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Monday, July 28, 2008

Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling

Washington Post Staff Writer

Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month -- three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban -- compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.

McCain said the policy reversal came as a response to rising voter anger over soaring energy prices. At the time, about three-quarters of voters responding to a Washington Post-ABC News poll said prices at the pump were causing them financial hardship, the highest in surveys this decade.

Opening vast stretches of the country's coastline to oil exploration would help America eliminate its dependence on foreign oil, McCain said.

"We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production," he said. "It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions."

McCain delivered the speech before heading to Texas for a series of fundraisers with energy industry executives, and the day after the speech he raised $1.3 million at a private luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club, according to local news accounts.

"The timing was significant," said David Donnelly, the national campaigns director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan campaign finance reform group that conducted the analysis of McCain's oil industry contributions. "This is a case study of how a candidate can change a policy position in the interest of raising money."

Brian Rogers, a McCain campaign spokesman, said he considers any suggestion that McCain weighed fundraising into his calculation on drilling policy "completely absurd." Rogers noted that oil and gas money in June still accounted for a very small fraction of the $48 million raised by the campaign and by the Republican National Committee through its Victory Fund.

"John McCain takes positions because he thinks it's the right thing to do for America," Rogers said. "He has a long track record of doing that. And he's often made decisions that hurt with his fundraising base."

Oil and gas executives have not traditionally been a major source of campaign money for McCain. A breakdown of giving by the Center for Responsive Politics shows the industry falls 12th on a list of top donors, well behind securities firms, lawyers, banks, and real estate and health professionals.

McCain has historically sided against a number of the industry's interests, opposing efforts to open certain public lands to drilling and embracing proposals aimed at tackling global warming well before oil executives were ready to do so.

Patrick C. Oxford, chairman of the Texas-based law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, said there has been a contrast between the way the industry embraced George W. Bush, a favorite son, and McCain. Oxford said that until recently oil industry officials were motivated to back McCain because of talk by Sen. Barack Obama "about needing to tax the hell out of the oil companies."

That started changing in mid-June, he said. McCain's speech and subsequent visit to Texas served the purpose of reintroducing him to the oil industry. Oxford, whose law firm represents several large oil companies, wrote his first check to McCain on June 27.

Charting the political donations of oil executives may be the best way to evaluate the industry's level of interest in a presidential candidate, said Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy, an industry adviser. Unlike other businesses, oil and gas companies do not have a large labor force that can provide a candidate an army of volunteers. And oil and gas concerns are geographically confined, largely in states that are not viewed as central to a presidential election strategy.

"It's for those reasons that the oil industry has always tried to be a substantial contributor," West said.

And West said he thinks McCain gave energy executives what they needed to get more solidly in his corner -- a pledge to reverse a federal policy that has frustrated the industry for years.

"I think people thought it was a sensible thing that was long due," West said. "I think the industry was very appreciative."

Original here

Why didn't McCain want to see the troops in March?

The curious thing about John McCain's dishonorable attack on Barack Obama is that McCain himself visited Europe in March, but didn't visit the wounded troops in Landstuhl, Germany.

It's true that McCain's trip to Europe bypassed Germany -- he only went to London and Paris. But as you can see in the map below, it turns out that London and Berlin are about the same distance from Landstuhl, and Paris is just a four hour drive away.

So if McCain wanted to visit the troops, it would have been trivial to arrange -- no seismic event needed. But it's clear McCain didn't want to visit them, and as a result, it should be fair to ask McCain why he now feels entitled to attack Barack Obama.

I'm not trying to say that John McCain didn't have other important things to do. For example, he hauled in much-needed cash at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a British Lord.

But it's pretty ridiculous for McCain to be making this absurd, hypocritical attack on Barack Obama. They've both visited wounded troops in the past. And as commanders-in-chief, they would both work for the best interests of the nation, even if they would take it in different directions.

McCain is desperate now, in full-fledged panic mode. If this is how he'd handle a crisis as president, it's all the more important that Barack Obama win this election.

