Friday, October 31, 2008

Factchecking 43's Fuzzy Math

George Bush has been giving us fuzzy math for eight long years, from faulty punch-card ballots, to misunderestimates on everything from Medicare costs to the Iraq War bill. Now, here's one more error that must be fixed for history's sake: the presidential tally.

Bush's nickname for Clinton—he has them for most everyone—is 42, a reference to his standing as the 42nd president of the United States, and his dad, George Sr., Bush calls 41. That makes him 43, and our next president 44. Straightforward enough math, simple addition, right? Yeah, but he still has it wrong, and so does everyone else who plays along. Here's why:

Grover Cleveland was president from 1885-89, and again from 1893-1897, with Benjamin Harrison serving the term in between. By current numeration, then, Cleveland was our 22nd and our 24th president, but this is just a matter of non-consecutive termage. To those who say, "he served as both 22 and 24" well then by that logic George Washington was both our 1st and 2nd president, Thomas Jefferson our 4th and 5th, and so on with all of our multi-termers who were newly elected each time. counts Cleveland twice and lands at 43 currently, but if we are truly talking terms then we have way more than 43 terms served. The sum total is the number of presidents we've had, not the number of terms served by all presidents. And any way you slice it, even if you want to parse out Cleveland's terms into two eras, we have actually only had 42 presidents total, meaning at least an asterisk is in order. Because what are people conveying when they refer to that historical number—that 43 men have served in that office. Besides who would vote to give Grover Cleveland, of all presidents, two ticks and guys like Teddy, FDR, and Washington only one?

This might be trivial trivia in the grand scheme of things, but it's worth correcting so we are historically accurate in referring to the chronology and legacy of our executive leaders. And even if the numbering system stays as is, people should take care not to say Obama/McCain is our 44th president, because, no matter how much they might want to flee from the association, one of these men will in fact be #43.

Consider this too: while Bush may have fooled us twice, wouldn't it be nice if 43 were a do-over?

Original here

Court Docs: GOP Donor Secretly Funneled $75K To Coleman Family

The CEO of a major marine technology company is alleging that he was pressured by a friend and associate of Norm Coleman to secretly funnel tens of thousands of dollars to the Senator's family.

Paul McKim, the founder and CEO of Deep Marine Technology, alleges in a civil suit that Nasser Kazeminy -- a longtime Republican donor, friend of Coleman, and DMT shareholder -- directed the company to send $75,000 to the Senator and his wife.

The transaction, which occurred in 2007, allegedly went as follows: DMT would make payments for services to Hays Company, even though no services would be rendered. Since Norm Coleman's wife Laurie worked at Hays, that money would be given to her in the form of 'salary.'

According to the suit filed against Kazeminy and several other defendants:

In March 2007, Kazeminy began ordering the payments of corporate funds to companies and individuals who tendered no goods or services to DMT for the stated purpose of trying to financially assist United States Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. In March 2007, Kazeminy telephoned B.J. Thomas, then DMT's Chief Financial Officer. In that conversation, Kazeminy told Mr. Thomas that "U.S. Senators don't make [expletive deleted]" and that he was going to find a way to get money to United States Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota and wanted to utilize DMT in the process. Mr. Thomas later approached Mr. McKim, asking him whether this was appropriate and whether they should follow Kazeminy's orders. Mr McKim told him that it was not appropriate and shortly thereafter he also spoke with Kazeminy."

In this same conversation, Kazeminy told Mr. McKim that he [Kazeminy] would make sure there was paperwork to make it appear as though the payments were made in connection with legitimate transactions, explaining further that Senator Coleman's wife, Laurie, worked for the Hays Companies, an insurance broker in Minneapolis, and that the payments could be made to Hays for insurance. When Mr. McKin made further objections, Kazeminy repeatedly threatened to fire Mr. McKim, telling him "this is my company" and that he and Mr. Thomas had better follow his orders in paying Hays.

All told, the court documents, which were filed on Monday in a Texas district court, allege that three payments of $25,000 were sent through Hays Company to the Colemans from May 2007 through September 2007. Two of those came without McKim's approval because Kazeminy went around him. A fourth payment was "in the process of being made" before being stopped by McKim, the suit alleges.

Sen. Coleman was initially asked about these findings on Wednesday, when two investigative reporters from the Minneapolis Star Tribune cornered him at a campaign rally. He ducked their questions.

On Thursday, Coleman's campaign manager Cullen Sheehan was asked about the issue during a press conference, He claimed that "the lawsuit was withdrawn," and said he had no further details to offer. "I just know there was a lawsuit filed and it was withdrawn."

Casey T. Wallace, the attorney representing McKim, confirmed the withdrawal and said he would have more comment later in the day [updated below]. A person familiar with the case, however, emphasized that while the complaint may have been withdrawn, the charges contained within it were still valid.

"It doesn't affect that," said the official. "By withdrawing the complaint and withdrawing the petition, we are not saying now that our allegations are false."

Requests for comment from McKim and the Coleman campaign went un-returned. But lawyers familiar with Senate ethics law say that if the complaint turns out to be true, Coleman could be in hot water, possibly facing a trial and potentially jail time.

"This is why [Sen]. Ted Stevens just got convicted," said a Washington D.C.-based attorney. "If this is true and Kazeminy gave a gift -- which includes money to a candidate's family member -- it doesn't mean that you can't take it, but you would have to report it on [your financial disclosure form]... If he knew about it, and of course, all of this has to be proven to be true, then yeah," he could go to jail.

The attorney additionally noted that the firm representing McKim in this suit is Haynes and Boone, "a pretty serious law firm that is a major player in Houston. I can't believe they would have agreed to file this if they didn't have documentation to support this."

Kazeminy, a reclusive businessman who serves as chairman of Minnesota-based NJK Holding Corporation, has significant ties to Coleman. The Kazeminy family has contributed more than $75,000 to the Senator directly and has paid for flights for him and (occasionally) his wife to the Bahamas, Paris and Jordan, often described as fact finding missions. Kazeminy is even alleged to have paid for Coleman's suits, a charge that the Coleman campaign has never denied.

UPDATE: An official close to the proceedings tells the Huffington Post that the case is now going back to court. The two parties, he said, had reached an agreement to drop the suit and hammer out a settlement. But negotiations broke down and the suit has been re-introduced.

Original here

Virginia=Win; North Carolina=Landslide

Here is a handy dandy guide to watching election night. The East Coast states will report first. If John McCain is going to win, then he will win Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. And then it will take the rest of the night to figure out if he still has enough electoral votes. Obama's victory could be a lot easier to figure out.

