Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Author Of 'Obama Can't Win' Book Doesn't Believe Himself

Shelby Steele, conservative author and research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, has a book out entitled, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. The book hit the shelves in December of last year, and isn't available in paperback yet, but there appears to be need for a revision: as it turns out, Steele isn't nearly as certain on that whole "Obama Can't Win" premise anymore.

Steele admitted as much on a recent edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:


Shelby Steele, conservative author and research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, has a book out entitled, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. The book hit the shelves in December of last year, and isn't available in paperback yet, but there appears to be need for a revision: as it turns out, Steele isn't nearly as certain on that whole "Obama Can't Win" premise anymore.

Steele admitted as much on a recent edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:


HANNITY: As the first African-American presidential nominee, Democrat Barack Obama is no doubt running an historic campaign. But will that distinction help or hurt his chances of making it all of the way to the White House? Joining us now, author of a brand new book, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, Shelby Steele. Shelby, good to see you, my friend. Thanks for being back with us.

STEELE: Good to be here.

HANNITY: All right, so he can't win?

STEELE: He can win. I regret that subtitle.


STEELE: It was an afterthought. And I don't argue that in the book. He can definitely win. There is a powerful desire in American society today to see someone like him move to the White House.

Okay. So, he "regrets that subtitle" at the very least. According to MediaMatters, Steele went on to say that the subtitle was "was an 'afterthought'...which he said did not represent the book's thesis."

But then, maybe the thesis itself is wrong! According to the publisher's product description:

Steele writes of how Obama is caught between the two classic postures that blacks have always used to make their way in the white American mainstream: bargaining and challenging. Bargainers strike a "bargain" with white America in which they say, I will not rub America's ugly history of racism in your face if you will not hold my race against me. Challengers do the opposite of bargainers. They charge whites with inherent racism and then demand that they prove themselves innocent by supporting black-friendly policies like affirmative action and diversity.

Steele maintains that Senator Obama is too constrained by these elaborate politics to find his own true political voice.

This "thesis" seems to ring loud and clear to Publishers Weekly's reviewer, who writes (emphasis mine):

Obama's conflict over his mixed parentage and abandonment by his father, the author argues, engenders a need to prove his racial authenticity by accommodating a black identity politics that, while it energizes his African-American base, risks alienating white voters. Worse, as president Obama might reflexively support affirmative action and government initiatives to help African-Americans, instead of emphasizing the self-reliance, individual responsibility and avid assimilation that Steele contends are the only remedies for the black community's problems.

As it turns out, it is Obama's own actions that have more or less torpedoed Steele's thesis. Far from "reflexively supporting affirmative action," Obama has actually discussed affirmative action in much broader terms, and has specifically noted that affirmative action has engendered a justifiable resentment in white Americans. From Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech:

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Additionally, Obama has proven to be far from "conflicted" when it comes to "emphasizing the self-reliance, individual responsibility and avid assimilation that Steele contends are the only remedies for the black community's problems." As recently as Father's Day, Obama was publicly emphasizing those very things, and giving them a pre-eminent importance above government programs:

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one.

So, it's easy to see why Steele might be backing away from the premise of his book, even if he's not willing to admit much fault beyond the title. Wouldn't you, if you had gotten it this wrong?

Original here

Dobson Throws Brick At Obama, Ducks Into Glass House

Posted by BGH
James Dobson from the neo-conservative group, Focus On The Family, is throwing stones at Barack Obama's interpretation of scripture, while hiding in a glass house himself.

"... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
He says Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," which is "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution," Dobson says.
Christianity is all about interpretation. Hell, for that matter EVERY religion is about interpretation. And every believer, every follower of scripture, claims to have a lock on the 'correct' understanding.

Dobson, in essence, is telling Obama that though 'we have read the same book, the same tome that has been edited, altered, rephrased and rehashed through centuries of Christianity, my understanding is correct and you have a bastardized distillation of the text'(paraphrased). You cannot gather two believers in the same room who completely agree on meaning and intent regarding a collection of passages and when the bible is read as a whole, the differences become even more broad.

These holy books were written, as many books of the time were, as mythology and allegory to explain a world which was not fully understood, and through fear a story was made-up instead of admitting a lack of knowledge. The tools to comprehend the world and the natural processes were not readily accessible to most men, so to calm their uneasiness, campfire stories were created that which explained the things that went 'bump' in the night (or day for that matter).

So, James Dobson is a fruitcake, because anyone who takes literally, words written in the first century and that were then manipulated and molested in every century since, by editors and interpretors, is surely more intellectually strained than someone who tries to extract a moral without taking the words to their extreme.

For what it's worth, Barack Obama also would do well to ditch the so called 'scripture' and focus on governing for the people, no matter the faith or creed.

Original here

Obama Camp Responds To Rove: He Has 'Cornered The Market On Arrogance'

Yesterday, Karl Rove, somehow convinced he'd become a hero to the common man as opposed to the architect of a presidency rejected by three-fourths of the U.S. population, said of Barack Obama, "Even if you never met him, you know this guy...He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." Mind you, he said this whilst in attendance at the Capitol Hill Club, a haven for GOP-types where a ban on tipping the help is enforced in the rules (but where the prices for high-end dining staples are actually quite reasonable, perhaps owing to the fact that there are about twenty restaurants in the vicinity that can cook a better sirloin).

Well, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs came on Morning Joe this morning and he wasn't having it. Asked about Rove's remarks, Gibbs offered that he was "willing to bet you that Karl Rove hung out in...a country club a lot more often than Barack Obama," adding that after eight years in Washington, Rove "might have cornered the market on arrogance."

Also, classic Robert Gibbs: "His president right now, his approval ratings hover somewhere around the national drinking age." Uhm, zing!


GEIST: I want to ask you, Pat Buchanan coined the term faculty lounge, he's got the patches on his sleeves, smoking a pipe. Karl Rove has a different way of describing it. He says this. This is reported by Jake Tapper from ABC yesterday. At a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Barack Obama as quote, "coolly arrogant...Even if you never met him, you know this guy. The guy at the country club with the beautiful date holding a martini and a cigarette, that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." That sounds like your candidate?

GIBBS: I would be willing to bet you that Karl Rove hung out in the lounge of a country club a lot more often than Barack Obama has. I would think a guy who came to Washington eight years ago and talked about how his version of the Republican party would take over the country for years and years to come, might have cornered the market on arrogance to a degree that not many people have seen before. His president right now, his approval ratings hover somewhere around the national drinking age. So I think it's convenient from a lot of people in Washington to take political advice from Karl Rove. I think if people look at the arc of the Bush presidency and where this thing has ended up, we have had a disastrous foreign policy, our economy is in shambles, our debt and our deficit have skyrocketed. It's really hard to list one or two things that Karl Rove did right over eight years. So, you know, I'll let him do his lecture circuits and coin little phrases, but, it seems like a silly thing.


GEIST: So for the record, Barack Obama does not hold martinis or stand against walls. Is that what you are saying?

BRZEZINSKI: Making snide comments.

GIBBS: The last time I saw him, he was drinking a beer.

Original here

McCain in 2005: Gitmo Detainees Deserve Trials Or Should Be Released

Added by Mark Nickolas

The shameless attempt by John McCain (R) to re-write his political history and philosophy to allow him to move to the right to placate his fringe base is amazingly audacious. It seems that every day or two we're met with a 180 degree flip-flop by McCain on a major issue that -- aside from how it's going to further eviscerate his image of being some principled maverick (what a joke that's become) -- shows a very amateurish operation that won't be capable of withstanding several hundred million dollars in paid media by Barack Obama (D) to fully educate the public on who this man has become.