Update: There is an important difference between McCain's Europe trip and Barack Obama's -- McCain's was official business, and therefore taxpayer-funded. Obama's was political, and therefore campaign-funded. During the portion of Obama's trip that was official -- the portion in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait -- Barack Obama did visit wounded troops, and he did so with no fanfare.

Original here

Hagel: McCain On "Thin Ground" With Recent Attacks

On CBS' "Face The Nation," Chuck Hagel responded to John McCain's recent attacks on Barack Obama's trip abroad and withdrawal plan: "John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, 'You're less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic ... "it's just not responsible to be saying things like that."

Hagel also said he doesn't think McCain's new ad bashing Obama for not visiting troops in Germany is "appropriate."

Partial transcript:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this, Senator Hagel. You're a Republican. For a long time you were very, very close to John McCain-I want to ask you later, are you still that close-but he has been very, very hard on Senator Obama all this week. And I mean the gloves have really come off. This morning in an interview on ABC he said, I think it was seven times, that Senator Obama simply doesn't understand the stakes in Iraq. he doesn't understand the situation there. And earlier in week, we'll look at some tape here, here is how he put it at one point.


JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.

BOB SCHIEFFER: He said this morning that Senator Obama's strategy was based, basically, on political expediency, that he chose-and these are Senator McCain's words-"a political path that would get him the nomination."

CHUCK HAGEL: Well, let me begin by making this comment in answering your question. Both of these men are smart, capable, decent men who love their country. I think we, as a nation, are far better off for these two capable men-one will have to govern this country and bring the country together as well as lead the world and bring the world together-and that's going to take a bipartisan consensus, to govern. They're better off to focus on policy differences. I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, "You're less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic." I admire and respect John McCain very much. I have a good relationship. To this day we do. We talk often. I talked to him right before I went to Iraq, as a matter of fact. John's better than that. And he's not asked for advice on this, but since you've asked me the question, I think both he and Barack have to be very careful here because it's just not responsible to be saying things like that.

...

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well let me-just in line with what you said, the McCain campaign came out with a new ad because Senator Obama chose not to visit those troops in the hospital in Germany. Let's take a look at this.


NARRATOR: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hadn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. And now he made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain-country first.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

...

CHUCK HAGEL: Let me add to that. As you know, Bob, the congressional delegation that you referred to ended when we parted in Jordan. At that point, it was a political trip for Senator Obama. I think it would have been inappropriate for him and certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds-not the taxpayers-to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign. I think the judgment there-and I don't know the facts by the way. I know what you've just read. No one has asked me about it other than what you've just asked about. But I think it would be totally inappropriate for him on a campaign trip to go to a military hospital and use those soldiers as props. So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing. We saw troops everywhere we went on the congressional delegation. We went out of our way to see those troops. We wanted to see those troops. And that's part of our job to see those troops, by the way, and listen to those troops, Bob. And we did.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that ad was appropriate?

CHUCK HAGEL: I do not think it was appropriate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You do not.

CHUCK HAGEL: I do not.

Original here

Your share of the debt is about to climb another $1,300.

You may have heard or read media reports about actions yesterday in Congress to deal with the housing debt crisis and to bail out two private lenders known as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The bill passed the House of Representatives and will be taken up in the Senate and once through that pork factory, President Bush has said he will sign it. If I were your President I would veto it so fast, heads would spin.

The bill - and that’s exactly what it is - is a bill you are going to be expected to pay! It’s for an estimated $400,000,000. That is, of course, $400 Million that we don’t have, so more borrowing is ahead. Your share of this expense? About $1,300.

And that’s on top of the more than $31,000 you already owe!

In 2001, the national debt crossed $6 Trillion. Today, it is closing in on $10 Trillion. Our debt is growing faster than at any time in our nation’s history and there is no end in sight.

Yesterday I issued a statement to the media blasting their actions. Today I ask your help in getting out the message that President Bush and Senators Obama and McCain are wrong for bankrupting our future with more and more debt.

First I ask that you forward this email to as many of your friends as possible. The average American doesn’t understand what’s going on. They have a sincere, but misguided, desire to help people less fortunate than themselves at this time of economic crisis. But this bailout only rewards people who made bad decisions and bails out those who profited from them.