If Obama wins Virginia - it's over. That simple. He is comfortably ahead in all of the blue states that John Kerry won in 2004. He is very likely to win all of those. He is also comfortably ahead in Iowa and New Mexico. So, that means all he has to do to get an electoral majority is win Virginia, or Ohio, or Florida, or Colorado. Any of them will do. If McCain wins three out of the four, he still loses.

So, unless something gargantuanly unexpected happens, if they call Virginia for Obama, you will know at that moment that he is the next President of the United States.

Notice North Carolina is not on the list of states that Obama needs. That's because if he wins North Carolina, then he probably won all of those other states anyway and he has blown John McCain out of the water. So, if they call North Carolina for Obama, that's the moment you know that we have a landslide on our hands.

Now, none of this is bound to happen. The polls are just polls, they are not actual votes. That's why they play the games on Sunday (and in this case, do the voting on Tuesday). But this is just a quick guide to watching the game. Virginia equals Obama win. North Carolina equals Obama landslide.

Original here

Obama uses his TV time well

By Robert Bianco

It pays to buy airtime only if you know what to do with it — and Barack Obama clearly does.

Voters will make the final judgment on the content and effectiveness of last night's cross-network infomercial, a half-hour block purchased by the Obama campaign from CBS, NBC, Fox, MSNBC, Univision, BET and TV One. But as a piece of political theater, the program was a low-key triumph, a message perfectly attuned to the cool side of the medium.

Unusual but not unique, Obama's 30-minute ad was the first such presidential campaign pitch since Ross Perot's series of extended TV talks in 1992. But where Perot's were notoriously (at times humorously) low-tech — just Perot and some pie charts — Obama's was a more elaborate mix of live TV and tape that came across as well-produced without seeming slick and overproduced.

The show presented Obama as both candidate and host, making his points by introducing representative Americans and their stories. Each segment was bracketed by Obama speaking in a wood-paneled office, a flag prominent in the background, as he calmly laid out his plans.

In part, the show was designed to prove Obama understands us, that he can connect with the problems of workers and retirees. But it was also designed to help us understand him, to become comfortable with the idea of him as president. Reassurance was not just the point of the biographical tidbits and the recorded testimonials; it was the point of the entire broadcast.

There was talk about tough issues but no harsh attacks on the other side and no flashes of anger. It was if the campaign had adopted a new political mantra: Speak softly and carry a big ad.

The only break in tone came at the end, as the ad cut to Obama's live speech in Florida, and the candidate was forced to raise his voice above the recorded whisper. But even that shift was caused more by the venue than by any change in message.

Some parts, perhaps, were hokey: the soft piano music, the rapt faces of the adoring crowd. But if these are political film clichés, they're clichés because they work. They were well-used here to convey the ad's underlying message: "I am one of you."

Did it amount to Obama Overload? In the old three-network universe, it might have. But we live in a multimedia world where anyone who lost interest had hundreds of other available choices. At any rate, Obama's team chose his time slot well: Only someone who's ready to be offended could be sorely chafed at being denied Knight Rider, Gary Unmarried and a baseball pregame show.

You can, of course, complain about the money spent. But it's hard not to think it was well-spent.

And if the format catches on, doesn't it at least stand a chance of being more informative than the 60 30-second spots it replaced?

Original here

Red State Socialism: 84% Red States Take More Than They Give

Data Source:

Original here

Obama Not A Socialist, McCain Admits (VIDEO)

In an interview with Larry King that aired last night, John McCain admitted that he doesn't think Barack Obama is a socialist, which runs counter to most of his campaign rhetoric for the past week. The admission is reminiscent of when McCain, after days of hammering Obama about a supposedly sexist remark, finally conceded that Obama probably wasn't calling Sarah Palin a pig when referencing "lipstick on a pig" at a campaign speech. Video below, with transcript:

Transcript, via CNN:

KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist, do you?

MCCAIN: No. But, I do believe -- I do believe that he's been in the far left of American politics. He has stated time after time that he believes in "spreading the wealth around." He's talked about courts that would redistribute the wealth.

He has a record of voting against tax cuts and for tax increases. And I don't think there's any doubt that he would increase spending and he would, sooner or later, we would be increasing taxes. There is no doubt in my mind that that's what his record -- 94 times he voted to cut taxes -- against tax cuts and for tax increases. He voted for -- and that's what matters. Not rhetoric. To raise taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year.

KING: Concerning spreading the wealth, isn't the graduated income tax spreading the wealth? If you and I paid more so that Jimmy can get some for him, or pay for a welfare recipient, that's spreading the wealth.

MCCAIN: Well, that's spreading the wealth in the respect that we do have a graduated income tax. That's a far cry from taking from one group of Americans and giving to another. I mean, that's dramatically different.

Sen. Obama clearly has talked about for years, redistributive policies. And that's not the way we create wealth in America. That's not the way we grow our economy. That's not the way we create jobs.

And when small business people see that half of their income, half of the income of small businesses is going to be taxed by Sen, Obama, then they're very upset with it.

KING: He says, it's only the personal income tax. If you run a store, if you make $250,000 or more, as a personal income, not a business income, that's where he's (INAUDIBLE).

MCCAIN: And that's where his folks just reduced it to $200,000. And then Sen. Biden yesterday said $150,000. And the fact is that if Joe the Plumber is able to buy the business that he works in, the guy that he buys it from is going to see an increase in capital gains taxes. They're going to see an increase in payroll taxes. They're going to see -- if he reaches a certain level, an increase in his income taxes. And that's what got people concerned. That's what's got Joe the Plumber upset. He wants to redistribute the money.

KING: Doesn't taxes pay for services?

MCCAIN: Taxes pay for services.


MCCAIN: But, do we want -- taxes pay to keep our government secure. To help those who can't help themselves. And other functions of government, which, by the way, expanded by some 40 percent in the last eight years and gave us a $10 trillion debt --

KING: Under Bush.

MCCAIN: And to the last two years, under Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

But, that's the job of government. But it is not the job of government that I believe in, that would take a group of Americans who have some money and say, we're taking your money, and we're giving it to others. This 95 percent tax cut he's talking about for 95 percent of Americans -- 40 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So he is just going to give them some money. Where is he going to get it? He is increasing taxes for other groups of Americans. That's his plan.

KING: What are you going to do?

MCCAIN: I'm going to keep taxes low. I'm going to ...

KING: Where they are?