Along those lines, while doing some research, I stumbled upon one of the biggest McCain flip-flops to date.

Recall last week how McCain lost his mind when the U.S. Supreme Court said that Guantanamo Bay detainees could not be detained indefinitely without charges and were entitled to ask a court for a hearing where the government would have to show why it was holding them, or that they be released. That fundamental procedure is called a writ of habeas corpus.

Last week, McCain blasted the ruling, disingenuously calling it "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." Not surprising, this is yet another 180 degree lurch for McCain.

But look at what I found on Lexis/Nexis as I went through some old transcripts from the Sunday shows. It's from a McCain appearance on Meet the Press almost exactly three years ago on this very topic...giving a very different answer:

NBC News Transcripts
June 19, 2005 Sunday

SHOW: Meet the Press 10:00 AM EST NBC

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Guantanamo. In October--excuse me, December of 2003, "John McCain said he is concerned about the failure to move ahead with prisoners' trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ...`These cases have to be disposed of one way or another. After keeping someone two years, a decision should be made.'"

That was a year and a half ago. It's now been three and a half years. Should we close it?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think necessarily. But I think the important thing is it's not the facility at Guantanamo, it's the adjudication of the cases of the prisoners who have been held there without trial or without any adjudication of their cases. So the frustration is not the fact we have a facility at Guantanamo, although that certainly becomes symbolic. The frustration is, is: What are we going to do with these people?

Now, I know that some of these guys are terrible, terrible killers and the worst kind of scum of humanity. But, one, they deserve to have some adjudication of their cases. And there's a fear that if you release them that they'll go back and fight again against us. And that may have already happened. But balance that against what it's doing to our reputation throughout the world and whether it's enhancing recruiting for people to join al-Qaeda and other organizations and want to do bad things to the United States of America. I think, on balance, the argument has got to be--the weight of evidence has got to be that we've got to adjudicate these people's cases, and that means that if it means releasing some of them, you'll have to release them.

Look, even Adolf Eichmann got a trial.
I mean, these--we are signatories to numerous agreements on human rights, against torture, universal declaration on human rights, etc. So that means we have to do something with these people. And I hope we can move that process forward very soon.

Got that? McCain thought that providing these detainees with a real trial was so important that "if it means releasing some of them, you'll have to release them." Now he feigns outrage when the U.S. Supreme Court says that even these scumbags are entitled to know why they are being held, or released.

Given the grave importance to this country right now on things like the rule of law, constitutional rights, and terrorism, it's hard to fathom something more crucial that McCain could so casually flip-flop on. It's shameful. It's disgusting. And this manufactured political posturing is beneath the office for which he now seeks. There is almost nothing about McCain 2008 that resembles the candidate of 2000. He has truly morphed in an appendage of the Bush Administration.

Original here

McCain to raise half of general election budget *privately*

Leave aside for a moment the fact that John McCain's campaign lied to the media about a loan using public funding as collateral, and leave aside the legality of him withdrawing from the public finance system after having secured that loan. Also, leave aside the fact that John McCain would have had a $9 million spending edge over Obama if Obama took public financing.

Leave those aside for the moment because they aren't the only double-standards John McCain is seeking to enjoy in this public financing debate.

The other big double standard is probably the biggest one of them all: John McCain is portraying himself as an advocate for eliminating private funding from the general election when truth is that about one-half of his general election campaign will be financed by private sources.

I'm not talking about independent outside groups like 527s or PACs -- I'm talking about spending by John McCain and the Republican National Committee, the GOP's presidential election committee.

The New York Times hinted at this when McCain announced his decision to accept public funding:

The McCain campaign has long struggled to raise money, and was out-raised by several of his Republican rivals in the primary and vastly out-raised by Mr. Obama. But in recent months the campaign’s decision to raise money in tandem with the Republican National Committee, which is far richer than its Democratic counterpart, has yielded results.

The McCain campaign hoped that by accepting public financing – which will yield it more $84.1 million – and relying on the deep-pockets of the Republican National Committee, it will be able to stay competitive with Mr. Obama.

So the question is, how much private funding will be funneled into the McCain campaign by through his joint fundraising efforts with the Republican Party?

Inspired by debrazza, a frequent commenter on this blog, I pulled together the following datapoints which demonstrate the extent to which John McCain's campaign will be privately funded.

Public funding sources and limits:

Private funding sources and limits:

(See FEC's Campaign Guide [.pdf] for definitions of each category.)

  • Coordinated expenditures with RNC: $19.1 million
  • Independent expenditures by RNC: unlimited (RNC spent $17.9 million in 2004)
  • GOTV operations by RNC and state parties: unlimited (GOP spent $35.2 million in 2004)
  • Signage and literature by state parties: unlimited

Minimum estimate of total campaign spending (from public and private sources), assuming at least 2004 levels for GOTV and independent expenditures:

  • $156.3 million ($84.1 million public + $72.2 million private)

Conclusion: At minimum, nearly half of McCain's general election budget will come from private sources.

McCain will have no problem raising the money he needs. The RNC already has $40.6 million cash-on-hand, compared to $4.4 million for the DNC.

On top of the numbers above, John McCain has already raised more than $100 million in private funds for his 2008 campaign. Consequently, by the time November rolls around, it is nearly certain that 75% of John McCain's expenditures will have been raised from private sources.

So the bottom-line is that while John McCain rips Barack Obama for deciding to fund his campaign from private sources, the reality is that John McCain himself is planning on relying on private funds to run his own campaign.

Yet we hear nary a word of this in the press, which instead focuses on Barack Obama's change of position on using public financing for the general election. I'm not saying that the media shouldn't report his switch as a reversal; it was.

St. John McCain is claiming moral purity on this issue, but unless he affirmatively states that he will not use the private financing vehicles that are his disposal, his attacks ring hollow and reek of hypocrisy.

Original here

'When John McCain was my captive'

By Andrew Harding
BBC News in Haiphong, Vietnam

Tran Trong Duyet
Tran Trong Duyet claims no torture was carried out at Hoa Lo
Tran Trong Duyet - a sprightly retiree and amateur ballroom dancer - must rank as one of John McCain's more unlikely supporters.

Four decades ago, during the Vietnam war, Mr Duyet was in charge of the notorious Hoa Lo prison - the place where Mr McCain says he was brutally beaten and tortured during five-and-a-half years as an American prisoner of war.

"McCain is my friend," said 75-year-old Mr Duyet as he feeds the caged birds he now keeps in his garden in this coastal city.

"If I was American, I would vote for him."

Informal chats

Navy pilot John McCain was shot down during a bombing raid over the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, in 1967.

He ejected from his aircraft and parachuted into a city lake - only to be dragged out by an angry crowd, barely conscious, and with two broken arms and a broken leg.

From there he was taken to Hoa Lo prison, known to its American military inmates as the "Hanoi Hilton".

John McCain is captured in Hanoi
McCain was captured after his plane was shot down in 1967
McCain has since described enduring months of solitary confinement and systematic torture which drove him to try to kill himself.

"I don't know how he'd react if he met me again," said Mr Duyet, flicking through old black and white photographs of himself and his American prisoners at Hoa Lo.

"But I can confirm to you that we never tortured him. We never tortured any prisoners."

Mr Duyet reminisces instead about how he often summoned the future US presidential candidate to his private office for informal chats.

"We used to argue about the war - about whether it was right or wrong," he says.

"He is a very frank man - very conservative, and very loyal to his country and the American ideal.