Second, please consider a campaign contribution to help fund our daily operations. Your gift of $5 or as much as the legal limit of $2,300 will make a difference.

I thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Bob Barr signature

Bob Barr

P.S. - You may also want to call your U.S. Senators to tell them to vote no on the big-bank bail out. And remember, if I were your President, this bill would be dead on arrival at the White House. Please help me change government. Thanks again.

make a contribution


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How Obama Became Acting President

By FRANK RICH

IT almost seems like a gag worthy of “Borat”: A smooth-talking rookie senator with an exotic name passes himself off as the incumbent American president to credulous foreigners. But to dismiss Barack Obama’s magical mystery tour through old Europe and two war zones as a media-made fairy tale would be to underestimate the ingenious politics of the moment. History was on the march well before Mr. Obama boarded his plane, and his trip was perfectly timed to reap the whirlwind.

He never would have been treated as a president-in-waiting by heads of state or network talking heads if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals. What drew them instead was the raw power Mr. Obama has amassed: the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings. (Even “Access Hollywood” mustered a 20 percent audience jump by hosting the Obama family.) Power begets more power, absolutely.

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

Never mind. This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq’s $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That’s the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The “change” that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality — sometimes through Mr. Obama’s instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it’s change you happen to believe in or not.

Looking back now, we can see that the fortnight preceding the candidate’s flight to Kuwait was like a sequence in an old movie where wind blows away calendar pages to announce an epochal plot turn. First, on July 7, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, dissed Bush dogma by raising the prospect of a withdrawal timetable for our troops. Then, on July 15, Mr. McCain suddenly noticed that more Americans are dying in Afghanistan than Iraq and called for more American forces to be sent there. It was a long-overdue recognition of the obvious that he could no longer avoid: both Robert Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had already called for more American troops to battle the resurgent Taliban, echoing the policy proposed by Mr. Obama a year ago.

On July 17 we learned that President Bush, who had labeled direct talks with Iran “appeasement,” would send the No. 3 official in the State Department to multilateral nuclear talks with Iran. Lest anyone doubt that the White House had moved away from the rigid stand endorsed by Mr. McCain and toward Mr. Obama’s, a former Rumsfeld apparatchik weighed in on The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page: “Now Bush Is Appeasing Iran.”

Within 24 hours, the White House did another U-turn, endorsing an Iraq withdrawal timetable as long as it was labeled a “general time horizon.” In a flash, as Mr. Obama touched down in Kuwait, Mr. Maliki approvingly cited the Democratic candidate by name while laying out a troop-withdrawal calendar of his own that, like Mr. Obama’s, would wind down in 2010. On Tuesday, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced a major drawdown of his nation’s troops by early 2009.

But it’s not merely the foreign policy consensus that is shifting Obama-ward. The Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has now joined another high-profile McCain supporter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in knocking the McCain nostrum that America can drill its way out of its energy crisis. Mr. Pickens, who financed the Swift-boat campaign smearing John Kerry in 2004, was thought to be a sugar daddy for similar assaults against the Democrats this year. Instead, he is underwriting nonpartisan ads promoting wind power and speaks of how he would welcome Al Gore as energy czar if there’s an Obama administration.

The Obama stampede is forcing Mr. McCain to surrender on other domestic fronts. After the Democrat ran ads in 14 states berating chief executives who are “making more in 10 minutes” than many workers do in a year, a newly populist Mr. McCain began railing against “corporate greed” — much as he also followed Mr. Obama’s example and belatedly endorsed a homeowners’ bailout he had at first opposed. Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan (“A Leader You Can Believe In”), it can’t be long before he takes up fist bumps. They’ve become the rage among young (nonterrorist) American businessmen, according to USA Today.

“We have one president at a time,” Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party’s candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in “Chicago.” The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush’s de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling. While drama-queen commentators on television last week were busy building up false suspense about the Obama trip — will he make a world-class gaffe? will he have too large an audience in Germany? — few focused on the alarms that Mr. McCain’s behavior at home raise about his fitness to be president.

