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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain Makes False Claims On Iraq Timeline (VIDEO)

In an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric tonight, John McCain made the false assertion that the Surge brought about the so-called Anbar Awakening. Except, as MSNBC"s Keith Olbermann points out, the Surge was announced after the Awakening. Olbermann also explains that CBS News edited the gaffe out of the final interviewed that aired Tuesday night.

Watch the video:

HuffPost blogger Ilan Goldenberg points out that this is not some minor gaffe, but a fundamental misunderstanding of the Iraq situation:

This is not controversial history. It is history that anyone trying out for Commander and Chief must understand when there are 150,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. It is an absolutely essential element to the story of the past two years. YOU CANNOT GET THIS WRONG. Moreover, what is most disturbing is that according to McCain's inaccurate version of history, military force came first and solved all of our problems. If that is the lesson he takes from the Anbar Awakening, I am afraid it is the lesson he will apply to every other crisis he faces including, for example, Iran.

Original here

McCain Adviser Points to 2020 Iraq Withdrawal Date

Wow, this may be the stupidest thing in the entire world (politically speaking).

Max Boot, one of John McCain's top foreign policy advisers, is now pointing to reports that 2018 or 2020 are more realistic dates for American withdrawal from Iraq than 2010.

As we've heard ad nauseum, McCain's position is that there should not be a timetable, so Boot isn't saying that McCain is proposing those dates as goals or targets. But what he is saying is that the practical implication of McCain's policy of open-ended commitment is that American troops would not be able to withdraw from Iraq until 2018 or 2020.

Here's the relevant portion of Boot's missive, which was intended to clarify Nuri al-Maliki's embrace of Barack Obama's withdrawal timetable (emphasis added):

[Senator McCain] has been arguing for a “conditions based” withdrawal as opposed to the fixed timetable demanded by Obama. If Iraqis are ready to assume all responsibility for security by 2010, then it would be perfectly fine to withdraw most U.S. troops, and no doubt President McCain would do so. But it’s dangerous to commit to such a rigid timetable when it’s impossible to envision what the situation will look like at that time. Officers in the Iraqi Security Forces, who have a closer day to day view of the situation than does the Prime Minister, are not sanguine that a turnover by 2010 will be possible.

A recent Washington Post story contains this quote :

We hope they will stay until 2020,” said Brig. Gen. Bilal al-Dayni, a commander in the southern city of Basra, where about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers patrol the streets after a major offensive in March against extremist militias.

That matches the views of Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul Qadir. Earlier this year the New York Times quoted him as follows :

The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.

As you can see, Boot is arguing that in the context of McCain's policy, 2010 is not a realistic date for American withdrawal. Rather, Boot's view is that estimates of 2018 and 2020 are more plausible.

Aside from Boot's contempt for the Iraqi government's stated views, I don't think most Americans relish the idea of spending another twelve years fighting in Iraq.

This is as close as I've come to seeing a top McCain aide offer a concrete "time horizon" (sic). I'd love to know whether the McCain campaign agrees with Boot, or whether they will throw him under the proverbial bus?

Update: McCain today said that U.S. troops could be out in two years. His campaign spokesman said this is consistent with his prior positions and I agree. McCain all along has said troops could be out in 2 years, 10 years, 100 years, even 10,000 years. The point is that since he has no timetable, under his plan troops "could" be out at anytime. The thing that might be a shift is that he is now saying we "have succeeded" as opposed to we "are succeeding." Of course, if that really was his view, then he would support immediate withdrawal. But he's not for that, so he doesn't really believe we have won the war. Basically, it just seems like smoke-and-mirrors from McCain.

Original here

As World Embraces Obama, McCain Attacks

"I believe any partisanship ends at the water's edge," John McCain said when he visited Colombia in early July.

At least that's what McCain believes when he's across the water.

Since Obama departed overseas--on a trip McCain baited him to take--the McCain campaign has sent out a barrage of emails, statements and press clips attacking Obama. I counted five attacks this morning alone, ridiculing Obama for opposing the "surge" in Iraq and supporting a timetable to withdraw combat troops.

The McCain campaign, as my colleague John Nichols noted this morning, is getting desperate.

Obama's brilliantly orchestrated trip abroad has undermined the best rationale for McCain's candidacy: that he'd be the strongest commander-in-chief in a time of war. But now the leader of the country that McCain calls "the central battleground in the war in the struggle against al-Qaeda" has practically endorsed Obama. The Europeans have already made their preference mighty clear.

The world is desperate for a new face of America, one that can rebuild historic alliances, defuse potential enemies and threats, and begin to transcend barriers of race and class. Just like he does at home, Obama signals something new and different and fascinating abroad. His popularity, whether in Baghdad or Berlin--and the McCain campaign's predictably negative response--is refreshing, but not surprising.

To our friends abroad, McCain represents the policies of the past, while Obama embodies what America should--or could--be.

Original here

McCain Camp "Frustrated" With Obama's Trip: Reports

Is John McCain frustrated, or maybe a little of jealous, of Obama's headline grabbing trip? Looks like all signs point to yes as Iraq's Prime Minister gives new confidence to Obama's withdrawal plan, Bloomberg News says "Middle Eastern and European leaders are lining up to hear what Barack Obama has to say," and General Petraeus gave photographers fresh photo-ops with the Democratic leader.

ABC Anchor George Stephanopoulos told Good Morning America Tuesday, "They are frustrated in the McCain camp." McCain and former President Bush tried to laugh-off being jealous during a news conference yesterday at the Bush compound in Maine.

Sen. John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush laughed off questions about the size and scale of Sen. Barack Obama's anticipated events in Europe, after the Democratic contender concludes a tour of the Middle East including Iraq and Afghanistan, but the truth wasn't far from the surface.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., laughed off concerns that he is "jealous" of the attention Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is getting on his world tour but the McCain camp is considering a "surprise" that may steal the spotlight from his rival.

"We're jealous is all," the former president told reporters on Monday outside the Bush family home in Maine.

CNN's Dana Bash details John McCain's plan to take take some of the spotlight off Obama while the nation's press corps follow him around half way across the world.

McCain is expected to slam Obama's position on Iraq ahead of a town hall in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday...

... Shrugging off the attention surrounding Obama's trip, the McCain campaign is doing what it can to keep their rival from using the trip to burnish his foreign policy credentials.

There are numerous reports that McCain might try to steal Obama's fire by announcing his VP pick this week.

McCain campaign sources confirm to CNN that there have been discussions high in the campaign about naming a running mate this week. They also say that, whether or not the announcement is made, the choices have been "narrowed" to the point where McCain could make a decision that soon.
Original here

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) Down 9 Points In New Poll

A new Rasmussen poll shows Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican Senator in history, losing 50-41 to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

Six years ago, Stevens won re-election with 78% of the vote. But since then, he's had some trouble with the FBI. (In addition to his record-setting service, Stevens is reportedly the only senator to have had his home raided by Feds.) According to Rasmussen, one in five Alaskan Republicans (20%) now support Dem Begich.

Barack Obama has made Alaska a battleground state, and the campaign hopes a hard-fought race there will help Begich.

Original here

11 reasons America's a new socialist economy

Paul B. Farrell

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Welcome to the conservative's worst nightmare: The law of unintended consequences. Why? Nobody wants to admit it, folks, but the conservatives' grand ideology is backfiring, actually turning the world's greatest capitalistic democracy into the world's newest socialist economy.