MCCAIN: Sure. Absolutely

Original here

McCain Shocked That Obama Campaign Would ‘Boycott’ Hostile Media

Last week, Sen. Joe Biden (D-IL) sat down for an interview with Barbara West of WFTV in Orlando, FL. The result was one of the most “embarrassing,” “hostile,” and “blatantly biased” interviews of the campaign season, according to media experts. One example of West’s questions to Biden was whether Obama wanted to “turn America into a Socialist country like Sweden.” Following that decision, the campaign canceled West’s upcoming interview with Biden’s wife.

Yesterday in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was incredulous that the Obama campaign would “boycott” WFTV: “And of course, if anybody in the media, much less Joe the Plumber asks a tough question, then they’re boycotted. They pull their ads, etc.” Watch it:

McCain should know all about boycotting the media. Some examples:

– McCain canceled an appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live after CNN’s Campbell Brown conducted a tough interview with McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds about Palin’s foreign policy experience.

– Last month, the McCain campaign barred New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from flying on both the McCain and Palin press planes after she wrote a negative column.

– McCain campaign officials barred Time’s Joe Klein from traveling with them, after he asked McCain an uncomfortable question about foreign policy.

– Campaign officials have repeatedly gone on air to bash journalists after tough interviews, saying that Katie Couric asked Palin “a series of trapdoor questions,” the New York Times “cast aside it’s journalistic integrity to advocate for the defeat of John McCain,” and demanded that the media treat Palin with “deference.”

Yesterday, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani leveled similar charges against the Obama campaign, saying that the West debacle “gives an indication of what an Obama administration would be like. I mean, as long as you drink their Kool-Aid, you’re fine.” Earlier in the week, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney condoned West’s interview, saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”


J. MCCAIN: This Joe the Plumber event has really been a catalyst. It really has. You know we look back on political campaigns. I paid for this microphone, Mr. Breen. Ed Muskie crying outside the Union Leader, or whatever it was, you know?

There are moments when something happened, and clearly Senator Obama going to Joe the Plumber’s drive way, and him getting an answer that clearly he didn’t like, and, by the way, the way that they attacked him, please.

HANNITY: They’ve gone after him pretty hard. They’ve mocked him on the campaign trail. There’s been, apparently, issues of investigating his background.

McCAIN: Yes.

HANNITY: And I thought Governor Palin had it bad at one point when they sent a mini army up to Alaska to investigate her. Well, here’s –

McCAIN: And of course, if anybody in the media, much less Joe the Plumber asks a tough question, then they’re boycotted. They pull their ads, etc.

Original here

Thursday, October 30, 2008

AP Poll: Obama Leads Or Ties In Eight Crucial States

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pauses for a moment while addressing supporters at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama leads in four states won by President Bush in 2004 and is essentially tied in two other Republican states, according to new AP-GfK battleground polling that suggests most roads to victory are closed to John McCain. Obama could win big.

While no poll can predict next week's results, the AP-GfK surveys explain why Obama is hoping not just for a win but a transcendent victory that remakes the nation's political map. McCain is scrambling to defend states where he wouldn't even be campaigning if the race were closer.

Less than a week before Election Day, the AP-GfK polls show Obama winning among early voters, favored on almost every issue, benefiting from the country's sour mood and widely viewed as the winning candidate by voters in eight crucial states _ Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"I've never seen the United States in this bad of shape," said Debby Granik, an executive assistant from Las Vegas who voted for Obama last week. "We need change. We need change desperately."

Despite a mounting chorus of Republicans predicting their nominee's demise, McCain aides insist their internal surveys show victory is still within reach.

Indeed, polls are mere snapshots of highly fluid campaigns, and this race has been unusually volatile. McCain was written off prematurely last year, and Obama seemed poised for victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary just before Hillary Rodham Clinton thumped him.

Even this close to Election Day, racial tensions and the numbers of late-deciding voters identified by the AP-GfK polling leave room for doubt. But the surveys confirm what McCain aides acknowledge privately _ their chances of winning are low.

The polling shows Obama leading in Ohio (7 percentage points), Nevada (12 points), Colorado (9) and Virginia (7), all red states won by Bush that collectively offer 47 electoral votes. Sweeping those four _ or putting together the right combination of two or three _ would almost certainly make Obama president.

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House. Obama can earn 252 by merely reclaiming states won by John Kerry in 2004. There are only two Kerry states still in contention _ Pennsylvania with 21 votes and New Hampshire with four _ and AP-GfK polls show Obama leading both by double digits.

Ohio alone has 20 electoral votes. Nevada has 5, Colorado 9 and Virginia 13.

In addition, Obama is tied with McCain in North Carolina and Florida, according to the AP-GfK polling, two vote-rich states Bush carried in 2004. Obama is throwing his time and money into the Sunshine State, which has 27 votes, part of a strategy to create many routes to victory and push toward a landslide of 300 or more electoral votes. North Carolina has 15 votes.

Independent polling suggests that New Mexico and Iowa, two traditionally GOP states, are out of reach for McCain. Other red states may be creeping away from him and into contention, including Montana.

The bottom line: McCain must overtake Obama in the many red states where he is trailing or tied _ a tall order. Or he needs to gain some breathing room by winning Pennsylvania, where he trails by 12 percentage points, according to the AP-GfK poll.

Many of his own supporters say the race is all but over.

"If you believe in miracles," said GOP consultant Joe Gaylord of Arlington, Va., "you still believe in McCain."

"I get the sense it's shutting down," said Tom Rath, a GOP consultant in New Hampshire where McCain trails by 18 points.

He added, "Where there's a week, there's hope."

A couple of factors might cut McCain's way.

First, there are still a good number of voters are open to changing their minds _ from as low as 4 percent in Nevada to 14 percent in New Hampshire.

Thomas Aelker, a Republican from central Florida who considered voting for Obama, said he's back with McCain. He said of Obama, "I just think his lack of experience will be a detriment."

Second, the impact of race is a hard-to-measure factor as Obama seeks to become the nation's first black president.

In three states _ North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania _ the number of white Democrats who said the word "violent" described most blacks hit double digits in the polling.

In those same states, Obama was having trouble winning over white Democrats _ 20 percent of them in North Carolina said they were voting for McCain; 12 percent in Florida and 8 percent in Pennsylvania.

Obama may have coattails. Democrats lead the Senate races in Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia, according to AP-GfK polls. In North Carolina, GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole is essentially tied with state Sen. Kay Hagan.

In all four of those Senate races, the Democratic candidate leads among early voters, a sign of a strong ground game driven by the top of the ticket. Obama easily outpaces McCain among early voters, holding about a 2-1 advantage in six of the states.

Obama is favored on almost every issue in every state, the polling says:

_Voters in all eight states gave him the highest marks on whom they trust to fix the economy and improve health care.