Once again the candidate was making factual errors about the only subject he cares about, imagining an Iraq-Pakistan border and garbling the chronology of the Anbar Awakening. Once again he displayed a tantrum-prone temperament ill-suited to a high-pressure 21st-century presidency. His grim-faced crusade to brand his opponent as a traitor who wants to “lose a war” isn’t even a competent impersonation of Joe McCarthy. Mr. McCain comes off instead like the ineffectual Mr. Wilson, the retired neighbor perpetually busting a gasket at the antics of pesky little Dennis the Menace.

The week’s most revealing incident occurred on Wednesday when the new, supposedly improved McCain campaign management finalized its grand plan to counter Mr. Obama’s Berlin speech with a “Mission Accomplished”-like helicopter landing on an oil rig off Louisiana’s coast. The announcement was posted on politico.com even as any American with a television could see that Hurricane Dolly was imminent. Needless to say, this bit of theater was almost immediately “postponed” but not before raising the question of whether a McCain administration would be just as hapless in anticipating the next Katrina as the Bush-Brownie storm watch.

When not plotting such stunts, the McCain campaign whines about its lack of press attention like a lover jilted for a younger guy. The McCain camp should be careful what it wishes for. As its relentless goading of Mr. Obama to visit Iraq only ratcheted up anticipation for the Democrat’s triumphant trip, so its insistent demand for joint town-hall meetings with Mr. Obama and for more televised chronicling of Mr. McCain’s wanderings could be self-inflicted disasters in the making.

Mr. McCain may be most comfortable at town-hall meetings before largely friendly crowds, but his performance under pressure at this year’s G.O.P. primary debates was erratic. His sound-bite-deep knowledge of the country’s No. 1 issue, the economy, is a Gerald Ford train wreck waiting to happen in any matchup with Mr. Obama that requires focused, time-limited answers rather than rambling.

During Mr. McCain’s last two tours of the Middle East — conducted without the invasive scrutiny of network anchors — the only news he generated was his confusion of Sunni with Shia and his embarrassing stroll through a “safe” Baghdad market with helicopter cover. He should thank his stars that few TV viewers saw that he was even less at home when walking through a chaotic Pennsylvania supermarket last week. He inveighed against the price of milk while reading from a note card and felt the pain of a shopper planted by the local Republican Party.

The election remains Mr. Obama’s to lose, and he could lose it, whether through unexpected events, his own vanity or a vice-presidential misfire. But what we’ve learned this month is that America, our allies and most likely the next Congress are moving toward Mr. Obama’s post-Iraq vision of the future, whether he reaches the White House or not. That’s some small comfort as we contemplate the strange alternative offered by the Republicans: a candidate so oblivious to our nation’s big challenges ahead that he is doubling down in his campaign against both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Obama to be elected commander in chief of the surge.

Original here

A European Bounce for Candidate Obama


Officer: Part of anti-Obama e-mail was wrong

By Matthew Cox and Rick Maze - Staff writers

An Army officer’s negative e-mail account of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit with the troops in Afghanistan that set the blogosphere ablaze prompted Army officials to correct aspects of the e-mail and resulted in a statement from the message’s author that “some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong.”

The e-mail, signed by Capt. Jeffrey S. Porter at Bagram Airbase, characterized Obama’s July 19 visit with soldiers there as contrary to the positive portrayals of the mainstream press.

“As the soldiers where (sic) lined up to shake his hand he blew them off and didn’t say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the general,” the e-mail said.

Porter wrote that Obama then went straight to the base’s “Clamshell” or recreation facility to pose for “publicity pictures playing basketball” and “shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service. I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States. I just don’t understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-in-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country.”

Army Times sent an e-mail to Porter, a Utah Army National Guard member assigned to the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, asking if he could verify that he wrote the controversial e-mail and requesting an interview.

Porter’s reply declined the interview request, but said:

“I am writing this to ask that you delete my e-mail and not forward it, after checking my sources some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong. This e-mail was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the e-mail and if there are any blogs you have my e-mail portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too.”

When contacted, Tiffany Porter who identified herself as his wife, said: “There were discrepancies in the e-mail, but I am not at liberty to say more.”

The Army refuted the accuracy of the account of the Obama visit.

“These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” Bagram spokesman Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green told the New York Daily News.

Obama didn’t play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said.