A little history: The core principles of conservative economic ideology are grounded in Nobel economist Milton Friedman's 1962 classic "Capitalism and Freedom." Too late to stop President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, those principles became the battle cries energizing conservatives since Reagan: Unrestricted free markets, free enterprise and free trade; deregulation, privatization and globalization; trickle-down economics and trickle-up wealth to an elite plutocracy destined to rule the new American capitalist utopia.
So what happened? Are you guys nuts? Hey, I'm talking to all you blind Beltway politicians (in both parties) ... plus the Old Boys Club running Wall Street (into the ground) ... plus all you fat-cat CEOs (with megamillion parachutes) ... and all your buddies scamming everybody else to get on the Forbes 400. You are proof of Lord Acton's warning: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
It's backfiring! You folks turned our America from a great capitalistic democracy into a meddling socialist economy. Still you don't get it. You're acting like teen addicts tripping on an overdose of "greed-is-good" testosterone while your caricature of conservative economics would at best make a one-line joke on Jay Leno.
Here are 11 reasons your manipulations are sabotaging the great principles of leaders like Friedman and Reagan:
1. Dumber than a fifth grader with cognitive dissonance
Kids know what it means. They know most adults today can't see past the end of their noses. Liberals tune out candidate McBush for being lost in the past. Conservatives can't hear Obama without seeing that turban.
Cognitive dissonance simply means most brains cannot see past their own narrow ideologies. They dismiss any data that contradicts their old ideologies. Whether you're a conservative Republican or liberal Democrat, you only hear what you already know is "true." All else is tuned out.
2. Where did all the leaders go with their moral character?
Friedman's economics requires leaders of moral character. Did it run into Lord Acton's warning: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely?" Former Ford and Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca said yes in "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?"
Friedman's great conservative principles have been commandeered by myopic ideologues whose idea of leadership is balancing the demands of self-interest lobbyists with the need for campaign donations. Unfortunately, a new "change" president won't be enough; there are 537 elected officials in Washington controlled by 42,000 special interest lobbyists.
3. Fed and U.S. Treasury adopted Enron accounting tricks
Bad news: Enron failed several years ago because of its off-balance-sheet accounting scam. The Fed's doing the same thing: Dumping Bear's $30 billion liabilities onto the taxpayer's "balance sheet." Next Treasury proposes adding $5.3 trillion more from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Unfortunately clever accounting tricks by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke aren't going to fool foreign lenders analyzing America's creditworthiness. Worse-case scenario: U.S. Treasury bills with less than a triple-A rating.
With 90 banks on the brink and already too many bail-outs, our so-called leaders are running out of magic bullets. So now the taxpayer's "balance sheet" has become the all-purpose "dumping ground" and it's overcrowding fast as our leaders raise the white flag of socialism.
4. Deregulation creating new socialist housing system
Back in 1999 a Democratic president and Republican Congress were in love with a fantasy called the "new economics." Enthusiastic lobbyists invented the brilliant idea of dismantling the wall between commercial and investment banking: They killed the Glass-Steagall Act that was keeping the sleazy hands of short-term hustlers out of the pockets of long-term lenders.
Flash forward: We lost 85-year-old Bear Sterns and $32 billion IndyMac. Lehman's iffy. And 90 banks. With the virtual takeover of Freddie and Fanny, Wall Street's grand experiment with free-market ideology is backfiring, having socialized the housing market. They have nobody to blame but their self-centered greed.
5. Trade deficits outsourced more of America's wealth than jobs
One look at Forbes lists of fat cats and you know the 21st Century doesn't just belong to Asia, it belongs to everyone but America. Why? Once again, remember Warren Buffett's famous "Farmer's Story" in Fortune: "We were taught in Economics 101 that countries could not for long sustain large, ever-growing trade deficits ... our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4% more than they produce -- that's the trade deficit -- we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own."
Friedman was right: Congressional spending is the biggest cause of inflation, and, wow, those conservatives sure did love blank-check deficit spending the past eight years!
6. Banking system in meltdown, minting penny stocks
The Friedman conservatives apparently understand Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction." Yet, our free-market ideologues can't seem to accept that America is now on the "destructive" downside leg of the cycle, in the economy, markets, trade, politics and, yes, sadly, even with their conservative ideology.
You don't have to be smarter than a fifth grader to figure out that our leaders are clueless about the reality of our crumbling banking system, with many banks trading as penny stocks, while the Fed still panders to conservative pre-election politics rather than getting serious about inflation.
7. Ideologues preach savings, but still push spending
A core principle of conservatism is frugality, saving for the future. Grandparents raised me, struggled during the Depression, passed on strong ideals.
Somewhere over the past generation conservatives forget frugality. This distortion peaked in 2003 when consumers were told to spend, not sacrifice, and fuel the economy even as government spent excessively on war. That was a clear breach of every conservative leader's position in earlier wars.
As a result, in one brief generation, as the power of conservative ideologues grew, America's savings rate dropped precipitously from 11% in 1980 to less than zero today.
8. Warning, the market's under 2000 peak, losing money
Imagine you're on Jeff Foxworthy's fabulous show competing to see if you really are smarter than a fifth grader. Question: "If you put $10,000 in the market in March of 2000 when the Dow peaked at 11,722, how much money would you have today if the market's 10% under 11,722?" So you guess $9,000.
But then two fifth graders raise their hands: One asks if the CPI inflation rate should be considered? If so, maybe $5,000 is closer to the right answer. The other kid wants to know if you're buying stuff in Chicago or Singapore.
The truth is, the best answer for most adults is: "You've lost a hell of a lot of money in the market under the grand conservative ideology the past eight years."
9. Inflation and dollars: Is Zimbabwe the new model for the U.S.?
The Los Angeles Times ran a photo of a Zimbabwe $500 million bank note, worth $20 at noon, less at dinner. Why? Inflation's there is running 32 million (yes million!) percent annually. The German company printing their banknotes finally cut them off.
Things may be worse in America, psychologically. Our ideological obsession with "growth" is not working because there is too much collateral damage, namely inflation. Our dollar has lost substantial value to the euro because our dysfunctional leaders are convinced that a trade policy funded by debt makes sense.
Now we owe China $1.3 trillion, sovereign funds want equity not cheap dollar IOUs, and still our clueless Treasury and the Fed continue debasing our currency, printing money like Zimbabwe.
10. Free-market health care failing 47,000,000 Americans
Big Pharma loves free-market conservatism and no-compete Medicare drug programs. Nobody else is happy. Taxpayers get stuck with the bill.
"The Coming Generational Storm" tells us that without massive reforms and big lifestyle changes for taxpayers (especially retirees), within a couple short decades America's entitlement programs will eat up the entire federal budget. Medicare is the biggest cost item in your future, over $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Conservative ideologues naively believe the answer is more pay-out-of-pocket insurance plans, even with 47 million already uninsured because they can't pay. Here as in so many areas of our economy, free-market junkies really are suffering a severe case of cognitive dissonance, as blind to the facts about the uninsured as they are to their outdated free-market fantasies.
11. Conservative free-market policies inflated oil 300%!
Yep, oil inflated 300% in eight short years under the "leadership of two oil men." But, you can't blame them. We put the foxes in the henhouse, knowing full well "real" oil men love digging holes on the supply side, supporting ethanol subsidies and blaming speculators -- it's in their genes! Talk about cognitive dissonance; real oil men thrive on cowboy images of Marlboro Men in Hummers, Navigators and F-150 trucks.
Net result? Another perfect example of "creative destruction" in action as conservative ideology meets "law of unintended consequences," driving GM, the symbol of America capitalism, closer to bankruptcy ... while turning America into a socialist economy.

Original here

Nas to deliver 600,000 signature petition protesting Fox News’s attacks on African-Americans.»

At 2 PM tomorrow, rap star Nas will deliver a petition — organized by Color of Change and Move and signed by 600,000 people — to Fox News’s Manhattan headquarters, calling on the network to “stop its racist smears against the Obamas and other Black Americans.” Nas also takes the network to task in a new song, “Sly Fox,” which includes the lyrics, “I pledge allegiance to the fair and balanced truth/Not the biased truth/Not the liar’s truth/But the highest truth.” Last year, Brave New Films released a video exposing Fox’s attacks on black America. Watch it:

Original here

"Wall Street Got Drunk": 'Banned' Bush Video Surfaces

An ABC-TV outlet in Houston, and now the Houston Chronicle, have posted a video taken at a political fundraiser for Pete Olson, featuring George W. Bush last week -- capturing some embarrassing/revealing moments after, he noted, he had asked cameras to be turned off.

The first moments form the July 18 event find him speaking almost incoherently in admitting, for once, that his friends in big business had screwed up: "There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk ---that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras -- it got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."

Then, making light of the foreclosure crisis, he said: "And then we got a housing issue... not in Houston, and evidently not in Dallas, because Laura's over there trying to buy a house. [great laughter] I like Crawford but unfortunately after eight years of sacrifice, I am apparently no longer the decision maker."

