Barack Obama and progressives have been sounding the alarm for years.

• McCain has not said where these troops will come from and his focus continues to be on Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, noted that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help control an increasingly active insurgency but, due to the war in Iraq, insufficient forces are available for such action. "I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." Despite this, McCain has called for a long-term commitment to Iraq that would not allow us to have the necessary troops for Afghanistan. [Washington Post 7/2/08. NY Times, 7/02/08]

• McCain has shown little interest in Afghanistan compared to Iraq, believing we can "muddle" through in Afghanistan. After a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C., McCain was asked about the deteriorating scenario in Afghanistan. He said, "There has been a rise in al Qaeda activity along the border. There has been some increase in U.S. casualties. I am concerned about it, but I'm not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I'd be talking about Afghanistan. But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that -- in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan." [McCain Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, 11/5/03]

• Afghanistan was completely ignored at the Republican National Convention, despite gravely deteriorating situation. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in a harrowing assessment for West Point, said that Afghanistan "is in misery," yet John McCain and his fellow conservative Republicans offered nothing to address this spiraling crisis. Afghanistan went unmentioned in all the major Republican convention addresses, a glaring absence that echoes the Bush Administration's neglectful policies toward the country, and the broader region. [General Barry McCaffrey, 7/30/08. President George W. Bush, 9/02/08. Senator Fred Thompson, 9/02/08. Senator Joseph Lieberman, 9/02/08. Mitt Romney, 9/03/08. Mike Huckabee, 9/03/08. Rudy Giuliani, 9/03/08. Governor Sarah Palin, 9/03/08]

• Until July 15th 2008, McCain had no strategy for Afghanistan included in his national security policy platform. Until July 15, 2008, John McCain's website contained no articulated strategy for Afghanistan. There is still scant mention of a strategy, in either his national security policy section or his Iraq policy section. [John McCain.com, 7/15/08]

• Progressives have called for more troops and a greater focus on Afghanistan for years. After years of neglect, deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan are raising questions for President Bush and John McCain. Democrats have been there all along - and since 2002 have been making the case that Iraq is distracting us from the main fight against Al Qaeda. Senator Kerry made this argument a central part of his campaign in 2004 and Barack Obama has been very clear about the importance of Afghanistan since early in the primary campaign. [NSN, 7/15/08. Senator Barack Obama, 10/2/02. Senator Barack Obama, 8/01/07. Senator Biden, NY Times, 3/2/08, NY Times, 10/1/03. John Kerry, U.S. Presidential Debates, 9/30/04. Senator Reid, 7/12/07. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Larry King Live, 4/24/2008. Senator Jack Reed, 3/15/07. Senator Carl Levin, 3/4/2008]

Claim 6: McCain will say he will get Osama Bin Laden and go after Al Qaeda. Reality: John McCain was a strong early supporter of the Iraq war - a war that resulted in assets and focus being pulled away from the hunt for Bin Laden and Afghanistan. While Obama has supported going after high-value targets in al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan, McCain has criticized Obama for a position that has now become official U.S. policy.

• McCain was an early supporter of the war in Iraq calling for toppling Saddam Hussein only a month after 9/11. This strategy diverted crucial resources from focusing on Osama Bin Laden. The New York Times reports that, "the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq." According to current and former military and intelligence officials the war in Iraq has consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the fight against al Qaeda. Intelligence officials report that by 2006 the Iraq war had drained away most of the C.I.A. officers with field experience in the Islamic world. "You had a very finite number" of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. "Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq." In fact, "when American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq." [New York Times, 6/30/08]

• Senator Obama advocates unilaterally striking terrorist targets in Pakistan. "They are plotting to strike again... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will." [Washington Post, 8/02/07]

• McCain attacked Obama for his willingness to strike at Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, accused Obama of "confused" leadership and said he wanted to bomb "our ally" Pakistan. "Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?" On Larry King, McCain was asked "If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?" McCain responded "I'm not going to go there. And here's why, because Pakistan is a sovereign nation." [MSNBC, 2/20/08. Larry King Live, 7/28/08]

• Obama's position has become official U.S. policy. President Bush recently approved orders allowing unilateral strikes against terrorist targets inside of Pakistan. "President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials. The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants' increasingly secure base in Pakistan's tribal areas." [NY Times, 9/10/08]

RUSSIA / GEORGIA

Claim 7: McCain will cite his response to the crisis in Georgia as evidence of good judgment. Reality: McCain recklessly issued bellicose statements without waiting for all the facts, while Barack Obama, other world leaders, and even President Bush took a more measured approach. McCain then went on to claim that "we are all Georgians." In fact, McCain has had a dangerous policy towards Russia for some time proposing to kick them out of the G8 - a policy that would preclude any cooperation on critical issues such as nonproliferation.