“We were a bit delayed ... as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs,” Nielson-Green said.

Opinion aside, Obama campaign officials cited factual errors in the e-mail. Porter said Obama had gone to play basketball; Obama aides said that during the trip he only played basketball in Kuwait, not during stops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

An Obama campaign Web site, called “Fight the Smears,” labels it a “lie” that Obama refused to meet with the troops. It includes links to news stories and videos showing Obama interacting with crowds of service members as evidence.

Original here

If Iran is Attacking It Might Really be Israel

The Benny Morris op-ed in the NYT last Friday should provide convincing evidence that Israel really really really wants an attack against Iran sooner rather than later. Morris is close to the Israeli government and his case that Iran must be bombed soon and with maximum conventional weaponry to avoid using nukes later was clearly intended to push the United States to do the attacking. The likelihood that Dick Cheney is almost certainly supportive of a US pre-emptive strike and might well be pulling strings behind the scenes, possibly without the knowledge of the Great Decider, makes the next several months particularly significant if a war is to be avoided.

Some intel types are beginning to express concerns that the Israelis might do something completely crazy to get the US involved. There are a number of possible “false flag” scenarios in which the Israelis could insert a commando team in the Persian Gulf or use some of their people inside Iraq to stage an incident that they will make to look Iranian, either by employing Iranian weapons or by leaving a communications footprint that points to Tehran’s involvement.

Those who argue that Israel would never do such a thing should think again. Israel is willing to behave with complete ruthlessness towards the US if they feel that the stakes are high enough, witness the attack on the USS Liberty and the bombing of the US Consulate in Alexandria in the 1950s. If they now believe that Iran is a threat that must be eliminated it is not implausible to assume that they will stop at nothing to get the the United States to do it for them, particularly as their air force is only able to damage the Iranian nuclear program, not destroy it.

Original here

The Bauer of Suggestion

Our torture policy has deeper roots in Fox television than the Constitution.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. Click image to expand.

The most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy is not a behavioral psychologist, international lawyer, or counterinsurgency expert. Reading both Jane Mayer's stunning The Dark Side and Philippe Sands' The Torture Team, I quickly realized that the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine is none other than the star of Fox television's 24: Jack Bauer.

This fictional counterterrorism agent—a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode—has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution.

According to British lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show "reflects real life."

John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who produced the so-called torture memos—simultaneously redefining both the laws of torture and logic—cites Bauer in his book War by Other Means. "What if, as the popular Fox television program '24' recently portrayed, a high-level terrorist leader is caught who knows the location of a nuclear weapon?" Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking in Canada last summer, shows a gift for this casual toggling between television and the Constitution. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Scalia said. "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?"

There are many reasons that matriculation from the Jack Bauer School of Law would have encouraged even the most cautious legal thinkers to bend and eventually break the longstanding rules against torture. U.S. interrogators rarely if ever encounter a "ticking time bomb," someone with detailed information about an imminent terror plot. But according to the Parents' Television Council (one of several advocacy groups to have declared war on 24), Jack Bauer encounters a "ticking time-bomb" an average of 12 times per season. Given that each season allegedly represents a 24-hour period, Bauer encounters someone who needs torturing 12 times each day! Experienced interrogators know that information extracted through torture is rarely reliable. But Jack Bauer's torture not only elicits the truth, it does so before commercial. He is a human polygraph who has a way with flesh-eating chemicals.

It's no wonder high-ranking lawyers in the Bush administration erected an entire torture policy around the fictional edifice of Jack Bauer. He's a hero. Men want to be him, and women want to be there to hand him the electrical cord. John Yoo wanted to change American torture law to accommodate him, and Justice Scalia wants to immunize him from prosecution. The problem is not just that they all saw themselves in Jack Bauer. The problem was their failure to see what Jack Bauer really represents in relation to the legal universe of 24.

For one thing, Jack Bauer operates outside the law, and he knows it. Nobody in the fictional world of 24 changes the rules to permit him to torture. For the most part, he does so fully aware that he is breaking the law. Bush administration officials turned that formula on its head. In an almost Nixonian twist, the new interrogation doctrine seems to have become: "If Jack Bauer does it, it can't be illegal."