No one is saying how ABC's Miya Shay got the video or how it emerged. UPDATE: The YouTube version of the video is now axed, but it is easily viewed at ABC site here:
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.

Robertson Advocates Israel Striking Iran Before The 2008 Election»

On yesterday’s edition of The 700 Club, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson sharply criticized the “moderate tone” the Bush administration has allegedly taken toward Iran and its nuclear weapons program. Robertson advocated that Israel look out for the “survival of its nation” and “make some kind of a strike” against Iranian nuclear facilities. He also predicted that it will likely happen before the 2008 elections:

But nevertheless, I think we can look in the next few months for Israel to make a strike — possibly before the next election — because I think George Bush — to use the term an “amber light” — he’s given the amber, the yellow light, saying, “Caution, but go ahead.”

Watch it:

Robertson’s predictions often turn out to be wrong. In 2004, Robertson claimed that the Lord told him it would “be like a blowout” re-election for President Bush. (Bush ended up receiving just 51 percent of the vote.) In 2006, he incorrectly predicted that “the outcome of the war and the success of the economy will leave the Republicans in charge.”

He does, however, have an inside track into the Bush administration. Last year, Robertson’s Regent University estimated that one in six of its graduates were employed in government work. Approximately 150 served in the Bush administration.

Today, top McCain surrogate Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is also talking to controversial Pastor John Hagee’s organization. In 2006, Hagee declared:

The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.

Other members of the right wing have also been unifying around the idea of striking Iran before Bush leaves. Both John Bolton and Bill Kristol have made the same argument.

(HT: Ari’s Freedom Switch)

Digg It!


HOST: Do you see any resolution to this crisis with Iran?

ROBERTSON: I’ve been very surprised that we’ve taken the moderate tone we have so far. I think we’re making a mistake.

But with Israel, it’s not a question of whether they can be moderate or extreme. The question is the survival of their nation. And if Iran gets nuclear weapons, they have announced in advance they’re going to use them against Israel. And Israel has no choice but to make some kind of a strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities, and to do so fairly soon.

Nobody wants to do it, but nevertheless, they’re going to have no choice. They do have nuclear submarines they can launch cruise missiles from. I don’t believe the U.S. would allowing a refueling in Iraq, although some people have mentioned something like that.

But nevertheless, I think we can look in the next few months for Israel to make a strike — possibly before the next election — because I think George Bush — to use the term an “amber light” — he’s given the amber, the yellow light, saying, “Caution, but go ahead.”

Original here

Nevada Republican Party sued

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- More than two dozen delegates who attended the Nevada Republican Party's convention in April have filed a lawsuit claiming the state party's recent decision to appoint national convention delegates violates the law.

Those who signed onto the lawsuit, filed Friday in Washoe County District Court in Reno, included Wayne Terhune, a Ron Paul supporter who helped to organize a renegade state convention in June after the party's April convention was abruptly shut down.

While many of the delegates to the April convention who joined in the lawsuit were Paul backers, Terhune said Monday that others are supporters of John McCain, the party's presumptive presidential nominee, and the litigation "is not a Ron Paul lawsuit."

He noted that others who joined in the lawsuit included McCain supporter Mike Weber, who said in a news release about the suit that he wants to make sure the state delegates have their voices heard.

Zachary Moyle, executive director of the state party, said Monday he hadn't been served with a copy of the litigation and in any case "I can't comment on any impending lawsuit."

The complaint alleges that the state GOP's decision to appoint delegates to the Republican National Convention violates a state law which says delegates at the state convention shall select the national delegates.

Terhune said members of the state GOP executive committee "shut down the convention in April, and now they aren't giving delegates a chance to have their voices heard."

"Over a thousand delegates attended the convention in April, and the state executive party officials are attempting to silence all of them," Terhune said. "This is completely against the traditions of the Republican Party and the United States of America."

The April convention ended prior to final votes on what was shaping up as a national convention delegation with more backers for Paul than McCain.

Original here

Right Wing Falsely Claims NYT Rejection Of McCain’s Op-Ed Was Unprecedented»

Yesterday, the Drudge Report revealed that the New York Times had rejected a draft op-ed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which rebutted an earlier one by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). As the Times explained, it was happy to publish a piece from McCain, but the one submitted was editorially subpar — it didn’t have any new information.

The right wing rushed to defend McCain yesterday, calling the Times’s decision “offensive” and “stupid” and claiming that it was part of a conspiracy to to help Obama win the election:

Weekly Standard’s Dean Barnett: “Nobody has ever heard of anything like this ever happening before.” [Hugh Hewitt Show, 7/21/08]

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton: “For them to say that to - - the Republican presidential nominee is offensive.” [Hannity and Colmes, 7/21/08]

Conservative Pundit Dick Morris: “You don’t tell a president to the United States candidate what to write.” [Hannity and Colmes, 7/21/08]

Former White House Adviser Karl Rove: “I thought the decision by The New York Times was arrogant, condescending and stupid.” [On the Record with Greta, 7/21/08]

Bolton also said that he “may never publish another op-ed in ‘The New York Times’ after this.” Watch a compilation of Bolton, Morris, and Rove here:

But yesterday on CNN, Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Vice President and former Clinton Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Palmieri emphasized that even as a sitting president, Bill Clinton had “many” op-eds rejected by the Times:

When I worked for President Clinton, “The New York Times” rejected many op-eds written by him as a sitting president of the United States. They don’t just give up space to a candidate because their opponent has space. You can’t just go — you can’t go to “The New York Times” editorial page and say I want to say what’s wrong with the other guy. They want to leverage their space, which is very valuable, to force you to say something you haven’t said before. And I think that they turned down McCain not because they like Obama but because McCain, all he was doing in his piece was criticizing Obama and they wanted him to put him on the spot to say more.


COLMES: All right. In terms of “The New York Times,” the “New York Times” said, look, we work with our authors, our op-ed authors. We want t o get a revised draft.
BOLTON: Let me say, Alan.

COLMES: We’re not going to publish it. It was — we would be happy to publish it. You got to work with us to revise it the way we want it like any editor of any newspaper.

BOLTON: Alan, I’ve published op-eds in “The New York Times.” I may never publish another op-ed in “The New York Times” after this. But I’m telling you, if they had come back to me with that kind of comment, I’d would have said stick it in your ear. I’m going to go publish it somewhere else.

COLMES: Maybe you could have found a softer way to phrase that.

BOLTON: For them I probably wouldn’t have. For them to say that to - - the Republican presidential nominee is offensive. […]

COLMES: They asked him to revise it. They wouldn’t revise it. That’s the way it works on an op-ed piece.

MORRIS: You don’t tell a candidate for president of the United States what to write.

COLMES: They’re looking for a specific kind of statements.

MORRIS: You don’t tell a president to the United States candidate what to write.

COLMES: I point out editors do.

MORRIS: No, it’s not.

COLMES: Yes, it is.

MORRIS: When a president writes — I doubt they changed a comment in Obama’s piece.

COLMES: McCain’s president now? […]

ROVE: I thought this — I thought the decision by The New York Times was arrogant, condescending and stupid. It was arrogant because it said, We’re going to dictate to you what you put in your op-ed. It was condescending in its tone that said, You have to mirror what Senator Obama said. And it was stupid because it gives people more reason to believe that they simply can’t trust The New York Times to be fair and even-handed.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, in such an important time in a democracy as a presidential election, we have two candidates running, you would think that they’d want to mirror exact opportunity –

ROVE: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: — and not try to tell someone what to write, you know, just to be careful of sort of the conduits of information and let the voters decide.

Original here

Obama Far More Popular Among Jews Than Lieberman

If Barack Obama has a problem among Jewish voters, then Sen. Joseph Lieberman is in monumental trouble.

Among the most high-profile Jews in Congress, Lieberman is viewed far more unfavorably than the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a new poll. Only 37 percent of Jews view the Connecticut Independent in a favorable light compared to 48 percent who have a negative perception. As for Obama, 60 percent of Jews view him favorably while 34 percent view him unfavorably.

The findings were released as part of a recent survey of American Jews by the new progressive pro-Israel group J Street. They seem to upturn some of this year's conventional political wisdom.