• McCain's response to Russia - without waiting for the facts -- was reckless and dangerous, another example of how his foreign policy would be more "aggressive" than Bush. "McCain took a remarkably -- and uniquely -- more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia's pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia." McCain's statement "put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush's first term." He went on to state that "I know I speak for every American when I say to him today, we are all Georgians." [Politico, 8/10/08. CBS, 8/12/08]

• McCain has attacked Obama for not being aggressive in his response, yet Obama's initial response was in line with almost all world leaders, including George Bush. "While virtually every other world leader called for calm in Georgia last Thursday morning, John McCain did something he's done many times over his career in public life: He condemned Russia...though neither he nor any other leader has suggested that the West has any real way to blunt Moscow's ultimate intentions. He's also faced the accusation that his encouragement of Georgia's dramatic defiance of Russia helped trigger the crisis." [Politico, 8/13/08]

• The conflict was more complicated than how McCain portrayed it. "According to the Republican presidential candidate, 'today we are all Georgians.' Actually, the events of the past week in Georgia have little in common with either Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II or Soviet policies in Eastern Europe. They are better understood against the backdrop of the complicated ethnic politics of the Caucasus, a part of the world where historical grudges run deep and oppressed can become oppressors in the bat of an eye... When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited." [Washington Post, 8/17/08]

• McCain has on numerous occasions called for kicking Russia out of the G-8 - an idea that would almost certainly lead to a new Cold War and preclude any cooperation on key non-proliferation issues. In a Foreign Affairs article published late last year, McCain advocated kicking Russia out of the G-8: "Today, we see in Russia diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, efforts to bully democratic neighbors, such as Georgia, and attempts to manipulate Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas. We need a new Western approach to this revanchist Russia. We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia." McCain repeated this suggestion in his Los Angeles World Foreign Affairs Council speech that the G-8 should "include India and Brazil, but exclude Russia." [Foreign Affairs, 11-12/07. McCain, 3/26/08]

IRAN

Claim 8: McCain will say that talking to Iran is weak and naive. Reality: There is a bipartisan consensus on the need to talk to Iran. Five secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker all agreed recently that we have to talk to them directly. Obama's plan calls for tough direct diplomacy in combination with sanctions and other pressures. McCain's plan of refusing to talk is the same policy that George Bush pursued until very recently - a policy that has failed and that if continued will one day force the U.S. to make a no-win decision between attacking Iran or allowing it to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

• Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher all agree we need direct talks with Iran without pre-conditions. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, not only indicated that he "was in favor of negotiating with Iran," but said that such negotiations should occur "without conditions," and should begin at a high level." Former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright advised that "You need to engage with countries you have problems with," and said "I believe we need to engage with Iran." Colin Powell, Secretary of State under George W. Bush echoed the need for negotiations stating: "Let's get together and talk about nuclear weapons." [AP, 9/15/08. ABC News, 9/15/08. Reuters, 9/16/08]

• The Bipartisan Iraq Study Group believes the US should have direct talks with Iran. "Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available." [Iraq Study Group, 12/06]

• Even the Bush administration is moving toward Senator Obama's strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran. The Bush Administration is beginning to embrace a number of foreign policy positions favored by Senator Obama. "On a range of major foreign policy issues over the past year, Bush has pursued strategies and actions very much along the lines of what Sen. Obama has advocated during his presidential race..." "On the diplomatic front, Obama has made a point of advocating dialogue with Iran" and though he has been vilified by conservatives for it, "in July, Bush sent a high-level U.S. emissary to attend nuclear talks with Iran..." In June, the Washington Post reported that "Senior officials at the State Department and beyond are mulling a proposal to open an interest section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977." [Washington Post, 9/15/08. Washington Post, 6/23/08]

• McCain's policy of refusing to engage Iran is a continuation of a failed Bush policy that even the current administration has begun to back pedal from. Senator McCain has consistently derided Barack Obama as naïve for his willingness to have tough direct diplomacy with Iran. McCain has instead called for more sanctions and the continuation of a policy that has not worked for the past five years while Iran has developed 4,000 centrifuges. He even put out an advertisement two weeks ago reaffirming this position and deriding Obama's position on Iran. [John McCain conference call, 5/15/08. JohnMcCain.com]

WORKING WITH ALLIES

Claim 9: McCain will say he can work effectively with our allies. Reality: John McCain has a long history of belligerence and heated rhetoric towards our allies. In the run up to the Iraq War he called France and Germany "vacuous and posturing" and referred to them as our "adversaries." Recently he said he might not meet with Spain's Prime Minister and on top of that he is quite unpopular internationally.