_Even on the question of "who would make the right decision about national security," typically a strong suit for McCain, Obama holds a slight lead in Nevada and is running even against his GOP rival in Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

_Obama's message of change is playing well among women, especially in Florida where they gave Obama 54 percent of their support in the polling.

Susan Pogue, 56, of West Palm Beach, said McCain lost her vote during the final debate. "When it comes to meeting with world leaders," she said, "I want someone who is not clucking and rolling his eyes."

_By large margins, voters in each of the eight states consider Obama the likely winner Tuesday.

_Voters in each state believe McCain has run a far more negative campaign.

_Seven in 10 Hispanics in Colorado say they are voting for Obama, a margin that could help him win a state that has chosen Democratic presidential candidates just three times since 1948.

The political landscape tilts against McCain. Just 8 percent of voters in New Hampshire think the country is headed in the right direction. Three-quarters of voters in Pennsylvania disapprove of Bush's job performance. Nine in 10 voters in North Carolina are worried about the economy.

"I'm a Bush-generated Democrat," said Connie Lilly of Richmond, Va.

The AP-GfK Battleground State Poll was conducted from Oct. 22-26 in eight states. It involved interviews by landline telephone with likely voters in each state, ranging from 600 in Florida and New Hampshire to 628 in Nevada. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points in Colorado and Nevada, and 4 points in the other states.


AP Writers Gary D. Robertson in North Carolina, Kathy McCormack in New Hampshire, Kristen Wyatt in Denver, Martha Raffaele in Pennsylvania, John Seewer in Ohio, Brendan Farrington in Florida, Bob Lewis in Virginia and Kathleen Hennessey in Nevada contributed to this story.

Original here

Clerk charged with unlawful search of Joe the Plumber

Toledo Police have confirmed that a TPD records clerk is accused of performing an illegal search of information related to 'Joe the Plumber.'

Julie McConnell, has been charged with Gross Misconduct for allegedly making an improper inquiry into a state database in search of information pertaining to Samuel Wurzelbacher on Oct. 16.

Wurzelbacher came under the spotlight after being spoken about during the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

The inquiry into Wurzelbacher's record is a violation of department and state policy governing the use of the Law Enforcement Automated Data System. The clerk is under fire for making the inquiry for a non-law enforcement purpose.

McConnell was hired by the Toledo Police Department in April 1995 and assigned to the Investigative Services Bureau.

A discplinary hearing will be scheduled within the next ten days.

Original here

The Richardson Report: Two-and-a-Half (Fundamental, Plumber-Free) Reasons Not to Vote for John McCain

By John H. Richardson

John H. Richardson

Norma Jean Roy

Ed. Note: This is the third installment of John H. Richardson's weekly column, "The Richardson Report." Browse an archive here.

Can everybody please get a grip?

It doesn’t matter that Sarah Palin’s wardrobe cost $150,000. It doesn’t matter that a Web site with ties to Al Qaeda endorsed John McCain. Joe Biden’s "mark my words" gaffe about Barack Obama being tested early in office doesn’t matter. Neither does John McCain’s "I couldn’t agree more" gaffe about the racism of people in Western Pennsylvania.

Some pundits say McCain lost his honor when his campaign started this crap about Obama palling around with terrorists. Others say Obama hit a low blow with his inaccurate line about McCain wanting to fight in Iraq for 100 years. It doesn’t matter. And what really doesn’t matter is anything Joe the Plumber has to say about economics. In fact, I’m not so sure Joe the Plumber’s ideas on plumbing would, um, hold water.

Two things do matter: the war and the economy. Okay, maybe there’s a third: the Supreme Court. For that, I’ll refer you to the third part of the incredibly eloquent endorsement of Obama by the editors of Esquire. For the rest of why McCain’s Bizarro, plumber-laden realities don’t hold water with America’s real issues today, here’s my bottom line (plus a Palin-induced reality check):

1. Dr. Surgelove, or How McCain Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Iraq

John McCain is a war hero. He risked his campaign to support the surge. He took a principled stand against torture. These things are extremely admirable. But when it comes to Iraq, it’s scary how often he uses the words "victory" and "honor." Case in point, from a campaign stop in May: "I will never surrender in Iraq. Our American troops will come home with victory and with honor."

True, McCain doesn’t say such things so much anymore. He prefers to focus on Joe the Plumber and on the surge. But the surge is a tactic. The strategy was to roll back rogue states. The strategy was to put the big foot down in Iraq and scare the crap out of the Iranians and the Syrians and Hezbollah.

And that didn’t work out so well. The Iranians are stronger than ever, Hezbollah is practically running Lebanon, and the Bush administration is negotiating a plan for us to leave Iraq with our tail between our legs -- and even that is no guarantee that Iraq will stay peaceful five minutes after we leave. The strategy has failed, and failed spectacularly, but McCain and his cheerleaders on the right are too obsessed with "victory and honor" to admit it.

As Jeffrey Goldberg suggested recently in his intimate and thoughtful portrait of McCain for The Atlantic, all this is rooted in one of the most persistent delusions of the far right: the belief that America could have won the Vietnam war with just a little bit more effort.

McCain’s champions like to point out that he’s resisted foreign entanglements in places like Somalia. Even The New York Times described him this weekend as reflective and again as not the kind of "neoconservative idealist, who would promote American values anywhere and everywhere." But the fact remains that McCain started talking about "rogue state rollback" long before 9/11. The day after the attacks, he went on ABC and said that invading Afghanistan or killing Osama Bin Laden wouldn’t be enough -- that we would have to attack a "network" of terrorist sympathizers that included Iraq, Iran and Syria. A month later, he said on CNN that "very obviously, Iraq is the first country." In January 2002, he made his views even more explicit on an aircraft carrier on the Arabian sea: "Next up, Baghdad."

None of these philosophies have changed. McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor is Randy Scheunemann, a passionate supporter of the Iraq war who first started pushing for an invasion in 1998, said there was "no doubt" that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, helped Donald Rumsfeld plan the war, fought giving any role to the U.N., and promoted Ahmed Chalabi. Another top advisor is William Kristol, who recently compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain and said he would have stood by "as U.S. interests were sacrificed and U.S. honor besmirched."

If Neville Chamberlain is going to go down in history as the guy who appeased Hitler, then John McCain has to go down in history for promoting the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history.

And the scariest part is what McCain might do next. Consider what he told Goldberg: "While we don’t go around launching preemptive strikes all the time, we can’t afford to wait until a terrorist organization, or a nation which is an avowed enemy of the United States, has the capability to use weapons of mass destruction." Sound reasonable? Look at the words more closely, and think about the Cuban Missile Crisis. By McCain’s standards, the world would have ended already.