Obama, who is set to travel to Israel this week, is often described in the press as facing significant obstacles to winning Jewish support, in part because of false claims that he is a Muslim. Lieberman, meanwhile, is regularly quoted disparaging Obama's credentials on topics considered dear to the Jewish voter's heart: toughness on Iran and support for the Jewish state. Asked recently whether he should be questioning Obama's commitment to Israel, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee responded, "why wouldn't I do that?"

Lieberman does score better among the 900 Jewish voters polled than other major political and religious figures. President Bush is viewed unfavorably by 74 percent of Jews, compared to 22 percent who see him in a positive light. McCain, meanwhile, is viewed favorably by just 34 percent of Jews, while 57 said they had a negative perception. On the lowest end of the spectrum stood Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was viewed favorably by just five percent of Jews and unfavorably by 68 percent.

For Lieberman, however, the findings present another piece of dreary news in a month filled with controversy. In early July, Quinnipiac University found that the Connecticut Senator's approval rating among his constituents had dropped to 45 percent, with 43 percent expressing disapproval. One week later, the Senator watched as a petition, signed by 43,000 individuals, was sent to members of the Senate's steering committee urging them to boot him from the party.

Not that there is tremendous significance to these developments or numbers. Lieberman has eagerly taken to his role of McCain attack dog, in the process alienating large portions of the Democrats that make up both the Jewish community and his Connecticut constituency. Not to mention the relatively common misconception that Jews naturally are aligned with Lieberman's hard-line tilt on foreign affairs. According to J Street, 38 percent of respondents had a positive view of the conservative leaning AIPAC, compared to 44 percent who viewed the liberal in a favorable light.

As for the rest of J Street's finding, they provide a mixed bag for Obama. The Illinois Democrat - who one percent of the population thinks is Jewish - has a substantial lead among Jews in the presidential race: 62 percent to 32 percent. But that margin is smaller than what both Al Gore and John Kerry earned in their perspective races.

On the flip side, the study suggests that there is room within the Jewish community for the presumptive Democratic nominee's support to grow. As Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent noted in a review of the J Street poll, Jews are "liberal as hell."

"Seventy-four percent of us view Bush unfavorably and 83 percent of us disapprove of his job performance," Ackerman wrote. "While 76 percent of the country as a whole says the U.S. is on the wrong track, an astonishing 90 percent of American Jews say the same. Only 21 percent of us approve of the Iraq war and only 29 percent think Bush is good for Israel, and those are clearly the shmucks that kissed ass in Hebrew school and snitched when the rest of us used the synagogue phone booth and cloakroom to make out."

Original here

McCain campaign adopts Bush's respect for free expression

One of the hallmarks of events at which George Bush appeared was the complete elimination of any dissent. In one of the most notorious cases, three individuals who arrived at a 2005 Bush town hall meeting in Denver with an anti-war bumper sticker on their car and anti-Bush t-shirts underneath their clothing were first threatened with removal before they sat down and then, 20 minutes later, were forcibly removed despite not having uttered a word. Numerous other cases of that kind have been documented, where perfectly well-behaved individuals were barred, removed and even arrested at Bush speeches, including taxpayer-funded events, exclusively for holding signs or wearing clothing that were critical of the Leader or his policies.

At the center of this dissent-suppressive policy was Gregory Jenkins, the former deputy assistant to President Bush and White House director of advance, as well as a former Fox News producer. Jenkins was sued by the ACLU for his role in the removal of the Denver attendees and in several other cases. Bush officials originally denied any role in this conduct, but a Presidential Advance Manual for which Jenkins was responsible uncovered by the ACLU explicitly instructed event workers on when and how "to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event" and "calls for Bush volunteers to distribute tickets in a manner to deter protesters and to stop demonstrators from entering." As the ACLU put it:

The American Civil Liberties Union national office today filed a federal lawsuit against a former high-level White House staffer for enacting a policy that unlawfully excluded individuals perceived to be critical of the administration from public events where President Bush was present. The policy is laid out in an October 2002 "Presidential Advance Manual" obtained by the ACLU. . . .

The ACLU is suing Gregory Jenkins, former Director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance and a Deputy Assistant to President Bush for setting the policy in the manual. Jenkins' policies have led to the removal and, in some cases, arrest of innocent people from taxpayer-funded events.

One of the lawsuits brought against Jenkins -- Rank v. Jenkins, brought by the ACLU on behalf of two Texas citizens who "were arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, and hauled away in a police van" on the West Virginia State Capitol ground when trying to attend a Bush July 4 speech wearing anti-war and anti-Bush t-shirts -- ended with a settlement under which the Government paid them $80,000.

Earlier this month, the same Greg Jenkins joined the McCain campaign to oversee the campaign's advance planning:

Perhaps most important for the campaign's image is the addition of Greg Jenkins, a veteran advance man who ran presidential advance in the Bush White House. Jenkins, also an aide on Bush's 2000 campaign, is working to ensure better stagecraft of McCain's events and to avoid a reprisal of the much-mocked green background behind McCain at a high-profile speech last month.
That move was part of what The New York Times called "the elevation of Steve Schmidt -- who worked closely with Karl Rove," and noted that Jenkins is "another veteran of Mr. Rove's operation."

The placement of Jenkins in charge of McCain campaign events is already producing exactly the heavy-handed, dissent-suppressing tactics that were the ugly hallmark of Bush events. Shortly after Jenkins joined the McCain campaign, this is what happened at a McCain speech, billed as being "open to the public" -- an event which, ironically, also took place in Denver:

A 60-year-old librarian received a trespassing ticket today after a liberal group's protest outside a John McCain town hall meeting Monday.

Clutching a sign that read "McCain = Bush," Carol Kreck was removed from the atrium at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts by four Denver police officers.

Kreck, a former Denver Post reporter who works part-time as a librarian for an education think tank, said she was removed as she quizzed a police officer about whether he could deny her free speech "on city property" by taking away her sign, while McCain supporters wore buttons inside.

Video of this episode was recorded:

Most significantly, the McCain campaign engaged in exactly the same sort of dishonesty about this episode as characterized similar Bush ejections. Originally, the campaign claimed it had no involvement with her removal, and that it was done at the behest of the Secret Service. But the Secret Service denied that, thus forcing the truth to be revealed:
It was Sen. John McCain's staff who asked security at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to remove people holding protest signs at the venue -- not U.S. Secret Service agents, who were not involved in Carol Kreck's ouster from the galleria. . . .

But Thursday, after two days of being vilified by bloggers, letter writers and others, the Secret Service emphatically denied involvement.

"Contrary to some recent reporting, the Secret Service had no involvement in Ms. Kreck being removed from the area," said Malcolm D. Wiley Sr., spokesman for the Secret Service. "It was not done at our request or suggestion. Any assertion to the contrary is inaccurate and inconsistent with our established policies and procedures."

Because the McCain campaign's ejection of a dissenter was at a private campaign event rather than a publicly-funded speech, many of the legal and Constitutional issues that rendered Bush's similar behavior illegal are likely inapplicable. Nonetheless, the dissent-intolerant spirit of the behavior is exactly the same, and the decision by the McCain campaign to hire a Rove operative like Greg Jenkins -- who was at the center of similar actions on behalf of George Bush -- is clearly a conscious attempt to import those same policies. Regardless of what one thinks of McCain, a McCain administration would clearly maintain in power the same people who have been running the country for the last eight years and, with them, much of the same noxious behavior.

UPDATE: The New Republic's Jonathan Chait -- in very close competition with Bill Kristol for the title of Beltway Pundit Who is Wrong About Everything -- last week wrote an article entitled "Old Flame: Why I still kinda like John McCain," in which he explains that he "still feel[s] some pangs of affinity for the old codger. Where Bush is peevish, entitled, and insecure, McCain's charming, ironic, and self-deprecating" (h/t BarbinMD). The former war supporter and Lieberman lover continues:
The best aspect of a McCain presidency is that, while it would probably follow the policies of George W. Bush, it would put an end to the politics of Karl Rove . . . . A McCain presidency would promise to dismantle the whole Rovian method that has torn open such a deep wound in the national psyche.
In light of the above -- and there is much more here -- it's not really worth saying much about Chait's specific claim. Nonetheless, it never ceases to amaze that no matter how many embarrassing errors Chait and his TNR comrades produce with their quest to show how Smart and Serious they are by being the Reasonable Liberals who praise and defend the Right, they just keep eagerly offering themselves up for that role.