Bauer is also willing to accept the consequences of his decisions to break the law. In fact, that is the real source of his heroism—to the extent one finds torture heroic. He makes a moral choice at odds with the prevailing system and accepts the consequences of the system's judgment by periodically reinventing a whole new identity for himself or enduring punishment at the hands of foreign governments. The "heroism" of the Bush administration's torture apologists is slightly less inspiring. None of them is willing to stand up and admit, as Bauer does, that yes, they did "whatever it takes." They instead point fingers and cry, "Witch hunt."

If you're a fan of 24, you'll enjoy The Dark Side. There you will meet Mamdouh Habib, an Australian captured in Pakistan, beaten by American interrogators with what he believed to be an "electric cattle prod," and threatened with rape by dogs. He confessed to all sorts of things that weren't true. He was released after three years without charges. You'll also meet Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who experienced pretty much the same story, save that the beatings were with electrical cables. Arar was also released without explanation. He's been cleared of any links to terrorism by the Canadian government. Jack Bauer would have known these men were not "ticking time bombs" inside of 10 minutes. Our real-life heroes had to torture them for years before realizing they were innocent.

That is, of course, the punch line. The lawyers who were dead set on unleashing an army of Jack Bauers against our enemies built a whole torture policy around a fictional character. But Bauer himself could have told them that one Jack Bauer—a man who deliberately lives outside the boundaries of law—would have been more than enough.

Original here

McCain Caves To Right Wing On Gay Adoption, Says Orphans Shouldn’t Have Gay Parents

Earlier this month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took an extreme position on gay adoption, telling the New York Times he believes in “traditional” families even if it means leaving children in orphanages. “I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption,” he said.

But in follow-up statement, McCain aide Jill Hazelbaker backtracked, stating, “McCain could have been clearer.” She added that the senator would support gay adoption if there were no alternative:

However, as an adoptive father himself…he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative.

Interviewed on ABC today, however, McCain reverted to his original radical position, telling George Stephanopolous that he does not support gay adoption in any circumstance:

McCAIN: I think that family values are important, when we have two parent — families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

Q: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

Watch it:

McCain didn’t acknowledge that a two-parent family can also consist of same-sex parents. Unlike his spokeswoman, he also didn’t recognize that rejecting adoptions by same-sex parents means leaving thousands of children with no parents. As Winnie Stachelberg and Robert Gordon noted, about 130,000 children wait in the foster care system each year for a permanent home. And every year, half of these children are never placed.

In the interview, McCain repeatedly said that he is “for the values and principles that two parent families represent.” He also said preserving traditional families is “not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States.” Just seconds later, however, he reversed course and bluntly stated, “I’m running for president of the United States because I want to help with family values.”

Original here

Top McCain Fundraiser Lobbying Bush Admin To Help ‘Quash’ Toxic-Dumping Case For Chevron

chevronecuador.jpgIn 1993, a class action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 30,000 Amazon residents was filed against oil giant Chevron, who at the time had recently purchased Texaco. The lawsuit alleged that Chevron was responsible for Texaco intentionally dumping “more than 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters” and “16.8 million gallons of crude oil” into Ecuador’s environment.

This past spring, a court-appointed expert recommended that “Chevron be required to pay between $8 billion and $16 billion to clean up the rain forest.” Finally having “to disclose the issue to its shareholders,” Chevron has launched “an unusually high-powered battle” to convince the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador to “quash the case.”

Chevron’s lobbying offensive is being led by former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux, along with Wayne Berman, a top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

Chevron is pushing the Bush administration to take the extraordinary step of yanking special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s leftist government doesn’t quash the case. A spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab confirmed that her office is considering the request. Attorney Steven Donziger, who is coordinating the D.C. opposition to Chevron, says the firm is “trying to get the country to cry uncle.” He adds: “It’s the crudest form of power politics.”

Chevron’s powerhouse team includes former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, former Democratic senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fund-raiser for John McCain—all with access to Washington’s top decision makers.

So far, Chevron’s power push has resulted in “a senior Chevron exec” meeting with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte “on the matter.” “One Chevron lobbyist” told Newsweek that the company’s argument to the Bush administration is: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world.”