2. Bizarro Reagan and the Free Lunch Party’s Economic Katrina 2.0

As far as financial meltdowns go these days, all a sane person can really do is sit with his mouth open like a goldfish, blinking his eyes in amazement. McCain has abandoned 99 percent of the Republican talking points on economics. He never mentions the trickle-down theory. He doesn’t talk about deregulation. He certainly doesn’t talk about small government or fiscal prudence or getting rid of Social Security or privatizing every function of government that doesn’t include his current job. But he does talk about how important it is to give $600 billion to Wall Street or another $300 billion to buy up every bad mortgage in America. He’s like a Bizarro-world version of Reagan -- any minute, you expect him to reinstate the air traffic controllers.

But there is one talking point McCain loves: taking imaginary money away from Joe the Imaginary Plumber.

Again, it’s like a Bizarro-world version of reality. McCain’s party has bankrupted the country and presided over the greatest transfer of wealth since the Gilded Age -- due to Bush’s tax cuts, 20 percent of the money in the country is now in the hands of 1 percent of the people -- and all McCain can do is call for more tax cuts on the rich.

It’s an economic version of Bush’s response to Katrina: Spend trillions more dollars and don’t pay for it! Don’t look out the window of the plane! I say we change the name of the GOP to the FLP -- the Free Lunch Party.

As Politico reminded us this week, the geniuses in financial analysis still say that "the stock market likes Republicans more than Democrats." Why? Because "the key issue on Wall Street minds is…" Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the economic meltdown, not the millions of foreclosed homes, not the fact that without a middle class their corporations might cease to exist. Try corporate taxes.

All this as McCain’s closing-week stump speech on the economy proclaims that "this election comes down to how you want your hard-earned money spent." Sigh.

2.5. Sarah Palin and, Oh, Just the End of the World as We Know It

Okay, there is one more fundamental reason not to vote for McCain. Nobody put it better than Charles Fried, the McCain advisor who just endorsed Obama. Here’s the bomb -- involving more Reagan, financial meltdown and, yes, the contender with the $150,000 wardrobe -- that Fried dropped on The New Republic’s doorstep last week.

From the Mailbag

Lately I feel like this country is back in the O.J. moment, drawing opposite conclusions from the same evidence. So this e-mail cheered me up: "You’re stupid…PS. My fiancé is canceling his subscription to Esquire! You guys are soooooooo liberal, yuck!"

The good part came after I sent my dear reader some proof (in the form of old Esquire articles) that I believe that Charlton Heston was an American patriot and that the Bush administration drifted into torture in a sincere attempt to protect the country.

"Thanks for responding," she answered. "Maybe I was being harsh, I apologize. Fair enough!"

Thanks for writing, Cathy! That’s the spirit that might just save America -- with a little help from President Obama…

Also, last week I misspelled Richard Hayes Phillips's name. Sorry about that.

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Obama Addresses Crowd in Downpour; McCain Cancels

Tuesday was a tough day to be outside in Greater Philadelphia. The rain poured and the wind howled. The weather turned so nasty that the fifth (and possibly final) game of the World Series game scheduled for the night was postponed.

John McCain canceled a Tuesday morning rally at Memorial Stadium in the Philly suburb Quakertown.

Back in the city meanwhile, in driving wind and rain on the campus of Widener University in Chester, Senator Obama was greeted by thousands of supporters who cheered Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell when he introduced the Democratic presidential nominee and kept right on cheering as Obama took the stage and addressed the crowd. The crowd was multi-racial, wildly enthusiastic and drenched. Attendee Charlene McGrady was impressed with the enthusiasm but not surprised by the crowd's tenacity. "Philadelphia Phillies fans waited hours in the rain for the third game of the World Series. McCain either doesn't know much about the people in this area or doesn't have much faith in his supporters."

In a photo taken of the event taken by Robert Ford, Obama appears determined and hatless in the open air, buffeted by the storm.

Click on the photo to see HuffPo's slide show of the event.

Among the crowd at the Obama rally were many children. Described as an "historic day in Chester," the local school district closed the schools and Superintendent Gregory Thornton encouraged parents to take their children to the rally. He said they should "take advantage of this educational opportunity."

"The passion and persistence of Obama and the crowd that turned out to hear and see him despite the weather speaks volumes," said McGrady. "It's a telling contrast to the fair-weather attitude of the McCain campaign, which threw in the towel at the first drop of rain." She went on to add that John McCain and Sarah Palin went ahead with an indoor rally today in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which caused McGrady to comment wryly: "$150,000 for clothes and they apparently didn't buy her a raincoat."

McGrady felt the Pennsylvania cancellation was indicative of the entire McCain campaign, adding: "What a washout his campaign has been, in more ways than one."

Original here

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Top McCain Aides: 'Palin Simply Knew Nothing About National And International Issues'

The McCain campaign continues to snipe at each other over the handling, and subsequent effect, of Sarah Palin on the campaign trail. According Nicole Wallace, a senior McCain aide who is one of Palin's handlers and helped to orchestrate her initial rollout, there is an 'organized campaign to lay blame' for things at her feet. Robert Draper, however, offers a defense of Wallace, saying she's kept quiet about things that a couple of McCain higher-ups have leaked to him, and that Wallace was in a very unenviable position:

I'm sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they're decent people. They've held their tongue from leaking what a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me--namely, that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues. Which meant, as one such adviser said to me: "Letting Sarah be Sarah may not be such a good thing." It's a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus. I was told that Palin chafed at being defined by her discomfiting performances in the Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Sean Hannity interviews. She wanted to get back out there and do more. Well, if you're Eskew and Wallace, what do you say to that? Your responsibility isn't the care and feeding of Sarah Palin's ego; it's the furtherance of John McCain's quest for the presidency.

Draper also reports that McCain snubbed Palin during a long ride on the Straight Talk Express.

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Republicans are The Real Socialists

I've been watching the news for the last few days (or maybe the last week) and frankly the fact that any intelligent idea actually gets out and discussed in the national media seems far-fetched and impossible. According to right wing talkers/news outlets, Obama is a socialist and that's bad. The country is really scared of that possibility. Unfortunately, the real socialists are the Republicans.

First, let's take a look at what socialism is:

Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society[1][2] Modern socialism originated in the late nineteenth-century working class political movement. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution which represents the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.[3][4]

Let's look more closely at the phrase, "advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods." Simply put, that means the government owns business.