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McCain Has No Clue on Tech Issues

Political observers have made much of John McCain's admission that he cannot use a computer without assistance. In a campaign where McCain's opponent is 25 years younger than him, the factoid is potent ammunition for those who argue McCain is out of touch and too old for the presidency. But not knowing your way around a MacBook doesn't mean you can't be president. And McCain's personal Ludditism isn't a deal breaker for tech leaders. "I don't give a damn if McCain ever turns on a computer or not," Michael Arrington, coeditor of the blog TechCrunch wrote in January. "I just want a president who has the right top-down polices to support the information economy."

And where is McCain on tech policy? Not so shockingly, the computer-free senator's campaign is not as plugged in as his rival's. In fact, his campaign website fails to address America's lagging performance on broadband access or affordability, the technological capabilities of the federal bureaucracy, or the Internet's ability to increase government transparency. "There are red flags," says Brian Reich, author of the book Media Rules!: Mastering Today's Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience and the former editor of Campaign Web Review, a blog that tracked the use of the Internet by candidates, campaigns, and activists.

Barack Obama has embraced the Internet, with his thunderous online fundraising and sophisticated MyBO website. (Plus, he's comfortable talking about what's on his iPod.) Unsurprisingly, high-tech leaders hail his comprehensive tech policies.

Last fall, Obama went to Google headquarters to unveil his proposals related to information technology. He covered the waterfront: broadband access, federal funding for the sciences, using the Internet as a tool to increase government accountability, and more. He promised to appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer, a high-level staffer who will make sure that every federal agency has "best-in-class technologies" and uses best practices.

On his campaign website, Obama provides plenty of data on his information-technology stances:

  • He supports net neutrality, a pet issue of the netroots. Net neutrality would prohibit network providers from making websites load faster if their owners pay higher fees. In Obama's America, accessing will take no more or less time than logging on to
  • An Obama administration would seek to provide all Americans access to broadband Internet, the same way they have access to phones.
  • Obama says he would make technology literacy a priority for public schools.
  • His administration would aim to use technology--specifically, a nationwide switch to electronic medical records--to make health care more affordable.
  • Obama has proposed a "Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund," funded by $10 billion annually, that would make sure new renewable energy ideas make it to market.
  • He supports increasing federal funding for research in the sciences, and would emphasize math and science at K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels.

Obama also calls for using technology to increase the transparency and effectiveness of the federal government. He has called for creating a single government website to track grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contracts. He'd like to see the business of federal agencies conducted over live feeds that can be watched by anyone with an Internet connection. He calls for the federal government to "employ all the technological tools available to allow citizens not just to observe, but also to participate" in these meetings. And there's more: Cabinet officials hosting national town halls on the Internet; permitting members of the public to post comments on pending bills on the White House website; federal agencies employing blogs, wikis, and social networking tools. He'd like to see the US government as connected--and interconnected--with itself and the citizenry as technologically feasible.

The plan has won over techies. Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, a demigod of the tech community, endorsed the Democrat, saying, "Obama has committed himself to a technology policy for government that could radically change how government works." Eric Schmidt, the chairman and CEO of Google, has said, "Senator Obama's plan would help make sure that the Internet remains a free and open platform, and that America maintains an atmosphere of high-tech growth and innovation."

John McCain, as of yet, has few such fans in the tech sector. His campaign website does not have a section about technology. Sprinkled throughout the site are a handful of references to tech issues. He promises to keep the Internet free of taxes, so "this engine of economic growth and prosperity" will not be threatened. He advocates the "rapid deployment of 21st century information systems and technology" that would allow "doctors to practice across state lines." He would set up a $300 million prize for the developer of a "battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."

Several passages mentioning technology (and using plenty of capitalization) are obtuse:

  • "John McCain Will Streamline The Process For Deploying New Technologies And Requiring More Accountability From Government Programs To Meet Commercialization Goals And Deadlines."
  • "John McCain Will Ensure Rapid Technology Introduction, Quickly Shifting Research From The Laboratory To The Marketplace."

But McCain's site is most elaborate when it refers to the danger the Internet poses to America's children, noting that McCain "has been a leader in pushing legislation through Congress that requires all schools and libraries receiving federal subsidies for Internet connectivity to utilize technology to restrict access to sexually explicit material by children using such computers." It also reports that "John McCain has taken a hard line against pedophiles that would use the Internet to prey upon children by proposing the first-of-its-kind national online registry for persons who have been convicted of sex crimes against children."

Though McCain echoes Obama's call for greater government transparency, his website says little about how technology and the Internet can further that cause. There is no mention of increasing access to broadband. When asked about this in a ZDNet News questionnaire, McCain adopted a classically conservative approach, saying government policies should "promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher-quality services for consumers."

His website also lacks a statement on net neutrality. When prompted, though, he has seemed to come out against it, saying, "When you control the pipe you should be able to get profit from your investment," suggesting a philosophical opposition to neutrality. He has also made a dismissive reference to net neutrality as an attempt to "micromanage American business and innovation."

The McCain campaign did not return an emailed request for comment.

Reich, the former editor of Campaign Web Review, isn't willing to dismiss McCain's thin tech stance out of hand. "Most policy development is done by advisers and staff, so just because he doesn't have a technology policy that is clearly articulated doesn't mean I'm going to give up on the prospect of John McCain being a supporter of future innovation," he says. "But he does have various gaps to fill in."

McCain's problem is that Obama has raised the bar. "All the people I know in the technology space are backing Barack Obama and not John McCain," says Reich. That provides McCain with little incentive to do better. "John McCain probably has thoughts and feelings on technology," Reich adds. "But he doesn't see it as an electoral priority to talk about the role technology is going to play in our society going forward, because he's not going to raise any money from Silicon Valley liberals. I think it's both a policy deficiency in his platform and a political deficiency in his strategy."

Michael Cornfield, author of Politics Moves Online: Campaigning and the Internet and a founder of George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet, describes McCain's approach to technology as "tangential." In a charitable interpretation of McCain's lack of an information technology platform, Cornfield points out that it mirrors the "classic Republican approach to the economy: laissez-faire, except where family values come into play. McCain doesn't post any plans for technological development because the best plan from this perspective is, 'Stay out of R&D's way.'"

There is, of course, a less kind alternative. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of the blog techPresident and the Personal Democracy Forum, says, "McCain's interest in tech policy is about as robust as the Horse Traders Association's interest was in steam engines."

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Tell Me Again, Why Is Obama Being Popular With Our Allies a Bad Thing?

I understand why John McCain's campaign is desperately looking for negatives in Obama's overseas trip. But why have so many in the media internalized the McCain campaign's claptrap?

Here is the McCain line on Europe, delivered via Politico by a nameless campaign aide: "I don't know that people in Missouri are going to like seeing tens of thousands of Europeans screaming for The One."

And here was Gloria Borger on CNN, responding to Wolf Blitzer's assertion that Obama seemed to be on top of his game by pulling out the Straight Talk talking points (and leaving logic and rational thinking in a pile on the studio floor): the McCain campaign points out, he can't appear to be seen as running for the president of Europe. He's going to be really cheered in Europe, he's going to give a huge speech. He's going to have a lot of support there. But he's running for the president of the United States. And so they have to walk a very, very fine line here because they don't want to be seen having too many adoring people after him in Europe because he's running for president of the United States.

What do Borger and the McCain campaign think would play better in Missouri, Obama getting off the plane in Germany and having the locals throw tomatoes at him? Would that endear him to the people in Middle America -- who, in McCain World, are like an insecure girlfriend, panicked by just the thought of someone else finding their guy attractive?

Sadly, this absurd line of thinking is spreading fast. Here is the L.A. Times' Michael Finnegan:

In Europe, where he is highly popular, Obama plans a speech in Berlin on U.S. relations with allies. He will probably find a warm, even rapturous, reception -- which poses its own challenges. 'There's such a thing as being too popular overseas,' said [William] Galston, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. 'And that may create some misgivings here at home.'

The Baltimore Sun's Washington bureau chief Paul West ominously warns: "European adulation for Obama will make him the continent's poodle."