"He had a very interesting accent and sometimes he taught me words in English and corrected my accent. I have followed his career since he left prison."


So is Mr Duyet implying that that Senator McCain lied about his treatment at the Hanoi Hilton?

"He did not tell the truth," he says.

"But I can somehow sympathise with him. He lies to American voters in order to get their support for his presidential election."

John McCain's flight suit at the "Hanoi Hilton"
The "Hanoi Hilton" is now a museum - containing McCain's flight suit
But Mr Duyet's propaganda-perfect version of events is impossible to verify - and should be treated with caution in a country where the Communist authorities still keep a tight control over the media.

Relations between Vietnam and the United States have improved dramatically in recent years, following the normalisation of ties between the former enemies in 1995.

Mr McCain played a crucial role in bringing about that initial rapprochement - a fact which helps explain Mr Duyet's enthusiastic support for the McCain presidential campaign.

"I wish him success in the presidential election," he says.

"Of course the Americans started the war in Vietnam and killed so many people - but now we want to leave the past behind.

"So now I consider John McCain my friend because he did much to mend relations between our two countries. And if he becomes president he will do more to improve those ties."

Original here

McCain Adviser: Another Attack on U.S. Would Be "Big Advantage" For McCain

***READ BELOW FOR UPDATES - McCain's response, Black's Apology, Obama's Response***

Fortune Magazine is running a profile on John McCain titled, "The evolution of John McCain." McCain's chief advisor, Charlie Black, is interviewed in the piece. Below is a choice quote from Black on why he thinks another terrorist attack on US soil would help McCain win the presidency.

On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

McCain responded to Black's quote during a press conference today. The Senator told reporters, "I strenuously disagree":

At that same press conference, Charlie Black apologized to reporters for his comments:

Black, interviewed by reporters as he stood outside McCain's fundraiser, said: "I deeply regret the comments. They were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration."

Barack Obama's campaign issued a response to Black's comments:

"Barack Obama welcomes a debate about terrorism with John McCain, who has fully supported the Bush policies that have taken our eye off of al Qaeda, failed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, and made us less safe. The fact that John McCain's top advisor says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a 'big advantage' for their political campaign is a complete disgrace, and is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change. Barack Obama will turn the page on these failed policies and this cynical and divisive brand of politics so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose to finish the fight against al Qaeda," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
Original here

McCain Hypocrisy on Obama's Opt-Out Decision

The McCain campaign has sharply criticized Barack Obama's decision to become the first general election presidential candidate since the 1970s to opt out of the public financing system, a decision Obama can afford because of his stunning success with hundreds of thousands of low-dollar donors. As David notes at the link above, the McCain campaign said Obama's decision "undermines his call for a new type of politics."

But McCain, a longtime foe of Big Money in politics, once had a friendlier view of presidential fundraisers like Obama.

Here he is on the Fox News show "On the Record," in January 2004:

"I think it's wonderful that Howard Dean was able to use the Internet, $50, $75, $100 contributions. That's what we want it to be all about. We want average citizens to contribute small amounts of money, and that's a commitment to a campaign. So I'm for that. I think it's a great thing. I think the Internet is going to change American politics for the better."

And here he is on MSNBC's "Hardball," in June 2004:

"The Internet is generating more and more people involved in the political process with relatively small campaign contributions, $50, $75. That's wonderful. No longer can an office holder call up a CEO or a trial lawyer or a union leader and say, I need $1 million. And, by the way, your legislation is up before my committee again."

Original here


From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
The debate over how to bring down energy prices has occupied the center of the political stage in recent days, as drivers across the nation face sky-high gas prices, which in turn are driving up costs of food and other goods. Obama campaign's said today that he plans to ease the impact of rising gas prices by cracking down on excessive energy speculation through closing the so-called “Enron Loophole.”

VIDEO: What are the presidential candidates' positions on energy and taxes? NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports on the latest in politics, including recent polling numbers.

On the 25-minute call were New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, economic policy director Jason Furman, and energy adviser Elgie Holstein, who was chief of staff at the Department of Energy during the Clinton Administration. The overall theme was a common one -- that McCain is out of touch with the concerns of working people and more in touch with those of big business. Today, they applied that argument to the issue of energy policy.

"What we’re talking about today is one very important part of Barack Obama’s overall plan, and it’s an overall plan that John McCain disagrees with. In almost every instance, he sides with oil companies and Barack Obama sides with consumers,” Furman said.

McCain and Obama have been at loggerheads over several proposals for how to deal with an issue that is putting a strain on families, local governments, and even school systems. McCain has supported a summer gas-tax holiday -- which Obama calls a “gimmick” that would rob states of much-needed infrastructure money. McCain also supports lifting a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, which Obama says would produce no short-term benefit and little long-term impact on world oil prices. And McCain opposes the windfall profits tax on oil companies that Obama has proposed. Obama would use the money to help families pay energy costs and other bills.

Aides argued the changes to the regulatory structures could have at least some medium-term impact on gas prices. The “Enron Loophole” -- so named because it was added at Enron’s behest -- has kept the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from fully overseeing the oil futures market and investigating cases where excessive speculation may be driving up oil prices, the campaign explained in a policy paper. Obama would close the loophole by requiring that US energy futures trade on regulated exchanges. His plan also calls for legislation that would direct the CFTC to investigate whether further regulation is needed to end excessive speculation in US commodities markets, including higher margin requirements and position limits for institutional investors.

Obama would aim to ensure that US energy futures cannot be traded on unregulated offshore exchanges and would seek to work with our other countries to establish regulations to avoid excessive speculation in commodities futures markets. He would also call on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate market manipulation, including in the oil futures markets and ask the Justice Department to investigate whether energy traders have been engaged in illegal activities that have helped drive up oil and food prices.

Corzine said high oil prices were partly a result of increased demand from countries like China and India, but that most experts believed speculation was also a contributing factor and that the volatility in the price of oil on a daily basis was a clear indication of speculation in the marketplace.

“I think everyone believes there’s too much speculation in the oil markets and a lot it flows directly from that particular loophole,” he said. “"It might as well be called the Phil Gramm loophole, because it was snuck in at the 11th hour, 59th minute to the 2000 energy policy bill, and it just is, it really needs to be addressed. And it would have a lot of impact I think certainly in the intermediate term, if not in the short term with greater oversight here.”

Corzine said the "Enron loophole” Gramm had added to the bill took exchanges and derivative oil contracts out of supervisory oversight and had been a problem in electricity markets in California a few years ago. He said it was unlikely Gramm would push back against his own amendment.

The call participants declined to answer directly questions about how quickly the regulatory changes Obama has proposed could be put in place or how much they would lower gas prices in the short term.

McCain campaign fires back
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds sent an email that pointed to McCain’s support for closing the “Enron Loophole," noting that he was “one of only three Republicans” to support an amendment to do so. Corzine, then a US senator, voted with McCain for the amendment, his campaign said.

“The truth is Barack Obama is following John McCain’s lead to close a Wall Street loophole that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton,” Bounds said. “John McCain has supported bipartisan efforts to close this loophole and will work to address abuses in oil speculation. Barack Obama has voted the party line for Democrats who claim the loophole is fixed. The fact that Barack Obama is attacking John McCain, despite McCain’s leadership on the issue, shows that Barack Obama is driven by the partisan attacks that Americans are tired of.”

Original here

Kristol: Bush Might Bomb Iran If He ‘Thinks Senator Obama’s Going To Win’»

On Fox News Sunday this morning, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that President Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going to be elected.