And isn't that exactly that is happening right now with the bail-out plan originally advanced by Hank Paulson?

Exhibit 1

These are challenging times for our financial markets. We are working closely with the Federal Reserve, the SEC and other regulators to enhance the stability and orderliness of our financial markets and minimize the disruption to our economy. I support the steps taken by the Federal Reserve tonight to assist AIG in continuing to meet its obligations, mitigate broader disruptions and at the same time protect the taxpayers.

So -- the federal government is now in the insurance business.

Exhibit 2:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged banks receiving $250 billion in capital injections from the government to use the funds to spur economic growth.

``We must restore confidence in our financial system,'' Paulson said at a press conference in Washington. ``The needs of our economy require that our financial institutions not take this new capital to hoard it, but to deploy it.''

With the equity purchases, Paulson is using more than a third of the $700 billion in government support Congress gave him the authority to use on Oct. 3. He didn't identify any of the lenders. People familiar with the plan said nine companies will get $125 billion: Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley, State Street Corp. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Bottom line: the federal government is now one of the largest owners of bank equity out there.

So please -- stop telling me that the statement "spread the wealth around" is a dangerous statement. The Federal Government -- under a plan proposed by a Republican Treasury Secretary -- is alreay making investments in the means of production. This is radical socialism in a far more extreme manner.

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McCain adviser: Palin is ‘a whack job.’

diverge.gifThe infighting within the McCain campaign has become increasingly public, with growing frustration directed at Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Last week, CNN reported that one McCain source called Palin “a diva” who “takes no advice from anyone.” Politico’s Mike Allen reports another McCain adviser’s criticism of Palin:

***In convo with Playbook, a top McCain adviser one-ups the priceless “diva” description, calling her “a whack job.”

Asked to respond to reports that she is “going rogue,” Palin declared them “absolutely, 100 percent false,” adding, “John McCain and I, and our camps, are working together to get John McCain elected.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted Palin’s word choice: “Your camps, plural? A McCain camp and a Palin camp? That does not sound good.”

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Audience members removed at McCain rally in Cedar Falls

Lara Elborno, a senior at the University of Iowa, is escorted out of Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz., campaign rally at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls Sunday. Elborno said she was sitting peacefully before asked to leave. Photo: Jon Lemons/Iowa State Daily

Audience members escorted out of Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz., campaign event in Cedar Falls questioned why they were asked to leave Sunday’s rally even though they were not protesting.

David Zarifis, director of public safety for the University of Northern Iowa, said McCain staffers requested UNI police assist in escorting out “about four or five” people from the rally prior to McCain’s speech.

Zarifis said while the people who were taken out weren’t protesting or causing problems, McCain’s staff were worried they would during the speech.

“Apparently, they had been identified by those staffers as potential protesters within the event,” Zarifis said. “The facility was rented by the RNC for the McCain campaign, so it’s really a private facility for them. We assisted in their desires to have those people removed.”

Lara Elborno, a student at the University of Iowa, said she was approached by a police officer and a McCain staffer and was told she had to leave or she would be arrested for trespassing.

“It was a very confusing, very frustrating situation,” Elborno said. “I said that I had a right to be there, I wasn’t doing anything disruptive — I was sitting, waiting for the rally to start.”

She said McCain staffers wouldn’t tell her why she was being asked to leave and when she got outside, she saw “a group of about 20 people” who had all been asked to leave.

Elborno said after seeing the people who were asked to leave, she was concerned that McCain’s staffers were profiling people on appearance to determine who might be a potential protester.

“When I started talking to them, it kind of became clear that they were kind of just telling people to leave that they thought maybe would be disruptive, but based on what? Based on how they looked,” Elborno said. “It was pretty much all young people, the college demographic.”

Elborno said even McCain supporters were among those being asked to leave.

“I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said ‘Why are you crying? and she said ‘I already voted for McCain, I’m a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didn’t look right,’” Elborno said. “They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.”

Elborno said while she has protested at events before, no plans were discussed beforehand for a protest and she shouldn’t have been taken out because she was not causing a disturbance.

“If I had been disruptive, then I would have deserved to be taken out,” Elborno said. “But at the time I was asked to leave, I wasn’t doing anything.”

Elborno said she’s stunned at how the situation was handled, especially McCain’s staffers’ refusal to discuss the matter.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.

Despite repeated attempts, McCain’s campaign could not be reached for comment.

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McCain Support Continues Downward Spiral Obama Leads by 19 Among Those Who Have Already Voted

Barack Obama leads John McCain by a 52% to 36% margin in Pew’s latest nationwide survey of 1,325 registered voters. This is the fourth consecutive survey that has found support for the Republican candidate edging down. In contrast, since early October weekly Pew surveys have shown about the same number of respondents saying they back Obama. When the sample is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 38%.

A breakdown of voting intentions by demographic groups shows that since mid- September, McCain’s support has declined significantly across most voting blocs. Currently, McCain holds a statistically significant advantage only among white evangelical Protestants (aside from Republicans). In addition, Obama runs nearly even with McCain in the so-called red states, all of which George W. Bush won in 2004.

Just as ominous for the Republican candidate, Obama holds a 53% to 34% lead among the sizable minority of voters (15%) who say they have already voted. Among those who plan to vote early but have not yet voted (16% of voters), 56% support Obama, while 37% support McCain.

While Obama’s support levels have not increased much in recent weeks, a growing percentage of his backers now say they support him strongly. Currently, 74% of Obama voters say they support him strongly, up from 65% in mid-September. A much smaller majority of McCain backers (56%) say they support him strongly, which is largely unchanged from mid-September.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 23-26 among 1,500 adults interviewed on landline and cell phones, for the first time includes minor-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr. Few voters support either candidate, and their inclusion does not substantially affect the margins of support in the Obama-McCain race.

The survey finds that the proportion of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s job performance has hit a new high in a Pew survey (70%); just 22% now approve of the way Bush is handling his job. Since January, when Bush’s job rating was already quite low, at 31%, his approval mark has declined by nine points.

As disapproval of President Bush’s job performance has edged upward, fewer voters say that McCain would take the country in a different direction from Bush’s. Currently, more voters say McCain would continue Bush’s policies than say he would take the country in a different direction (47% vs. 40%). Just a week ago (Oct. 16-19), voters were divided over whether McCain would continue Bush’s policies or not (44% continue, 45% take new direction).

Favorable ratings for the Republican Party, which rose sharply following the party’s convention in early September, have declined to about their previous levels. Currently, 50% say they have an unfavorable opinion of the GOP, while 40% express a favorable opinion of the party; in mid-September, about as many had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party as an unfavorable one (47% favorable vs. 46% unfavorable).