And even Maureen Dowd appears to have bought into the McCainites' Euro-phobia, suggesting Obama "can't be seen as too insidery with the Euro-crats" lest Obama-wary Americans "wonder what he's doing there, when they can't pay for gas, when the dollar is the Euro's chew toy, when Bud is going Belgian and when the Chrysler Building has Arab landlords." And don't forget all those German cars on our roads. Which we can't afford to drive because gas is too expensive (for which, according to McCain, we can blame Obama).

Of course, at no point does the McCain campaign or anyone in the media point out what, exactly, is the danger to America if our closest allies actually, you know, don't hate us.

They also fail to mention that along with being our allies, the European countries Obama is visiting are also democracies -- so it's a lot easier for their leaders to make nice with us if their constituents don't view our president as an object of disdain and ridicule.

And, as Jason Linkins points out, George Bush keeps giving them reasons for ongoing disdain and ridicule. As does McCain. Is it really better for America's standing in the world to have a president who doesn't know that Czechoslovakia no longer exists and who thinks there is a border between Iraq and Pakistan?

Iraq has shown us what an essentially go-it-alone war looks like.

And the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- resulting in more U.S. troop fatalities there in May and June than in Iraq -- is a tragic reminder of the consequences of a U.S. military spread too thin, and of not having our allies fully backing our efforts.

Given a recent poll showing the German public prefers Obama to McCain 67 percent to 6 percent, it's no surprise that McCain would try to spin his opponent's popularity there as a black mark on his record. It's also no surprise that McCain isn't willing to admit that our allies' antipathy toward Bush and his policies -- exacerbated by the contempt the Bushies always seemed to delight in directing at them (see Rummy on "Old Europe") -- has cost us dearly in blood, treasure, and goodwill. But it is a surprise that the media are so eagerly parroting the "popular is a problem" meme.

Thankfully, most Americans understand that having a president who is lauded around the world is infinitely better than having one who is loathed.

Original here

McCain Knows Best: Rejects Maliki’s Timetable But Says ‘I Know What Iraqis Want’»

This weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, supporting the plan set forth by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). “Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” he said.

But Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) couldn’t care less what the Iraqis want. When Maliki signaled support for a timetable earlier this month, McCain rejected it. This weekend, a senior McCain aide told Marc Ambinder, “voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.” On NBC’s Today Show today, McCain was again dismissive of Maliki, suggesting that only he knows what the Iraqis really “want”:

Q: If the Iraqi government were to say, if you were president, ‘we want a timetable for troops being removed,’ would you agree to that?

McCAIN: I’ve been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him. And I know what they want. They want it based on conditions. And of course they’d like to have us out. That’s what happens when you win wars.

Watch it:

McCain has a history of thinking he knows better than Iraqis. After Maliki initially requested a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal this month, McCain stated, “Actually, the Iraqis are not” asking for withdrawal. On a conference call this morning, top McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann also brushed off Maliki’s withdrawal call:

One inartful statement from Prime Minister Maliki certainly does not change Iraqi government policies.

McCain is picking up a tactic from President Bush: claiming that he can now speak for Iraqis and know what’s best for them. In October 2006, Bush claimed that Iraqis are willing to “tolerate” high levels of violence because they “so [want] to be free” (despite polls showing that 71 percent wanted U.S. troops to leave). Last November, Bush implied that Iraqis should be thankful for the U.S. invasion, stating, “If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you’d be saying: God, I love freedom, because that’s what’s happened.”

As McCain said in 2004 when asked if the U.S. should withdraw if asked by the Iraqi government, “I think it’s obvious that we would have to leave.”

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Unlike McCain, many seniors depend on the Web

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NEW YORK (AP) -- If Sen. John McCain is really serious about becoming a Web-savvy citizen, perhaps Kathryn Robinson can help.

Robinson is now 106 - that's 35 years older than McCain - and she began using the Internet at 98, at the Barclay Friends home in West Chester, Pa., where she lives. "I started to learn because I wanted to e-mail my family," she says - in an e-mail message, naturally.

Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain's admission that when it comes to the Internet, "I'm an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get." And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides "go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself."

How unusual is it for a 71-year-old American to be unplugged?

That depends how you look at the statistics. Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online, according to data from April and May compiled by the Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.

But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. "About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet," says Susannah Fox, director of the project.

"John McCain is an outlier when you compare him to his peers," Fox says. "On one hand, a U.S. senator has access to information sources and staff assistance that most people do not. On the other, the Internet has become such a go-to resource that it's a curiosity to hear that someone doesn't rely on it the way most Americans do."

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan presented a somewhat updated picture when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday: "He's fully capable of browsing the Internet and checking Web sites," Buchanan said. "He has a Mac and uses it several times a week. He's working on becoming more familiar with the Internet."

That's a good thing, says Tobey Dichter, CEO of Generations on Line, a group that helps bring seniors - including the 106-year-old Robinson - into the digital age.

"He needs the self-empowerment" of going online himself, says Dichter. "There are too many people surrounding John McCain who are willing to print an e-mail for him" -or do a search on his behalf, like the aides who, he says, show him the Drudge Report.

"But that cheats him of an opportunity to let his own mind take him to the next link," says Dichter. "If he doesn't know what links are available, he will only get exactly what he's asking for, and nothing more."

Why do most of us - 73 percent of Americans - use the Internet? The top three reasons are, in order, e-mail, informational searches, and finding a map or driving directions.

But there are dozens of other conveniences: Online banking, shopping, travel or restaurant reservations, job searches, real estate listings, and of course, the news (McCain, like many people over 30 or so, prefers his newspapers the old-fashioned way.) "The Internet is the ultimate convenience appliance," says Fox.

McCain may be in "digital denial," as Dichter calls it, but his family sure isn't: His wife, Cindy, has been seen scrolling away on her Blackberry, and daughter Meghan, one of his seven children, blogs from the campaign trail on McCain Blogette.

As for McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama is 46, and thus in an age group where fully 85 percent of Americans are plugged in. A CNN clip available on YouTube shows him so engrossed with his Blackberry while crossing a street that he bumps into the curb.

McCain's frank admissions of his offline state have led to discussion of whether being wired is a qualification for leading the free world. One aide, Mark Soohoo, defended the senator's lack of wiredness at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York in June by assuring the panel: "John McCain is aware of the Internet."

One blogger opined last week that all the fuss is silly. McCain, wrote Newsweek's Andrew Romano, hasn't become computer literate because he hasn't needed to. "When aides are responding to your messages and briefing you on every imaginable subject, the incentive to get online sort of disappears," he wrote.

McCain is hardly the only prominent, wealthy, powerful man in the country to lack an affinity with computers. To take one, Sumner Redstone, the 85-year-old chairman of Viacom, "is not an avid user," says a spokesman, Carl Falto. "He's capable of going on but doesn't do it frequently."

On the other hand, famed Broadway director Arthur Laurents, 91, whose "Gypsy" is now a hit on Broadway, is known to respond faster to e-mails than to phone calls.

Among fellow senators, aides to Sen. Robert Byrd, 90, say he has a computer but prefers to speak directly to his staff and doesn't carry a Blackberry.

What keeps some American seniors unwired? Some lack immediate access to a computer, Dichter says. But intimidation, she says, is the greatest problem.

"One has to be compassionate with a person who hasn't gotten onto the information highway early, because the cumulative vocabulary is so intimidating," she says. Also, many older people "feel they have a perfectly happy life without it. They feel that the world is overrun with electronic devices already."

But, Dichter says, such people often change their minds when they realize they can get family pictures via e-mail - not to mention health information, support groups, and local community news. And Fox, of Pew, notes that seniors outpace other age groups in tracing their family's genealogy online (a third of them say they do so, compared to a quarter of all Internet users.)

Robinson credits her computer with helping her withstand the effects of a stroke she suffered in 2003. "In my case I had a stroke and as a result could not talk," she says in her e-mail. "The computer has been a lifesaver for me."

Original here

McCain Makes Historic First Visit to Internet

In a daring bid to wrench attention from his Democratic rival in the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today embarked on an historic first-ever visit to the Internet.

Given that the Arizona Republican had never logged onto the Internet before, advisors acknowledged that his first visit to the World Wide Web was fraught with risk.

But with his Democratic rival Barack Obama making headlines with his tour of the Middle East and Europe, the McCain campaign felt that they needed to "come up with something equally bold for John to do," according to one advisor.