However, “if the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out,” Kristol said, reinforcing the fact that McCain is offering a third Bush term on Iran.

“I do wonder with Senator Obama, if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think — does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy,” Kristol added. Host Chris Wallace then asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election:

WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama’s going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?

KRISTOL: I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t — it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.

Kristol also suggested that Obama’s election would tempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to think, “maybe we can use nuclear weapons.” Watch it:

Kristol’s belief that Bush might attack Iran before leaving office is not new. In April, he told Bill Bennett that it wasn’t “out of the question” that Bush would consider such a strike because “people are overdoing how much of a lame duck the president is.”

The claim that Obama’s potential election could force Bush’s hand also isn’t new. Earlier this month, far-right pseudo scholar Daniel Pipes told National Review Online that “President Bush will do something” if the Democratic nominee won. “Should it be Mr. McCain that wins, he’ll punt,” said Pipes.

Both Kristol and Pipes apparently agree with President Bush’s claim in March that McCain’s “not going to change” his foreign policy.

Original here

GOP frets Barr could play spoiler in prez race

In this May 12, 2008 file photo, former Republican congressman Bob Barr poses for a photo before speaking at the University Club in Washington. Barr's Libertarian Party bid for the White House is the longest of long shots, but political experts say he may be able to exploit the unease some die-hard conservatives still feel about Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting. Combined with the surge in turnout among Democrats during the primaries, they see what could be a recipe for trouble for the GOP. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

ATLANTA — A fiery former GOP congressman who gained national prominence for doggedly pursuing impeachment of President Clinton has some Republicans worried he'll play spoiler in a tight presidential contest.

Bob Barr's Libertarian Party bid for the White House is the longest of long shots, but political experts say he may be able to exploit the unease some die-hard conservatives still feel about Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting. Combined with the surge in turnout among Democrats during the primaries and a difficult political climate for Republicans, they see what could be a recipe for trouble for the GOP.

"Bob could be the Ralph Nader of 2008," said Dan Schnur, a GOP consultant in California who worked on McCain's 2000 campaign but is not involved in this year's contest. Consumer advocate Nader is the third-party candidate many Democrats blame for helping George W. Bush narrowly win in 2000.

Rep. John Linder, a Republican who defeated Barr in 2002 after Georgia's Democratic-controlled Legislature redrew congressional boundaries to put the two lawmakers in the same district, said he didn't think Barr would top 4 percent of the vote.

"But in some states that may be enough," Linder said.

Democrats seem gleeful at the prospect. Tad Devine, a Washington-based Democratic strategist, said Republicans "are crazy if they aren't worried about Barr."

"Undoubtedly any votes he gets come out of McCain's votes," Devine said. "He hurts them."

Barr, a former federal prosecutor, was swept into Congress with more than 70 other House GOP freshmen in 1994. An articulate, sometimes outspoken orator, he gained attention as the first lawmaker to call for Clinton's resignation over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and was one of the House prosecutors who pressed the impeachment case in the Senate.

Barr also was known during his four terms in the House for his opposition to softening drug laws, including the medical use of marijuana, and his support for gun rights. He tried unsuccessfully to bar military bases from according witchcraft adherents the same accommodations as other religious worshippers.

Even after Clinton left office, Barr continued to pursue him. He asked congressional investigators to study the extent of White House damage done by departing Clinton staffers and tried to build a "Counter Clinton Library" in Little Rock, Ark. He filed a $30 million lawsuit against Clinton, adviser James Carville and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt for causing him "emotional distress" in retaliation for the impeachment proceedings.

Some Republicans aren't worried about Barr's candidacy. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said voting for Barr is the same as voting for Democrat Barack Obama, and said he's confident most GOP voters will understand that.

"No reasonable conservative is going to vote for anyone except McCain," Gingrich said.

Even so, Barr campaign manager Russell Verney said he expects Republicans to mount challenges to keep Barr off the ballot in a number of states, much like Democrats did to Nader in 2004.

Verney was campaign manager for H. Ross Perot, who rocked the political establishment with his 1992 independent presidential bid that drew 19 percent of the vote.

The Libertarian Party hasn't cracked 1 percent of the national popular vote in a presidential race. But it bills itself as the third-largest political party and is already on the ballot in 30 states, with petition drives this summer aiming at 20 others.

The toughest obstacles are likely to be in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Illinois and Washington, D.C., where ballot access rules are prohibitive, said Libertarian Party political director Sean Haugh.

Democrats also have had success knocking third-party candidates of the ballot in Pennsylvania, considered a swing state.

But Barr may have the most impact in his home state of Georgia, where he is still well-known.

In recent years, Barr has earned a reputation as an iconoclast. A National Rifle Association board member, Barr has joined with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union against the Bush administration-backed Patriot Act and reversed himself on medical marijuana use, now lobbying in favor of it.

He said it is the unchecked growth of government that led him to abandon the GOP two years ago.

In the coming weeks, Barr plans to open a campaign headquarters in Atlanta.

"I think John McCain is going to have to battle for Georgia, a state that was a gimme for George Bush," said Matt Towery, a former Republican state lawmaker in Georgia who runs a political media company.

Georgia and its 15 electoral votes have been expected to go Republican on election night, and McCain spokesman Jeffrey Sadosky said he remained confident they still would.

Still, the enthusiasm Obama has generated among Georgia's large black population continues to worry McCain strategists. Far from writing off Georgia, Obama has a campaign team registering voters and is airing a TV ad in the state.

Barr scoffs at talk that he will play spoiler, saying he is in the race to win it and it won't be his fault if McCain loses.

"If Senator McCain is not successful, it will be because his message and his vision did not resonate with a plurality of the voters," Barr said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Barr also hopes to tap into the zealous grass-roots network of Rep. Ron Paul, who recently dropped his bid for the GOP presidential nomination and pledged to support "Libertarian-leaning Republicans." Paul, a Texas Republican who ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, drew hefty campaign contributions online, but did not win any primaries.

Paul supporters said they're giving Barr a look. Some are skeptical.

"We're waiting to see if he's deliberately moving toward Ron Paul's principles to be politically popular," said Marlane O'Neill, a Paul supporter in Atlanta.


On the Net:

Bob Barr for President: http://www.bobbarr2008.com

Original here

The Glass House of McCain [trailer]


Now That We’ve ‘Won,’ Let’s Come Home


THE Iraq war’s defenders like to bash the press for pushing the bad news and ignoring the good. Maybe they’ll be happy to hear that the bad news doesn’t rate anymore. When a bomb killed at least 51 Iraqis at a Baghdad market on Tuesday, ending an extended run of relative calm, only one of the three network newscasts (NBC’s) even bothered to mention it.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Frank Rich

The only problem is that no news from Iraq isn’t good news — it’s no news. The night of the Baghdad bombing the CBS war correspondent Lara Logan appeared as Jon Stewart’s guest on “The Daily Show” to lament the vanishing television coverage and the even steeper falloff in viewer interest. “Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier,” she said. After pointing out that more soldiers died in Afghanistan than Iraq last month, she asked, “Who’s paying attention to that?”

Her question was rhetorical, but there is an answer: Virtually no one. If you follow the nation’s op-ed pages and the presidential campaign, Iraq seems as contentious an issue as Vietnam was in 1968. But in the country itself, Cindy vs. Michelle, not Shiites vs. Sunnis, is the hotter battle. This isn’t the press’s fault, and it isn’t the public’s fault. It’s merely the way things are.