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McClellan: Fox News Commentators Use The ‘Talking Points’ That The White House Sends Them

On MSNBC’s Hardball last night, host Chris Matthews asked former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if he saw “FOX television as a tool” to get the White House’s “message out” while he was in the Bush administration. “Certainly there were commentators and other, pundits at FOX News, that were useful to the White House,” replied McClellan, adding that they were given “talking points.”

Making a distinction between journalists like Brit Hume and commentators like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, McClellan admitted that “certainly” the White House used Fox News talking heads as “spokespeople” with “a script”:

MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn’t use Brit Hume to sell stuff for them, but you’d use some of the nighttime guys?

MCCLELLAN: Yeah, I would separate that out, and certainly I, you know, they’ll say, that’s because they agree with those views in the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, they didn’t need a script though, did they?

MCCLELLAN: No, well, probably not.

McClellan later told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that “it was done frequently, especially on high-profile issues” and that Fox often gave the White House “its desired results.” Current Press Secretary Dana Perino would only tell Olbermann, “I’m not aware of that.” Watch it:

Fox News’s close relationship to the Bush administration should come as no surprise to anyone, considering Fox’s Neil Cavuto once ran a segment asking if George W. Bush was “the best President.” But, as Olbermann notes, it “is one of those things you assumed to be true all along, yet you are shocked when the hard confirmation actually shows up on your door.”

Not only is Fox the network the White House turned to when Vice President Dick Cheney had to explain how he shot his friend in the face, but the network has also produced sympathetic documentaries on both Cheney and President Bush.

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REPORT: At $648 Billion, Cost Of Iraq War Almost Equal To Vietnam»

bushfltsuit.jpgIn his 1999 book, A Charge To Keep, President Bush said he had “learned the lessons of Vietnam” about “never again ask[ing] the military to fight a political war.” After launching the Iraq war, in April 2004, Bush rejected the analogy that Iraq was turning into a quagmire like Vietnam:

Q: How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

BUSH: I think the analogy is false.

Last August, however, President Bush reversed course and embraced the Vietnam analogy, stating Vietnam taught us that “the price of America’s withdrawal” is steep and painful.

In a new report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that the real similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is in the price of staying. In constant FY2008 dollars, the Vietnam war cost the U.S. $686 billion. The Iraq war, at just over five years old, is priced at $648 billion:

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CRS notes, “All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans benefits, interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.” Thus, the actual costs of the Iraq war are likely much greater, as Nobel Prize economist Joe Stiglitz reported in his book, The Three Trillion Dollar War.

It is unlikely, however, that the White House is concerned about these mounting costs. In October, the CBO conservatively said the wars may cost $2 trillion over the next decade. “I’m not worried about the number,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in response, calling the estimate “pure speculation.”

Indeed, “the price of America’s withdrawal” from Iraq may be an alternative that Bush should strongly consider.

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Lobbyist Reports Show $181,000 for McCain

By ROBERT PEAR and RON NIXON

WASHINGTON — Registered lobbyists have donated large amounts of money to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, even as he denounces their profession. But Democratic candidates for Congress have also raised prodigious sums from lobbyists, outdoing the Republicans, according to reports filed for the first time under a new ethics law.

Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, says he does not want money from lobbyists, but a few modest contributions have slipped through. Health care, education, environmental and human rights lobbyists have given to Mr. Obama.

In total, lobbyists and trade groups have reported giving about $10.4 million to presidential and Congressional candidates in the first half of this year.

So far, Mr. McCain, who has locked up the Republican presidential nomination, has received more than $181,600 from lobbyists and trade groups, while Mr. Obama has received just over $6,000. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who ended her bid for the presidency in June, got more than $87,000.

The gifts are disclosed in “lobbying contribution reports” filed with Congress under the ethics law, which was adopted last year in response to scandals involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Under the law, lobbyists must itemize their contributions to political candidates and committees, presidential libraries and events honoring members of Congress. Lobbyists face criminal penalties for failure to comply with the disclosure requirements.