McCain aides said that the senator's journey to the Internet will span five days and will take him to such far-flung sites as, eBay and Facebook.

With a press retinue watching, Sen. McCain logged onto the Internet at 9:00 AM Sunday, paying his first-ever visit ever to

"I can't get this [expletive] thing to work," Sen. McCain said as he struggled with his computer's mouse, causing his wife Cindy to prompt him to add that he was "just kidding."

Having pronounced his visit to Mapquest a success, Sen. McCain continued his tour by visiting and Yahoo! Answers, where he inquired as to the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

Sen. McCain said that he had embarked on his visit to the Internet to allay any fears that he is too out-of-touch to be president, adding that he plans to take additional steps to demonstrate that he is comfortable with today's technology: "In the days and weeks ahead, you will be seeing me rock out with my new Walkman."

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McCain Owns First Foreign Policy Gaffe During Obama's Iraq Trip (VIDEO)

As Barack Obama began his trip to the Middle East and Europe, the media was already speculating about the possibility of a gaffe. Obama's travel "carries political risk," the New York Times reported, "particularly if Mr. Obama makes a mistake."

But the only foreign policy error made in the last few days came this morning on ABC's Good Morning America, when John McCain made ANOTHER geography gaffe while trying to criticize Obama's visit to Iraq. (Just last week, McCain repeatedly referred to Czechoslovakia, a country that hasn't existed since 1993.)

Asked by Diane Sawyer whether the "the situation in Afghanistan in precarious and urgent," McCain responded: "I think it's serious. . . . It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."

But as ABC's Rick Klein noted: "Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. Afghanistan and Pakistan do."

Watch it here:

Original here

McCain gets $1,930 a month from 'broken' Social Security system

Republican presidential candidate John McCain cashes his monthly Social Security checks despite calling the federal program "a disgrace," the Associated Press reports.

"I'm receiving benefits," McCain told campaign reporters, but added, "the system is broken."

In 2007, he received benefits of $23,157 from Social Security, approximately $1,930 a month. The maximum monthly benefit under Social Security is $2,185. Social Security benefits are determined by age at retirement.

McCain, who is 71, has received benefits since he was 65.

Last week, McCain told observers at a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, "Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers ... and that's a disgrace."

B.J. Jarrett from the Social Security Administration said that individuals can refuse retirement benefits.

In 2006, McCain's wife Cindy earned $6 million, and has a net worth of approximately $100 million.

Original here

Soldier in famous photo never defeated 'demons'

By ALLEN G. BREED and KEVIN MAURER, Associated Press Writers

PINEHURST, N.C. - Officers had been to the white ranch house at 560 W. Longleaf many times before over the past year to respond to a "barricade situation." Each had ended uneventfully, with Joseph Dwyer coming out or telling police in a calm voice through the window that he was OK.

But this time was different.

The Iraq War veteran had called a taxi service to take him to the emergency room. But when the driver arrived, Dwyer shouted that he was too weak to get up and open the door.

The officers asked Dwyer for permission to kick it in.

"Go ahead!" he yelled.

They found Dwyer lying on his back, his clothes soiled with urine and feces. Scattered on the floor around him were dozens of spent cans of Dust-Off, a refrigerant-based aerosol normally used to clean electrical equipment.

Dwyer told police Lt. Mike Wilson he'd been "huffing" the aerosol.

"Help me, please!" the former Army medic begged Wilson. "I'm dying. Help me. I can't breathe."

Unable to stand or even sit up, Dwyer was hoisted onto a stretcher. As paramedics prepared to load him into an ambulance, an officer noticed Dwyer's eyes had glassed over and were fixed.

A half hour later, he was dead.

When Dionne Knapp learned of her friend's June 28 death, her first reaction was to be angry at Dwyer. How could he leave his wife and daughter like this? Didn't he know he had friends who cared about him, who wanted to help?

But as time passed, Knapp's anger turned toward the Army.

A photograph taken in the first days of the war had made the medic from New York's Long Island a symbol of the United States' good intentions in the Middle East. When he returned home, he was hailed as a hero.

But for most of the past five years, the 31-year-old soldier had writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies and dodging nonexistent roadside bombs, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.

This broken, frightened man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. If the military couldn't save him, Knapp thought, what hope was there for the thousands suffering in anonymity?

Like many, Dwyer joined the military in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

His father and three brothers are all cops. One brother, who worked in Lower Manhattan, happened to miss his train that morning and so hadn't been there when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Joseph, the second-youngest of six, decided that he wanted to get the people who'd "knocked my towers down."

And he wanted to be a medic. (Dwyer's first real job was as a transporter for a hospital in the golf resort town of Pinehurst, where his parents had moved after retirement.)

In 2002, Dwyer was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas. The jokester immediately fell in with three colleagues — Angela Minor, Sgt. Jose Salazar, and Knapp. They spent so much time together after work that comrades referred to them as "The Four Musketeers."

Knapp had two young children and was going through a messy divorce. Dwyer stepped in as a surrogate dad, showing up in uniform at her son Justin's kindergarten and coming by the house to assemble toys that Knapp couldn't figure out.

When it became clear that the U.S. would invade Iraq, Knapp became distraught, confiding to Dwyer that she would rather disobey her deployment orders than leave her kids.

Dwyer asked to go in her place. When she protested, he insisted: "Trust me, this is what I want to do. I want to go." After a week of nagging, his superiors relented.

Dwyer assured his parents, Maureen and Patrick — and his new wife, Matina, whom he'd married in August 2002 — that he was being sent to Kuwait and would likely stay in the rear, far from the action.

But it wasn't true. Unbeknownst to his family, Dwyer had been attached to the 3rd Infantry's 7th Cavalry Regiment. He was at "the tip of the tip of the spear," in one officer's phrase.

During the push into Baghdad, Dwyer's unit came under heavy fire. An airstrike called in to suppress ambush fire rocked the convoy.

As the sun rose along the Euphrates River on March 25, 2003, Army Times photographer Warren Zinn watched as a man ran toward the soldiers carrying a white flag and his injured 4-year-old son. Zinn clicked away as Dwyer darted out to meet the man, then returned, cradling the boy in his arms.

The photo — of a half-naked boy, a kaffiyeh scarf tied around his shrapnel-injured leg and his mouth set in a grimace of pain, and of a bespectacled Dwyer dressed in full battle gear, his M-16 rifle dangling by his side — appeared on front pages and magazine covers around the world.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to interview the soldier in "the photo." Dwyer was given a "Hometown Hero" award by child-safety advocate John Walsh; the Army awarded him the Combat Medical Badge for service under enemy fire.

The attention embarrassed him.

"Really, I was just one of a group of guys," he told a military publication. "I wasn't standing out more than anyone else."

Returning to the U.S. in June 2003, after 91 days in Iraq, Dwyer seemed a shell to friends.

When he deployed, he was pudgy at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. Now he weighed around 165, and the other Musketeers immediately thought of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dwyer attributed his skeletal appearance to long days and a diet of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). He showed signs of his jolly old self, so his friends accepted his explanation.

But they soon noticed changes that were more than cosmetic.

At restaurants, Dwyer insisted on sitting with his back to the wall so no one could sneak up on him. He turned down invitations to the movies, saying the theaters were too crowded. He said the desert landscape around El Paso, and the dark-skinned Hispanic population, reminded him of Iraq.

Dwyer, raised Roman Catholic but never particularly religious before, now would spend lunchtime by himself, poring over his Bible.

When people would teasingly call him "war hero" and ask him to tell about his experiences, or about the famous photo, he would steer the conversation toward the others he'd served with. But Dwyer once confided that another image, also involving a child, disturbed him.

He was standing next to a soldier during a firefight when a boy rode up on a bicycle and stopped beside a weapon lying in the dirt. Under his breath, the soldier beside Dwyer whispered, "Don't pick it up, kid. Don't pick it up."

The boy reached for the weapon and was blasted off his bike.

In late 2004, Dwyer sent e-mails to Zinn, wondering if the photographer had "heard anything else about the kid" from the photo, and claiming he was "doing fine out here in Fort Bliss, Texas."

But Dwyer wasn't doing fine. Earlier that year, he'd been prescribed antidepressants and referred for counseling by a doctor. Still, his behavior went from merely odd to dangerous.