In America, the war has been a settled issue since early 2007. No matter what has happened in Iraq since then, no matter what anyone on any side of the Iraq debate has had to say about it, polls have consistently found that a majority of Americans judge the war a mistake and want out. For that majority, the war is over except for finalizing the withdrawal details. They’ve moved on without waiting for the results of Election Day 2008 or sampling the latest hectoring ad from moveon.org.

Perhaps if Americans had been asked for shared sacrifice at the war’s inception, including a draft, they would be in 1968-ish turmoil now. But they weren’t, and they aren’t. In 2008, the Vietnam analogy doesn’t hold. The center does.

The good news for Democrats — and the big opportunity for Barack Obama — is that John McCain and the war’s last cheerleaders don’t recognize that immutable reality. They’re so barricaded in their own Vietnam bunker that they think the country is too. It’s their constant and often shrill refrain that if only those peacenik McGovern Democrats and the “liberal media” acknowledged that violence is down in Iraq — as indeed it is, substantially — voters will want to press on to “victory” and not “surrender.” And therefore go for Mr. McCain.

One neocon pundit, Charles Krauthammer, summed up this alternative-reality mind-set in a recent column piously commanding Mr. McCain to “make the election about Iraq” because “everything is changed,” and “we are winning on every front.” The war, he wrote, can be “the central winning plank of his campaign.” (Italics his.)

This hyperventilating wasn’t necessary, because this is what Mr. McCain is already trying to do. His first general election ad, boosted by a large media buy in swing states this month, was all about war. It invoked his Vietnam heroism and tried to have it both ways on Iraq by at once presenting Mr. McCain as a stay-the-course warrior and taking a (timid) swipe at President Bush. “Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war,” Mr. McCain said in his voice-over. That unnamed fool would be our cowboy president, who in March told American troops how he envied their “in some ways romantic” task of “confronting danger.”

But reminding voters of his identification with Iraq, no matter how he spins it, pays no political dividends to Mr. McCain. People just don’t want to hear about it. Last week, the first polls conducted in Pennsylvania and Ohio since the ad began running there found him well behind in both states.

The G.O.P.’s badgering of Mr. Obama about the war is also backfiring. In sync with Mr. McCain, the Republican National Committee unveiled an online clock — “Track How Long Since Obama Was in Iraq!” — only to have Mr. Obama call the bluff by announcing that he will go to both Afghanistan and Iraq before the election. Unless he takes along his own Lieberman-like Jiminy Cricket to whisper factual corrections into his ear, this trip is likely to enhance his stature as a potential commander in chief.

The other whiny line of G.O.P.-McCain attack is to demand incessantly that Mr. Obama stop refusing to recognize the decline in violence in Iraq, stop calling for a hasty troop withdrawal and stop ignoring commanders on the ground in assessing his exit strategy. Here, too, Mr. Obama is calling their bluff, though not nearly as loudly as he will, I suspect, in the debates.

The fact is that Mr. Obama frequently recognizes “the reduction of violence in Iraq” (his words) and has said he is “encouraged” by it. He has never said that he would refuse to consult with commanders on the ground, and he has never called for a precipitous withdrawal. His mantra on Iraq, to the point of tedium, has always been that “we must be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.” His roughly 16-month timetable isn’t hasty and isn’t “retreat.” As The Economist, a supporter of the war, recently put it, a safer Iraq does not necessarily validate Mr. McCain’s “insistence on America staying indefinitely” and might make Mr. Obama’s 16-month framework “more feasible.”

After all, the point of the surge, as laid out by Mr. Bush, was to buy time for political reconciliation among the Iraqis. The results have been at best spotty, and even the crucial de-Baathification law celebrated by Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain in January remains inoperative. Mr. Obama’s timetable is at least an effort to use any remaining American leverage to concentrate the Iraqi leaders’ thinking. Mr. McCain offers only the status quo: a blank check holding America hostage to fate and ceding the president’s civilian authority over war policy to Gen. David Petraeus and his successors.

Should voters tune in, they’ll also discover that the McCain policy is nonsensical on its face. If “we are winning” and the surge is a “success,” then what is the rationale for keeping American forces bogged down there while the Taliban regroups ominously in Afghanistan? Why, if this is victory, does Mr. McCain keep threatening that “chaos and genocide” will follow our departure? And why should we take the word of a prophet who failed to anticipate the chaos and ethnic cleansing that would greet our occupation?

And exactly how, as Mr. McCain keeps claiming, is an indefinite American occupation akin to our long-term military role in South Korea? The diminution of violence notwithstanding, Iraq is an active war zone. And unlike South Korea, it isn’t asking America to remain to protect it from a threatening neighbor. Iraq’s most malevolent neighbor, Iran, is arguably Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s closest ally. In the most recent survey, in February, only 27 percent of Iraqis said the American presence is improving their country’s security. Far from begging us to stay, some Iraqi politicians, including Mr. Maliki, have been pandering to their own election-year voters by threatening to throw the Yankees out.

Mr. McCain’s sorest Achilles’ heel, of course, is his role in facilitating the fiasco in the first place. Someone in his campaign has figured this out. Go to JohnMcCain.com and, hilariously enough, you’ll find a “McCain on Iraq Timeline” that conveniently begins in August 2003, months after “Mission Accomplished.” Vanished into the memory hole are such earlier examples of the McCain Iraq wisdom as “the end is very much in sight” (April 9, 2003) and “there’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shiites” (later that same month).

To finesse this embarrassing record, Mr. McCain asks us to believe that the only judgment that matters is who was “right” about the surge, not who was right about our reckless plunge into war. That’s like saying he deserves credit for tossing life preservers to the survivors after encouraging the captain of the Titanic to plow full speed ahead into the iceberg.

But as Lara Logan asked, who’s paying attention to any of this Iraq stuff anyway? That Mr. McCain makes an unpopular and half-forgotten war the centerpiece of his campaign may simply be a default posture — the legacy of his Vietnam service and a recognition that any war, good or bad, is still a stronger suit for him than delving into the details of health care, education, tax policy or the mortgage crisis.

Even so, it leaves him trapped in a Catch-22. If violence continues to subside in Iraq — if, as Mr. McCain has it, we keep “winning” — it will only call more attention to the internal contradictions of a policy that says success in Iraq should be punished by forcing American troops to stay there indefinitely. And if Iraq reignites, well, so much for “winning.”

Not that the Obama policy is foolproof either. As everyone knows, there are no good options in Iraq. Our best hope for a bipartisan resolution of this disaster may be for a President Obama to appoint Mr. McCain as a special envoy to Baghdad, where he can stay for as long as he needs to administer our withdrawal or 100 years, whichever comes first.

Original here

McCain Burdened By Unpopular Republican Governors

We talked a little bit about the "up-ticket" effect, and how popular candidates can potentially benefit candidates of the same party for higher office. But what happens when you have an unpopular candidate of the same party?

The simple answer is that an unpopular senator, governor, congressman, or other official can impose a significant burden for, say, a presidential candidate. For John McCain, that nightmare looks to be a reality: a number of unpopular Republican governors are making it very difficult for McCain in their home states, despite the fact that they represent typically red constituencies.

Take Indiana, where George W. Bush enjoyed some of his most solid support. In 2000, he trounced Al Gore by 15.7 points in the general election. In 2004, Bush built on his already-considerable popularity in Indiana, emerging with a 20.5-point victory against John Kerry. But in just four short years, Indiana has undergone a remarkable change, and John McCain is going to have to put up a serious fight to win the state at all. Most analysts are rating the Hoosier State a "tossup." What's more, the latest polling from the Downs Center actually shows Barack Obama leading McCain by a narrow margin of 1%.