By contrast, a solid majority (57%) continues to express a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 33% have an unfavorable impression. Majorities have expressed positive opinions of the Democratic Party for the past two years (since October 2006).

Obama-McCain Matchup

Coming out of the party conventions in September, Obama and McCain were running even. As the campaign enters the final stretch, Obama maintains a solid lead over McCain, with few significant changes since mid-October among key voter groups.

In mid-September (Sept. 9-14), McCain held significant advantages among those earning more than $75,000 a year, white evangelical Protestants, whites who have not completed college, and white men. Today, he maintains a significant advantage only among white evangelical voters, and has lost the lead or seen it shrink in most other categories.

For example, among voters earning $75,000 a year or more, McCain held a 53% to 39% advantage in the Sept. 9-14 survey. Now, Obama leads by 52% to 41%. After the conventions, McCain held a 52% to 38% edge among white voters. Today, he and Obama are running evenly at 44% each. In September, McCain held a 56% to 34% advantage among white respondents with some college education. Now, the candidates tally 46% each.

Meanwhile, the latest survey shows Obama continuing to dominate among his core support groups. Nearly seven-in-ten voters younger than 30 (68%) say they support the Illinois senator, compared to 24% who say they support McCain. Among women, Obama leads by 20 points (54% to 34%).

Fewer See McCain Taking ‘New Direction’

Since last spring, American voters have been divided over whether McCain would continue President Bush’s policies or take the country in a new direction, should the Republican nominee become president. In the current survey, however, a plurality of voters (47%) say the Republican nominee would continue Bush’s polices while four-in-ten say McCain would take the country in a new direction.

Independent voters have become substantially more likely to say McCain would continue Bush’s policies (37% in mid-October, 48% now) than to say he would take the country in a new direction (50% in mid-October, 38% now). By comparison, there have been no significant changes in opinion among Republican voters or Democratic voters: The vast majority of Republican voters (74%) say McCain would take the country in a different direction, while nearly as many Democratic voters (69%) say he would continue Bush’s policies.

Who Would the Candidates Favor?

Half of voters say that, if elected, McCain “would do too much for wealthy Americans.” Far fewer – just 17% – believe that Obama “would do too much for African Americans” if he is elected. These opinions are largely unchanged since mid-September.

Whites who have not completed college are more likely than white college graduates to say that Obama would do too much for blacks (24% vs. 8%). Nearly half of whites (46%) who have not finished college say that McCain would do too much for the wealthy.

Among all white voters, 19% say, if elected, Obama would do too much for blacks; roughly twice as many (39%) say that McCain, if he is elected, would do too much for the wealthy.

Who Are The Undecideds?

A week before the election, nearly one-in ten voters (8%) remain undecided in their choice for president and there is little to suggest that these voters will move strongly to one candidate or the other on election day.

When undecided voters are asked whether there is a chance they might vote for McCain or for Obama, only 14% indicate a preference for one candidate over the other (7% for McCain and 7% for Obama). More than three-quarters (78%) of the undecideds continue to express uncertainty: about three-in-ten (29%) say they might vote for either of the two candidates, while almost half (49%) say that they do not know if there’s a chance they might vote for either Obama or McCain. The remaining 8% say they will vote for neither candidate.

Undecided voters are less educated, less affluent, and somewhat more likely to be female than the average voter. Nearly half of undecided voters (48%) say they attend religious services at least weekly, which is same as the proportion of McCain supporters. Fewer Obama supporters (31%) say theyattend religious services at least once a week.

On most issues, the positions held by undecided voters fall between those of Obama and McCain supporters, although they are somewhat more similar to McCain supporters on the issue of illegal immigration. Overall, these voters are more likely than supporters of either candidate to say they don’t have an opinion about most issues.

Undecided voters do clearly distinguish themselves from supporters of both McCain and Obama in their lower levels of participation and interest in this election, and partisan politics in general. A majority (51%) of undecideds do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic parties and fewer than half (48%) report having voted in the primaries this year; by contrast, 63% of both Obama and McCain supporters say they voted in a primary.

Fewer than four-in-ten undecided voters (37%) say they are following news about the election very closely. By contrast, majorities of both Obama supporters (56%) and McCain supporters (55%) say they are tracking election news very closely.

Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates among a nationwide sample of 1,500 adults, 18 years of age or older, from October 23-26, 2008 (1,125 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 375 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 127 who had no landline telephone). Both the landline and cell phone samples were provided by Survey Sampling International.

The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, region, and population density to parameters from the March 2007 Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The sample is also weighted to match current patterns of telephone status and relative usage of landline and cell phones (for those with both), based on extrapolations from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the sample.

The following table shows the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:


Sample Size

Plus or minus…

Total sample


3.0 percentage points

Registered voter sample


3.0 percentage points

Likely voter sample


3.5 percentage points

Republican registered voter sample


6.0 percentage points

Democratic registered voter sample


5.0 percentage points

Independent registered voter sample


5.5 percentage points

Certain McCain voters


5.5 percentage points

Certain Obama voters


4.5 percentage points

Swing voters


9.0 percentage points

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.


The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues. We are sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts and are one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The Center's purpose is to serve as a forum for ideas on the media and public policy through public opinion research. In this role it serves as an important information resource for political leaders, journalists, scholars, and public interest organizations. All of our current survey results are made available free of charge.

All of the Center’s research and reports are collaborative products based on the input and analysis of the entire Center staff consisting of:

Andrew Kohut, Director
Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research
Carroll Doherty and Michael Dimock, Associate Directors
Kim Parker, Senior Researcher
Michael Remez, Senior Writer
Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Robert Suls, Shawn Neidorf, Leah Christian and Jocelyn Kiley,
Research Associates
Kathleen Holzwart and Alec Tyson, Research Analysts

© Pew Research Center, 2008

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McCain Funded Work Of Palestinian His Campaign Hopes To Tie To Obama

The latest guilt-by-association target that the McCain campaign is using to hit Barack Obama could carry some collateral damage for its own candidate.

As Politico's Ben Smith reported on Tuesday, the McCain campaign is demanding that the Los Angeles Times release video in its possession of a party attended by Barack Obama and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi.

"A major news organization is intentionally suppressing information that could provide a clearer link between Barack Obama and Rashid Khalidi," said McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb, citing Obama's friendship with Khalidi, who is now a professor at Columbia University.

The McCain camp gambit comes after conservative writers have repeatedly pressed for media outlets to write about the rather tenuous connections between Obama and Khalidi, an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights.