One day, he swerved to avoid what he thought was a roadside bomb and crashed into a convenience store sign. He began answering his apartment door with a pistol in his hand and would call friends from his car in the middle of the night, babbling and disoriented from sniffing inhalants.

Matina told friends that he was seeing imaginary Iraqis all around him. Despite all this, the Army had not taken his weapons.

In the summer of 2005, he was removed to the barracks for 72 hours after trashing the apartment looking for an enemy infiltrator. He was admitted to Bliss' William Beaumont Army Medical Center for treatment of his inhalant addiction.

But things continued to worsen. That October, the Musketeers decided it was time for an "intervention."

Minor, who had moved to New York, overdrew her bank account and flew down. She, Knapp and Salazar went to the apartment and pleaded with Dwyer to give up his guns, or at least his ammunition.

"I'm sorry, guys," he told them. "But there's no way I'm giving up my weapons."

After talking for about an hour and a half, Dwyer agreed to let Matina lock the weapons up. The group went for a walk in a nearby park, and Dwyer seemed happier than he'd been in months.

But Dwyer's paranoia soon returned — and worsened.

On Oct. 6, 2005, when superiors went to the couple's off-base apartment to persuade Dwyer to return to the hospital, Dwyer barricaded himself in. Imagining Iraqis swarming up the sides and across the roof, he fired his pistol through the door, windows and ceiling.

After a three-hour standoff, Dwyer's eldest brother, Brian, also a police officer, managed to talk him down over the phone. Dwyer was admitted for psychiatric treatment.

In a telephone interview later that month from what he called the "nut hut" at Beaumont, Dwyer told Newsday that he'd lied on a post-deployment questionnaire that asked whether he'd been disturbed by what he'd seen and done in Iraq. The reason: A PTSD diagnosis could interfere with his plans to seek a police job. Besides, he'd been conditioned to see it as a sign of weakness.

"I'm a soldier," he said. "I suck it up. That's our job."

Dwyer told the newspaper that he'd blown off counseling before but was committed to embracing his treatment this time. He said he hoped to become an envoy to others who avoided treatment for fear of damaging their careers.

"There's a lot of soldiers suffering in silence," he said.

In January 2006, Joseph and Matina Dwyer moved back to North Carolina, away from the place that reminded him so much of the battlefield. But his shadow enemy followed him here.

Dwyer was discharged from the Army in March 2006 and living off disability. That May, Matina Dwyer gave birth to a daughter, Meagan Kaleigh.

He seemed to be getting by, but setbacks would occur without warning.

On the Fourth of July, he and family were fishing off the back deck when the fireworks display began. Dwyer bolted inside and hid under a bed.

In June 2007, police responded to a call that Dwyer was "having some mental problems related to PTSD." A captain talked him into going to the emergency room.

Later that month, Matina Dwyer moved in with her parents and obtained a protective order. In the complaint, she said Dwyer had purchased an AR-15 assault rifle and become angry when she refused to return it.

"He said that he was coming to my residence to get his gun back," she wrote in the June 25, 2007, complaint. "He was coming packed with guns and someone was going to die tonight." She declined to be interviewed for this story.

In July 2007, Dwyer checked into an inpatient program at New York's Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He stayed for six months.

He came home in March with more than a dozen prescriptions. He was so medicated that his feet flopped when he walked, as if he were wearing oversized clown shoes.

The VA's solution was a "pharmaceutical lobotomy," his father thought.

But within five days of his discharge, Dwyer's symptoms had returned with such ferocity that the family decided it was time to get Matina and 2-year-old Meagan out. While Dwyer was off buying inhalants, his parents helped spirit them away.

On April 10, weary and fearful, Matina Dwyer filed for custody and division of property.

Without his wife and daughter to anchor him, Dwyer's grip on reality loosened further. He reverted to Iraq time, sleeping during the day and "patrolling" all night. Unable to possess a handgun, he placed knives around the house for protection.

In those last months, Dwyer opened up a little to his parents.

What bothered him most, he said, was the sheer volume of the gunfire. He talked about the grisly wounds he'd treated and dwelled on the people he was unable to save. His nasal membranes seemed indelibly stained with the scents of the battlefield — the sickeningly sweet odor of rotting flesh and the metallic smell of blood.

Yet despite all that, Dwyer continued to talk about going back to Iraq. He told his parents that if he could just get back with his comrades and do his job, things would right themselves.

When Maureen Dwyer first saw Zinn's famous photo, she'd had a premonition that it might be the last picture she'd ever see of Joseph.

"I just didn't think he was going to come home," she said. "And he never did."

An autopsy is pending, but police are treating Dwyer's death as an accidental overdose.

His friends and family see it differently.

The day of the 2005 standoff, Knapp spent hours on the telephone trying to get help for Dwyer. She was frustrated by a military bureaucracy that would not act unless his petrified wife complained, and with a civilian system that insisted Dwyer was the military's problem.

In a letter to post commander Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox, Knapp expressed anger that Army officials who were "proud to display him as a hero ... now had turned their back on him..."

"Joseph Dwyer who had left to Iraq one of the nicest, kindest, caring, self-sacrificing and patriotic people I have ever known," she wrote, "was forced to witness and commit acts completely contrary to his nature and returned a tormented, confused disillusioned shadow of his former self that was not being given the help he needed."

While Dwyer was in the service, Minor said, the Army controlled every aspect of his life.

"So someone should have taken him by the hand and said, `We're putting you in the hospital, and you're staying there until you get fixed — until you're back to normal."

But Dr. Antonette Zeiss, deputy chief of the VA's Office of Mental Health, said it's not that simple.

"Veterans are civilians, and VA is guided by state law about involuntary commitment," she told the AP. "There are civil liberties, and VA respects that those civil liberties are important."

The family would not authorize the VA to release Dwyer's medical records. But it appears that Dwyer was sometimes unwilling — or unable — to make the best use of the programs available. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Lennox, the former Bliss post commander, wrote that Dwyer "had a great (in my opinion) care giver."

Zeiss said the best treatment for PTSD is exposure-based psychotherapy, in which the patient is made "to engage in thoughts, feelings and conversations about the trauma." While caregivers must be 100 percent committed to creating an environment in which the veteran feels comfortable confronting those demons, she said the patient must be equally committed to following through.

"And so it's a dance between the clinicians and the patient."

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, feels the VA is a lousy dance partner.

Rieckhoff said the VA's is a "passive system" whose arcane rules and regulations make it hard for veterans to find help. And when they do get help, he said, it is often inadequate.

"I consider (Dwyer) a battlefield casualty," he said, "because he was still fighting the war in his head."

The Sunday after the Fourth of July, Knapp attended services at Scotsdale Baptist, the El Paso church where she and Dwyer had been baptized together in 2004.

On the way out of the sanctuary, Knapp checked her phone and noticed an e-mail.

"I didn't know if you had heard or not," a friend wrote, "but I got an email from Matina this morning saying that Joseph had died on Saturday and that the funeral was today."

Knapp maintained her composure long enough to get herself and the children to the car. Then she lost it.

The children asked what was wrong.

"Joseph is dead," she told them.

"You said he wasn't sick any more," Justin said.

"I know, Justin," his mother replied. "But I guess maybe the help wasn't working like we thought it was."

The kids were too young to understand acronyms like PTSD or to hear a lecture about how Knapp thought the system had failed Dwyer. So she told them that, just as they sometimes have nightmares, "sometimes people get those nightmares in their head and they just can't get them out, no matter what."

Despite the efforts she made to get help for Dwyer, Knapp is trying to cope with a deep-seated guilt. She knows that Dwyer shielded her from the images that had haunted him.

"I think about all the torture that he went through when he came back, and I think that all of that stuff could have happened to me," she said, stifling a sob. "I just owe him so much for that."

Since Dwyer's death, Justin, now 9, has taken to carrying a newspaper clipping of the Zinn photo around with him. Occasionally, Knapp will catch him huddled with a playmate, showing the photo and telling him about the soldier who used to come to his school and assemble his toys.

Justin wants them to know all about Spc. Joseph Dwyer. His hero.

EDITOR'S NOTE — AP Pentagon reporter Pauline Jelinek also contributed to this report.

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