The likely reason behind Indiana's change of heart is Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. His approval rating has hovered among the lowest of any state chief executive in the country for the past several years. And now, he's in the fight of his political career, trailing Democratic candidate Jill Long Thompson. For McCain, that's bad news. When Hoosiers head to the polls, the GOP nominee will be sharing the ballot with one of the least popular Republicans in the country. Considering that Indiana is no small prize when it comes it electoral votes, that will be troubling to the Arizona Senator.

Missouri could be a similar story. Republican Governor Matt Blunt's approval rating has dipped even lower than Daniels'. In fact, Survey USA put him in the bottom five of all governors in the US when it came to popularity less than 18 months ago. And though Blunt has already opted out of a bid for reelection, he may have created enough of a negative climate in Missouri to put McCain on edge.

Missouri was a two-time Bush supporter, more than doubling the margin of victory from 3.3% in 2000 to 7.2% in 2004. But like nearby Indiana, Missouri is no longer a shoo-in for the GOP. Just as the race to succeed Blunt has begun to lean further and further in favor of Democrats, McCain's popularity in the state has begun to dwindle. What was a 15-point lead is now a 1-point deficit in favor of Obama, according to Rasmussen. While McCain won't share the same ballot with Blunt in November, its possible that the anti-GOP sentiment as a result of Blunt's popularity will be burdensome to the presidential candidate.

A final example- Bob Taft of Ohio. Now, Taft is already out of office, having lost in a landslide to Democrat Ted Strickland. But before he left office in January of 2007, Taft was the lowest rated governor in the country. Survey USA put his approval rating at a shockingly dismal 18%. In the meantime, Strickland has surged, quickly becoming one of the most popular governors across the nation.

Ohio is another two-time Bush backer, but now hardly even a tossup- Obama is ahead by as many as 11 points, according to a Public Policy Polling study in mid-June. Strickland only ousted Taft in November of 2006. Two years isn't a lot of time to change the sentiment of Ohioans toward the GOP. Moreover, they like their new governor. So, from beyond the political grave, Taft is haunting McCain, who now has to campaign in a state that has been made at least a little more averse to Republican candidates.

The effect of the local political climates on the national election can't be underestimated. And when it comes to negative feelings toward the GOP on the part of the electorate, that presents a real problem for McCain.

Original here

The real McCain

To his fans he's a lovable patriot with a maverick streak. But to his critics he's an anti-abortion Creationist who surrounds himself with religious extremists. Paul Harris uncovers the dark side of John McCain

Paul Harris

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

It is a vintage John McCain performance. Standing in a light-filled atrium at the University of Denver, McCain is espousing his vision for America's future relations with the world. He hits all the right notes, citing liberal icon John F Kennedy and conservative hero Ronald Reagan. He strikes a muscular tone against America's enemies, yet tempers it with restraint. He speaks of a 'common vision' among nations. 'I want us to rise to the challenges of our time, as generations before us rose to theirs,' he says. He addresses the audience as 'my friends' and promises a safer, more reasonable world. 'It still remains within our power to make in our time another, better world than we inherited,' he concludes. As the crowd applaud, McCain plunges into the throng to pump hands and sign autographs.

Welcome to the John McCain show 2008. It's powerful stuff, portraying McCain as the decent patriot of the middle ground and a steady hand for difficult times. For a lot of Americans - including many Democrats - it is a beguiling vision. They see a war hero whose courage was forged in a North Vietnamese POW camp. They see a maverick who spoke against the tortures of Abu Ghraib. They see a reformer who acts against lobbyists and political favours. They see a politician who has spent a lifetime serving his country and won a place in the hearts of the nation.

Now McCain is also trying to win the White House. He has taken his campaign to places far from the projected Republican road map to victory. He has spoken in the 'black belt' of rural Alabama. He has toured Appalachian coal country to talk about poverty. He has gone to the hippy enclave of Oregon to lecture on global warming. In short, he is a Republican that even liberals can love. And many do. McCain's appeal to America's vital middle ground could easily propel him to the Oval Office.

But there is another, very different side to John McCain. Away from the headlines and the stirring speeches, a less familiar figure lurks. It is a McCain who plans to fight on in Iraq for years to come and who might launch military action against Iran. This is the McCain whose campaign and career has been riddled with lobbyists and special interests. It is a McCain who has sided with religious and political extremists who believe Islam is evil and gays are immoral. It is a McCain who wants to appoint extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and see abortion banned. This McCain has a notoriously volatile temper that has scared some senior members of his own party. If McCain becomes the most powerful man in the world it would be wise to know what lies behind his public mask, to look at the dark side of John McCain.

John McCain is an American hero in an age of war and terrorism. As young Americans return in bodybags from Iraq and Iranian mullahs cook up uranium, an old soldier like McCain seems a natural choice in a dangerous world. He is the son and grandson of warriors. Both his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. He was even born on a military base, on 29 August 1936, in Panama. And his life story reads like a movie script. The young, rascally McCain, nicknamed 'McNasty' by his classmates, attended the elite West Point military academy. He became a navy pilot, long before Tom Cruise made 'Top Guns' famous, and began his first combat duty in Vietnam in 1966, carrying out countless missions. Then came disaster. He was shot down and held prisoner for five years by brutal North Vietnamese captors. In his stiff gait and damaged arms, he still bears the scars of their tortures. His CV for the White House is written in his suffering as much as in his career as a senator.

That military legacy has made John McCain a legend. But it has not turned him into a peacemaker, at a time when most Americans desperately want the war to end. Anyone hoping for a new president who will quickly bring America's troops home from Iraq had better look elsewhere. McCain has always supported the invasion of Iraq and he wants to support it until at least 2013, or perhaps for many years beyond. He believes withdrawal would be a surrender to terrorists.

That warlike spirit was on full display in Denver when McCain's speech was interrupted repeatedly by anti-war protesters. They stood up, unfurling banners and shouting for a withdrawal from Iraq. When it happened a third time, McCain had had enough. In a voice suddenly filled with steely resolve, McCain broke from his carefully scripted speech and gripped the lectern. He looked out at the audience and spoke slowly. 'I will never surrender in Iraq,' he rasped. 'Our American troops will come home with victory and with honour.' The crowd cheered and chanted: 'John McCain! John McCain!' It was a perfect moment for unrepentant supporters of the Iraq invasion and a McCain who still smarts from defeat in Vietnam. No retreat. No surrender. This time America will win.

McCain believes in projecting American military power abroad. So it is no wonder that the neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq have now regrouped around him. McCain's main foreign policy adviser is Randy Scheunemann, who was executive director of the shadowy Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Other leading neocons on board include John Bolton, America's belligerent former UN ambassador, Bill Kristol, editor of the Neocon bible the Weekly Standard, and Max Boot, who has pushed for a US version of the old British Colonial Office. Another close McCain adviser is former CIA director James Woolsey, who has openly advocated bombing Syria.

Such a group of warlike counsellors has raised fears that McCain may strike Iran to stop its suspected quest for a nuclear weapon, triggering a fresh war in the Middle East. The Republican candidate has openly joked about bombing Tehran. It was just over a year ago, in the tiny borough of Murrells Inlet in South Carolina, and McCain faced a small crowd in one of his characteristic town hall meetings. As McCain stood on the stage, one man asked him about the 'real problem' in the Middle East. 'When are we going to send an airmail message to Tehran?' the man pleaded. McCain laughed and - to the tune of the Beach Boys' classic 'Barbara Ann' - began to sing: 'Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.' But some think McCain's joke may well become policy. 'I think a McCain presidency would be very likely to strike Iran,' says Cliff Schecter, author of a new book, The Real McCain

McCain is still most at home with soldiers. Earlier this year I watched him on the stump in Charleston, South Carolina. He chose to speak at the Citadel, an elite military college, where old tanks and retired rockets dotted the lawns and squads of young recruits jogged around its quads. At the small rally McCain was relaxed and at home and the crowd loved him: here was their war hero made flesh. Here was a man unafraid to strike first.