• McCain attacked our allies as "vacuous and posturing" for opposing war in Iraq. "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that "Iraq is the test" of both the U.N. and NATO. He charged that the alliance is failing the test because of the "flawed calculations" and "vacuous posturing" of Germany and France. McCain and Rumsfeld both said that recent French and German foot-dragging over even discussing the possible deployment of NATO assets, such as Patriot anti-missile batteries, to Turkey also threatened to damage the alliance." [Washington Post, 2/9/03]

• John McCain engaged in the anti-French bashing of the far right because they opposed the invasion of the war. "The Lord said the poor will always be with us, and the French will be with us, too," said McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "This is part of a continuing French practice of throwing sand in the gears of the Atlantic alliance. But now they're playing a dangerous game, and coming close to rendering themselves irrelevant." A few days later he even said that, "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) likened France to an aging '40s starlet "still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." [NY Times, 2/14/03. NY Daily News, 2/17/03]

• McCain attacked Germany for opposing the war - saying they lacked "political courage." McCain said that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder "looks little like the ally that anchored our presence in Europe throughout the Cold War...A German Rip Van Winkle from the 1960s would not understand the lack of political courage and cooperation with its allies on the question of Iraq exhibited in Berlin today." [Washington Times, 2/14/03]

• McCain is very unpopular around the world, and surveys have shown that the majority of the international community is rooting for him to lose. A recent BBC study found that of all the countries polled, none hope for a McCain presidency. In fact, in the case of a McCain administration, 36% of those polled thought that American relations with the world would stay the same, while a full 16% thought relations would further deteriorate.

• John McCain refused to say whether he would invite Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to the White House. The interview - conducted in English and translated into Spanish - was with the Florida affiliate of Spain's Union Radio. In the interview McCain appeared to have no idea who Prime Minister Zapatero was, apparently assuming he was a Latin American leader who might or might not be a friend of the United States. This confusion occurred despite the reporter explicitly saying "I'm talking about Spain." Ironically, just before McCain was asked about Prime Minister Zapatero, he asserted "I know the issues, I know the leaders." McCain's confusion puts that statement in serious doubt. Spain is an important NATO ally, plays an extremely influential role in Latin America, was brutally attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists in 2004, has nearly 1000 troops in Afghanistan, has lost more than 20 soldiers in Afghanistan, and has the eighth largest economy in the world. Senator McCain has campaigned for President on his foreign policy experience. Such confusion over the leader of a very important ally raises serious doubts about John McCain's foreign policy competence. [Huffington Post, 9/18/08. Interview with Condoleezza Rice, 6/01/07. Radio Caracol Miami, 9/17/08]

DEFENSE SPENDING

Claim 10: McCain will say he will cut wasteful defense spending. Reality: McCain has been all over the map on defense spending. His plan to add about 200,000 ground troops to the military would cost $25 billion a year. Meanwhile, in his budget plan released in July he promised to cut $160 billion from the budget by opposing the Future Combat System, yet he now criticizes Obama's promise to cut spending on that same program.

• McCain has made grandiose promises on defense that are not grounded in reality and represent the exact opposite of the fiscal reform that he will supposedly bring to the White House. John McCain has pledged to expand the ground forces by about 200,000 over current levels. He also says he will modernize the armed forces by "procuring advanced weapons systems." Yet at the same time, McCain has pledged to control defense spending. This doesn't add up. The CBO estimates that increasing the ground forces to the current goal of about 750,000 will cost about $110 billion over seven years; this is roughly $15 billion per year. Using the same projections, increasing the size of the ground forces by an additional 150,000 over this same period would cost an additional $175 billion or $25 billion per year. The costs would likely be much higher as McCain is proposing a 25 percent increase in the size of the ground forces and attracting that many volunteers will require significant funding. [Foreign Affairs, 11-12/08. John McCain.com 9/10/08. CBO, 4/16/07]

• John McCain's own budget plan - the one that he claims will reform Washington - opposes the Future Combat System and claims he would cut $160 billion in spending. McCain's plan submitted in July 2008 to the Washington Post specifically claims that balancing the budget "requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half -- hopefully more), slower discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements ($160 billion; there are lots of procurements -- airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed)." And Senator McCain has long been an opponent of the Future Combat System. [Washington Post, 7/14/08. The Hill, 4/05/05]

• John McCain blasted Barack Obama for opposing Future Combat System - but McCain also opposed it. Barack Obama stated clearly that he would "cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," by "slowing the development of Future Combat Systems," while also working separately to "increase the size of our military," so the present strain on the armed forces would diminish. McCain misrepresented these separate positions, calling Obama a flip-flopper before audiences in Missouri "Of course, now he wants to increase it," McCain told an audience in Lee's Summit, Missouri on Monday. "But during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars.'" [CNN, 9/08/08]

Total Pageviews