Specifically, National Review writers want much more attention paid to the association, given that the LA Times has reported that Khalidi lavished praise on Obama at a farewell party in Chicago at which Bill Ayers was also present. (Other writers have accused Khalidi of being an aide to Yasser Arafat, a claim which Marc Ambinder and Ari Berman have suggested is not credible.)

In regards to Khalidi, however, the guilt-by-association game burns John McCain as well.

During the 1990s, while he served as chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain distributed several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars.

A 1998 tax filing for the McCain-led group shows a $448,873 grant to Khalidi's Center for Palestine Research and Studies for work in the West Bank. (See grant number 5180, "West Bank: CPRS" on page 14 of this PDF.)

The relationship extends back as far as 1993, when John McCain joined IRI as chairman in January. Foreign Affairs noted in September of that year that IRI had helped fund several extensive studies in Palestine run by Khalidi's group, including over 30 public opinion polls and a study of "sociopolitical attitudes."

Of course, there's seemingly nothing objectionable with McCain's organization helping a Palestinian group conduct research in the West Bank or Gaza. But it does suggest that McCain could have some of his own explaining to do as he tries to make hay out of Khalidi's ties to Obama.

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Obama's Redistribution 'Bombshell'

Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

"In a previously uncovered interview from September 6, 2001, Barack Obama expressed his regret that the Supreme Court hadn't been more 'radical' and described as a 'tragedy' the Court's refusal to take up 'the issues of redistribution of wealth.' No wonder he wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench."
--McCain economics adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin

With just over a week to go until the election, the McCain campaign is stepping up its efforts to portray Barack Obama as a closet "socialist" bent on implementing a major redistribution of wealth in American society. The Illinois Democrat's remarks to "Joe the Plumber" on "spreading the wealth around" are Exhibit A in the Son of Karl Marx argument. Exhibit B is a newly-discovered interview that Obama gave to a Chicago public radio station back in 2001 in which he mentioned the R-word several times in a generally positive context.

Did Obama really say what the McCain camp says he said?

The Facts

"Obama Bombshell Audio Uncovered. He wants to Radically Reinterpret the Constitution to Redistribute Wealth!!" runs the YouTube headline from the conservative video blog Naked Emperor News. "This video exposes the radical beneath the rhetoric."

On closer inspection, the "bombshell audio" turns out to be a rather wonkish, somewhat impenetrable, discussion of the Supreme Court under Earl Warren. Obama, then a University of Chicago law professor and Illinois state senator, argued that the courts have traditionally been reluctant to get involved in income distribution questions. He suggested that the civil rights movement had made a mistake in expecting too much from the courts -- and that such issues were better decided by the legislative branch of government.

You can read the entire transcript of the interview here, courtesy of Fox News, but here is the passage in which Obama explains that courts are "not very good" at redistributing wealth:

Maybe I am showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but you know I am not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know the institution just isn't structured that way.... Any of the three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts. I think that, as a practical matter, that our institutions are just poorly equipped to do it.

In other words, Obama says pretty much the opposite of what the McCain camp says he said. Contrary to the spin put on his remarks by McCain economics adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, he does not express "regret" that the Supreme Court has not been more "radical." Nor does he describe the Court's refusal to take up economic redistribution questions as a "tragedy." He uses the word "tragedy" to refer not to the Supreme Court, but to the civil rights movement:

One of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think, there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.

Holtz-Eakin "read a different interview to the one I heard," said Dennis Hutchinson, a University of Chicago law professor who joined Obama in the panel discussion. "Obama said that redistribution of wealth issues need to be decided by legislatures, not by the courts. That is what a progressive income tax is all about."

While there are sharp differences between the two candidates on economic issues, they both favor a progressive income tax system in which people with high incomes are taxed at a higher rate than people with low incomes.

The Pinocchio Test

With very few exceptions, all American politicians, including both presidential candidates, are in favor of a progressive income tax system and welfare policies (such as Medicare and Social Security) that "redistribute wealth." Barack Obama is more enthusiastic about "spreading the wealth around" than his Republican rival. But that does not make him a "Socialist." The McCain camp is wrong to suggest that the Illinois senator advocated an "wealth redistribution" role for the Supreme Court in his 2001 interview.

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McCain Campaign Soaked by Stories of Palin Strife

Not awkward at all.Photo: Getty Images

Last Thursday we sensed some strife in the wind, buoyed by stories of $150,000 wardrobes and "lack of chemistry." Get ready, we said, because as the McCain campaign begins to stumble toward the finish line, you're going to start reading all sorts of stories about how John McCain and Sarah Palin are seriously butting heads. The very next day, the reports started hitting newsstands and the Internet, resulting in a weekend devoted to documenting every little bit of gristle in the tough, maverick-y meat of the Republican ticket. Turns out Palin is reportedly chafing against the former Bush aides tasked to manage her, and has added a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and campaign "robocalls" to the list of topics on which she publicly disagrees with McCain. Here are some of the best bits:

• "There's a faction within the McCain campaign has begun to whisper about Gov. Sarah Palin to reporters. The faction includes staff members and advisers who consult with staff members. It does not seem to include any members of the senior staff, although the definition of the senior staff here is a bit elastic. This faction has come to believe that Palin, perhaps unwittingly, subconsciously or otherwise, has begun to play Sen. McCain off of the base, consistently and deliberately departed from the campaign's message of the day in ways that damage McCain." [Atlantic]

• "'She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane,' said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to 'go rogue' in some of her public pronouncements and decisions. 'I think she'd like to go more rogue,' he said … 'These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves,' a McCain insider said, referring to McCain's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, and to Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush aide who has taken a lead role in Palin's campaign. Palin's partisans blame Wallace, in particular, for Palin's avoiding of the media for days and then giving a high-stakes interview to CBS News' Katie Couric, the sometimes painful content of which the campaign allowed to be parceled out over a week." [Politico]

• "Things have gotten so tense between Palin and her traveling staff, an insider said, that she's overruling their advice — which was evident last week when she ignored GOP aides piling into waiting cars at a Colorado event and strolled over to the press corps for an impromptu talk." [NYP]

• Despite the McCain campaign's wishes, Palin made an impromptu announcement on NBC Nightly News last week that that they should release her medical records. Today it was learned that they'll do this in the next couple of days. [ABC News]

• "'She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,' said [a] McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom." [CNN]

• At a Tampa rally yesterday, Palin blasted the RNC for buying her a $150,000 wardrobe, calling it "ridiculous." Unsurprisingly, these were not the remarks that were sent to her in the morning by the McCain campaign. [UPI]

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