John McCain's second bid for the presidency has been a long time coming. After being beaten by Bush in 2000, the Senator from Arizona has returned to the fray more determined than ever. And central to his success has been his media strategy.

Three years ago I followed McCain to a fund-raising dinner in Hartford, Connecticut, a wealthy city of insurers and bankers. McCain spoke at a private club downtown, giving an early version of his stump speech and already being introduced as the next president of the United States. He gave an impromptu press conference, bantering gamely with reporters. When that was done, aides tried to drag him away, but McCain raced across the room and sought out a local reporter to clarify an answer he had given. The journalist, unused to such personal attention from a potential president, looked like a spellbound deer in the headlights as McCain spoke to him for a further 10 minutes. The fact is, McCain loves journalists and they love him back. That is how the myth of the moderate maverick - the most powerful tool in his political armoury - has come to be.

Nothing has changed since that moment in Hartford. McCain's campaign bus - dubbed the Straight Talk Express, just as it was in 2000 - is filled with journalists who travel at the back with McCain, relaxing on a U-shaped couch. McCain recently hosted a barbecue for journalists at his Arizona ranch. As TV anchors and newspaper reporters sipped beer and cocktails under a desert sun, McCain stood at the grill and literally served up their daily nourishment. He is someone you could have a beer with, in stark contrast to Barack Obama, who keeps his press entourage firmly at arm's length. Yet McCain's riskier strategy has worked like a dream. Reporters often overlook McCain's errors and flaps - especially in national security - clinging instead to the narrative of an unconventional patriot. 'The media love him, especially his war record. He is the GI Joe doll they played with as kids,' says Professor Shawn Bowler, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside.

There is also a little-reported back-up plan for reporters who do not toe the line: sheer aggression. A recent Washington Post piece on a land deal by one of McCain's allies prompted a brutal response from the McCain campaign. Without disproving facts, they labelled the story 'shameful' and a 'smear job'. When Newsweek ran a story on the Obama camp's perception of McCain's weak spots, McCain's team struck again. This time the story was 'offensive' and 'scurrilous'. The campaign is willing to strike out abroad, recently persuading one European newspaper editor to scrap a review of Schecter's book. For the fact is, McCain's benevolent public image is no accident. It has been carefully crafted and is forcefully policed. 'This has gone on for years. This is an image he has worked very hard to maintain,' says Professor Seth Masket of the University of Denver.

John McCain has not always had his own way. His current reformist image was born from a career-threatening scandal that almost saw his political ambitions strangled at birth. It was 1987, and John McCain was a promising newcomer in the Republican party, still finding his feet in a world very different from his military life. Charlie Keating, a wealthy businessman, was a long-time friend and financial contributor to McCain's campaigns. When Keating was caught up in the disastrous collapse of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, he turned to his political friends, asking them to talk to federal regulators. McCain, along with four others, made the mistake of doing just that. When a massive government bailout of Lincoln followed, so too did public outrage. It almost destroyed McCain's career. Yet the Keating Five scandal also gave birth to a new John McCain: the reformer. In an astonishing transformation he now became the arch-champion of campaign finance reform.

Yet much of the dark side of John McCain lies behind the closed doors of K Street, a Washington DC boulevard lined with glitzy buildings and home to the capital's booming lobbyist industry. A close examination of McCain's campaign workers, political allies and backers reveals a dense world of dubious loyalties, uber-lobbyists and powerful corporate interests. McCain is very much at home with K Street's sharp-suited denizens, their wealthy clients and their art of influence-peddling.

Take one of McCain's closest aides and senior counsel, Charlie Black. For decades he worked as one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington DC. His firm represented some of the most unpleasant dictators in modern history, among them the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire's kleptomaniac president Joseph Mobutu. Then there's Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, the man leading the effort to capture the White House. Davis, too, has been a top lobbyist. His firm's clients ranged from Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov to telecoms giants such as Comsat and Verizon.

But Black and Davis are far from alone. McCain's staff was so riddled with lobbyists that at least four have resigned because of their contacts and businesses. They included Doug Goodyear, McCain's convention chairman, whose company was paid to improve the image of Burma's brutal dictatorship.

The make-up of McCain's team has set alarm bells ringing among Washington's campaign watchdogs. 'We need to know who is advising the candidates and why,' says Josh Israel, a lobbyist investigator at the Centre for Public Integrity (CPI). 'Rather than advising them based on what is good for the candidate or the country, are they instead looking for their other interests?' McCain's campaign has even had to bring in special rules to cut down on the number of lobbyists on his team.

Nor is it just campaign workers who have extensive links to the lobbying industry. McCain's financial backers do, too. A recent survey of 106 elite fundraisers for McCain revealed that one in six were lobbyists. Watchdog groups such as the CPI believe McCain has a long history of helping people who also happen to be his wealthy backers, including several large landowners in Arizona, Nevada and California who have profited from McCain-linked property deals. 'McCain has a long way to go to line up his reformist image with the actual reality,' Israel says. Sceptics might conclude that McCain's post-Keating career represents a cosmetic makeover, not a true conversion.

John McCain is level with Barack Obama in the polls in a year when Democrats should be a certainty. He is even winning in key swing states like Florida. His appeal to America's middle ground remains strong. These are people like self-confessed moderate Keith Gregory, 24, who filed out of the Denver auditorium as a convert. The young student, dressed in a freshly pressed suit and tie, had been deeply impressed by McCain's speech. 'I like him more than before,' Gregory said. 'He talked very sensibly and openly about the issues.' This is McCain's great strength and also one of his greatest myths. Few see McCain as an ideological warrior in America's culture wars. Unlike Bush, he is not a born-again Christian. In McCain's inner circle - unlike Bush's - there are no group prayer meetings. Yet the reality is that McCain is a social conservative who has actively sought out the far right of his party and forged alliances with Christian extremists.

Just look at McCain's 'pastor problems'. He has enthusiastically sought the political blessing of some of the most conservative religious figures in the country. McCain gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University, a college that has taught creationism alongside science. McCain also courted and won the endorsement of Texan preacher John Hagee, despite Hagee blaming Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans's liberal attitude towards gays. Hagee believes the disaster was God's judgement on the sinful city. Another McCain-backer, Ohio preacher Rod Parsley, has spouted hate about Muslims. Parsley, whom McCain called a 'spiritual guide', believes America was founded partly in order to destroy Islam. He has called Mohammed a 'mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil' and has supported prosecuting people who commit adultery. Though McCain later repudiated the endorsements of Parsley and Hagee, he did so only after bad headlines threatened his moderate image. Most of Hagee's and Parsley's views were widely known from public speeches or books. It was not their bigotry that caught the campaign out, it was the reporting of it. 'McCain has had links with these religious figures who are just way, way out of the mainstream,' says Cliff Schecter.

There are other nasties, too. McCain is friends with G Gordon Liddy, one of the Watergate burglars. Liddy, who once plotted to kill a left-wing journalist, has hosted a fundraiser with McCain in his own home. McCain also endorsed and campaigned for Alabama politician George Wallace Jr in 2005, despite Wallace's links to racist groups. Wallace has praised and spoken at meetings of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-power group that opposes inter-racial marriage and promotes white racial purity. If a moderate voter were seeking to judge a politician by the company he keeps, then McCain keeps some very odd company indeed.