Employees at Republican lobbying firms like Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock have made many contributions to Mr. McCain and other Republican lawmakers, including the Senate and House minority leaders and the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Some lobbyists chafe at being asked for money by the McCain campaign while he disparages lobbyists as agents of “big-moneyed special interests.” But they know that such criticism is a staple of politics.

“We are 100 percent behind McCain,” said Kathryn Braden Huffard, a lobbyist at Fierce, Isakowitz, whose clients include Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant. “In the wake of the Abramoff affair, it seems, there has to be a villain. But Senator McCain understands that many lobbyists are smart people who have experience on the issues.”

With just days remaining before the July 31 deadline for reports, lobbyists have disclosed contributions of $4.7 million to Democrats and $3.3 million to Republicans.

Information in some filings was incomplete, so the political affiliation of some recipients could not be readily determined. In addition, some money went to political action committees that focus on specific issues and support candidates of both parties.

Lobbyists gave $181,500 to the campaign committee for Senate Democrats, nearly three times the amount reported in donations to the Senate Republican committee. Lobbyists have reported $108,000 in contributions to the campaign committee for House Democrats, about 20 percent more than they reported giving to the House Republican committee.

Linda E. Tarplin, a health care lobbyist, has given $2,300 to Mr. McCain; $5,000 to the campaign committee for Senate Republicans; $5,000 to a political committee headed by the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio; $1,000 to the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; and $4,500 to Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles health care bills.

Among the more generous contributors is Henry M. Gandy, a vice president of the Duberstein Group who has registered to lobby for companies like Amgen, Fannie Mae and Goldman Sachs. Mr. Gandy, a veteran of the Reagan White House, reported that he had made 23 contributions totaling $41,500 to Congressional candidates in the last six months.

Brian J. Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said that contributions from lobbyists did not compromise the senator’s independence in any way.

“John McCain is the biggest enemy of special interests in Washington,” Mr. Rogers said. “He spearheaded campaign finance reform. He fought Boeing’s tanker deal with the Air Force, and he led the investigation of Jack Abramoff.”

The policy of the Obama campaign is set forth on its Web site for online donations: “We don’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest political action committees. Instead, we have a base of more than 1.5 million individual donors who ensure that this campaign answers to no one but the people.”

Obama aides say they check donors’ names against a list of lobbyists.

But Donald J. Barry, who was executive vice president of the Wilderness Society from 2000 until early this month, reported that he had given the Obama campaign six contributions totaling $2,050 from January to June, and he was a host for an Obama fund-raiser in June.

“I did not know that I had been registered as a lobbyist since 2000,” said Mr. Barry, who was a Clinton administration official.

The Obama campaign says it returns contributions if it learns they came from lobbyists. But Mr. Barry said, “I intend to contribute the same amount of money, or maybe even more, to the Obama campaign once I am no longer registered as a lobbyist.”

Watchdog groups welcomed the information, but said the data would be more useful if lobbyists reported contributions at the time they were made.

“With all the online tools we have today, why not have instantaneous disclosure?” asked Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, an advocate of open government. “Why wait six months, when the money changing hands is affecting legislation being written today?”

Lobbyists say that campaign contributions are “the price of admission” that must be paid to gain access to many Congressional offices. They worry the new reports will make it easier for lawmakers to check if they have made such contributions.

However, J. Keith Kennedy, a Republican who lobbies on appropriations issues, said he was happy to make contributions to lawmakers whom he admires and respects.

Mr. Kennedy, a former staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee, contributed $10,800 to 12 lawmakers in the last six months. Recipients include the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin; Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat who is chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee; and Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the senior Republican on the subcommittee.

Linda H. Daschle, a top aviation lobbyist, reported $29,000 of contributions in the last six months. These include $1,000 each to lawmakers with a decisive say on aviation policy: Representative James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and chairwoman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation.

Mrs. Daschle gave $12,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is trying to elect more Democrats to the Senate, where her husband, Tom Daschle, was once the majority leader. He is now a top adviser to Mr. Obama. Her clients include American Airlines, Boeing and L-3 Communications, a major military contractor.


Lobbyists J. Keith Kennedy, top, and Linda H. Daschle have given to the campaigns of various lawmakers.

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