But it is not really that strange. McCain himself holds deeply conservative views, including proposing teaching the creationist idea of Intelligent Design in schools alongside evolution. McCain has also always been anti-abortion. He believes the landmark Roe vs Wade ruling that legalised abortion was a bad decision. McCain has vowed to continue the Bush policy of appointing extreme conservatives to the Supreme Court and many fear a McCain presidency will see Roe vs Wade overturned. 'McCain is neither moderate nor a maverick when it comes to a woman's right to choose. He's just plain wrong,' said Nancy Keenan, president of abortion rights group Naral.

On the environment, too, McCain is not the green warrior some might think. He has voted against tightening fuel efficiency standards for American cars. The League of Conservation Voters gives McCain an environmental rating of 24 per cent; Obama gets 86 per cent. 'His rhetoric does not match his voting record on this issue,' says David Sandretti, a director of the League. 'McCain is better than Bush, but that's not much of a yardstick, because the current
president is abysmal.'

But it is not just McCain's politics that are disturbing. It is his personality, too. For McCain has a secret reputation as a man with a ferocious, unpredictable temper. He is a man who has a knack for pursuing vendettas against those he thinks have slighted him, even if they are lowly aides.

The list of worrying incidents is long. In 1995 he ended up almost physically scuffling with aged Senator Strom Thurmond on the Senate floor. And, according to some accounts, in 2006 he had a fight with Arizona congressman Rick Renzi, throwing blows in a scrap whose details have only recently been detailed in Schecter's book. Schecter unearthed another unpleasant incident from 1992 in which McCain, tired after a long day's campaign, reacted badly to his wife Cindy teasing him about his baldness. 'At least I don't plaster on the make-up like a trollop, you cunt,' McCain snapped in front of eyewitnesses. Schecter says he has three sources for the story. McCain's campaign have denied it.

Such public outbursts, and many other private ones, have concerned people even in his own party. Former New Hampshire Republican Senator Robert Smith publicly voiced his concerns, once saying McCain's temper ' ... would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger'. That sentiment was echoed by Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who told a Boston newspaper: 'The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.'

Yet McCain is still campaigning successfully as the lovable, maverick patriot. It is a strategy his staff believe will win the White House. So the tricks and stunts keep on coming.

A few weeks ago a letter was delivered to Barack Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters. It was from McCain and in gracious language it offered to hold weekly 'town hall' meetings across America where he and Obama would appear side by side. It would be a far cry from the rancorous circus of televised debates. The audience would be neutral independents. The questions would be random. It would summon back a golden age of gentlemanly politics. 'I also suggest we fly together to the first town hall meeting as a symbolically important act embracing the politics of civility,' McCain wrote.

Like the Denver speech, it was a vintage McCain ploy: superbly geared to his everyman image of decency. But the true McCain is far different. His dark side is real and Democrats will need to expose it if America is to avoid a third successive term of extreme conservative government. Now Democrat activists are pushing out their argument that McCain is a conservative wolf in a moderate sheep's clothing. They are highlighting the temper, the pro-war ideology and the links to lobbyists. 'We think he just means four more years of Bush,' says Karen Finney, a director at the Democratic National Committee. Finney's job is to convince Americans they have got McCain wrong, that they have been fooled. She and her fellow activists have less than four months to succeed. But for now, as America gears up to one of the most important elections in its history, McCain's dark side remains largely hidden behind closed doors.

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Obama And Race: Most Whites Open To Black President, But Hate Groups Growing

The Washington Post reports "an overwhelming public openness to the idea of electing an African American to the presidency."

In a Post-ABC News poll last month, nearly nine in 10 whites said they would be comfortable with a black president. While fewer whites, about two-thirds, said they would be "entirely comfortable" with it, that was more than double the percentage of all adults who said they would be so at ease with someone entering office for the first time at age 72, which McCain (R-Ariz.) would do should he prevail in November.

But the good news may stop there. "As Sen. Barack Obama opens his campaign as the first African American on a major party presidential ticket, nearly half of all Americans say race relations in the country are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice," according to the same poll.

Overall, 51 percent call the current state of race relations "excellent" or "good," about the same as said so five years ago. That is a relative thaw from more negative ratings in the 1990s, but the gap between whites and blacks on the issue is now the widest it has been in polls dating to early 1992.

More than six in 10 African Americans now rate race relations as "not so good" or "poor," while 53 percent of whites hold more positive views. Opinions are also divided along racial lines, though less so, on whether blacks face discrimination. There is more similarity on feelings of personal racial prejudice: Thirty percent of whites and 34 percent of blacks admit such sentiments.

Moreover, the Post reports in a separate story that Obama's historic primary victory "has also sparked an increase in racist and white supremacist activity, mainly on the Internet, according to leaders of hate groups and the organizations that track them."

Neo-Nazi, skinhead and segregationist groups have reported gains in numbers of visitors to their Web sites and in membership since the senator from Illinois secured the Democratic nomination June 3. His success has aroused a community of racists, experts said, concerned by the possibility of the country's first black president.

"I haven't seen this much anger in a long, long time," said Billy Roper, a 36-year-old who runs a group called White Revolution in Russellville, Ark. "Nothing has awakened normally complacent white Americans more than the prospect of America having an overtly nonwhite president."

Watch the American News Project's recent piece exploring the phenomenon of "white nationalism":

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McCain Campaign Lied to Reporter About Public Finance Loan

Late last year, the FEC approved $5.8 million in public funds for John McCain's presidential campaign. That sounds simple enough, but there's a hitch: even though the money was approved in December, it wasn't actually scheduled to be disbursbed until March.

Therefore, if McCain wanted to use the money, he need to take out a loan from a bank, using the FEC's approval as collateral. Such loans are standard operating procedure. (John Edwards did exactly this.)

McCain, however, wanted to preserve the option of not participating in the public financing system, so on December 20 (that date is important) his spokesman told Politico's Ken Vogel that he hadn't taken out any such loans.

Campaigns have traditionally taken out bank loans against FEC certifications of matching funds like the ones issued Thursday. ... McCain, an Arizona senator, has “not made a decision on matching funds,” said spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker, who added the campaign hasn’t borrowed against anticipated matching funds.

So to recap so far:

  1. McCain was authorized for $5.8 million in public funds
  2. If he wanted access to any of that before March, he needed to take out a loan using the funds as collateral.
  3. On December 20, 2007, a McCain spokesman told a journalist that McCain had not taken out any loans using the funds as collateral.

Here's where the lie comes in: John McCain did take out a loan using the funds as collateral, and he took it out before December 20, 2007. The Washington Post broke the news in mid-February (h/t: Mark Schmitt):

John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show.

The original loan agreement (h/t: Mark Schmitt) is dated November 24, 2007. On December 17, 2007, another $1 million was added to the loan -- using public funds as collateral. Here's the key part of the agreement:

Borrower will...grant to Lender, as additional collateral for the Loan, a first priority perfected security interest in and to all Borrower's right, title and interest in and to the public matching funds program.

You cannot get any more clear than that. According to the amended agreement, John McCain used public funds as collateral for the loan. The amendment was dated December 17 and was signed by Rick Davis, his campaign manager, on December 18.

Yet two days later, the McCain campaign spokeswoman told the media the campaign had entered into no such loan agreement.

So now the question is: where is the media's outrage at the McCain campaign's bald-faced lie about public financing?

Original here