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Monday, August 4, 2008

If Obama's A Celebrity, What's McCain?

Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain talks to David Lettermen on the Late Show with David Letterman, Tuesday April 1, 2008 on the CBS Television Network. (CBS/John Paul Filo)

If Barack Obama gave new meaning to the term “political celebrity,” then John McCain helped define it.

He emerged as the most popular Republican in Hollywood following his 2000 presidential primary defeat, winning more screen time than the rest of Congress combined. McCain made cameos in “Wedding Crashers” and “24,” saw his memoir turned into a popular biopic on A&E, and appeared more than 30 times on late night comedy shows.

So this week, when McCain cast Obama’s celebrity as a disqualifier, it seemed like a curious turn.

Just one day before McCain released an advertisement interspersing pictures of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears with footage of Obama addressing 200,000 people in Berlin, actor Jon Voight told Variety that McCain had “many great, intelligent, talented Academy-winning actors standing by, awaiting a major press conference to show their support.”

“[The ad] is a bit ironic given that McCain has been the most pop-culture savvy Republican candidate in quite some time,” said Ted Johnson, managing editor of Variety and editor of the blog Wilshire and Washington, which monitors the intersection of celebrity and politics.

The McCain campaign continued to hammer at Obama on Friday with the release of a very sarcastic Web ad that at one point cuts to an image of Charlton Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea before posing the question: “Barack Obama may be The One, but is he ready to lead?”

The Spears-Hilton ad hits a similar note, describing Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world.”
The Republican National Committee piled on, launching a Web site Friday called Who Said It? Celebrity Edition that features a multiple-choice quiz in which people must identify whether Obama or a celebrity made certain, often vacuous, statements.

It’s a striking line of attack for McCain, who’s accepted without complaint the “celebrity” epithet from journalists for four decades.

“John’s been a celebrity ever since he was shot down,” former McCain strategist John Weaver told The Atlantic earlier this week, “whatever that means.”

Yet, like the way fresh starlets push aside aging actors, political hot shots from years past (think former President Bill Clinton, often described as a “rock star” in his day) have been overshadowed by the newest crop of talent in this election year. This sort of churning is typical during presidential campaigns, said Matt Bennett, communications director for Gen. Wesley Clark’s 2004 presidential campaign and co-founder of Third Way, a progressive policy group.

“McCain was famous for a politician,” Bennett said. “Obama has almost transcended that, and has become famous as a famous person which is why they are comparing him to Paris Hilton.”

Since 2000, Bennett went on, McCain has enjoyed “enough fame and authority and celebrity” to aid candidates and organizations with ads that simply involve him speaking into a camera.

McCain started on the public stage with the pedigree of a family whose name graces a naval ship and a Mississippi National Guard training center.

With his father serving as a top admiral, John McCain first became a household name when he was captured in Vietnam, and even more of one upon his release five years later. The New York Times featured him on its front page. He wrote an acclaimed 12,000-word, first person account for U.S. News and World Report. President Richard Nixon feted him.

Hollywood warmed to him in 2000 as he ran against one of its least favorite people, George W. Bush. He endeared himself with liberals, including Warren Beatty, by taking unconventional stances for a Republican presidential candidate, such as favoring campaign finance reform and challenging the Christian right. His open-door approach with journalists made him the darling of the media elite.

“You can definitely makes the case that McCain stands out among Republicans for his associations with Hollywood and his celebrity status,” Johnson said. “The fact that he was in ‘Wedding Crashers,’ it underscores the fact that he does have a lot of friends in the entertainment industry that Bush can’t claim.”

In the years that followed, he became a near-regular on the late-night comedy circuit, appearing eight times on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," 12 times on the "Late Show with David Letterman," 10 times on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and three times on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," according to imdb.com.

He hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2002. "Faith of My Fathers" pulled in 3.7 million viewers on A&E in 2005, making it the network’s most popular program in over a year. He appeared on “24” in 2006.

And he made a brief cameo in “Wedding Crashers,” offering congratulations to the father of the bride, a senator played by Christopher Walken.

As a then-likely Republican presidential candidate, McCain’s appearance in the film stirred a mini-controversy when the Drudge Report labeled it a “boob raunch fest.” But McCain laughed it off - during a visit on Leno’s show.

“In Washington, I work with boobs every day,” McCain joked.

McCain has received support this year from boldfaced names such as SNL creator Lorne Michaels and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. But the Republican's circle is far smaller than the one around Obama, and less robust than 2000, when lifelong Democrats including Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas signed checks for McCain.

So far, Obama has raised $4.7 million from the movie, television and music industry, while McCain has received $815,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance group.

A liberal blog noted this week that the McCain campaign had scrubbed its website of an Associated Press story from last year that described him as a “political celebrity.”

Dismissing claims circulating in the liberal blogosphere, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the article was removed as part of routine housecleaning of the website several weeks ago.

But Rogers skirted the question Friday of whether he considered his candidate a political celebrity.

“John McCain is a widely respected and admired political leader in our country and the world,” Rogers said, adding that Obama is in a “different stratosphere.”

“Who else could get 200,000 people in Berlin? Those aren’t voters. Those are fans.”

The campaign, he added, was not attempting to make “celebrity” a pejorative term. “It is not a dirty word,” he said of the spot that juxtaposes Obama with Britney and Paris, calls him “the biggest celebrity in the world” and then asks, “but is he ready to lead?”

“We are celebrating his fame,” Rogers went on, “and the reality that this guy has entered Tom Cruise-type of fame.”

Bennett said the heightened sensitivity around "celebrity" was unlikely to cause a full-scale pull back from the entertainment industry by either candidate.

Indeed, on Friday night in Panama City, Fla., McCain basked in the glow of Nashville - not Hollywood - as country singer John Rich of the duo Big and Rich hosted a "Country First" concert for the presumptive nominee and debuted a new song: "Raising McCain."

Obama’s star even shines in Nashville, though - last year “Big” Kenny Alphin, the other half of the act, contributed $2300 to the Obama campaign.

Topless Women, Kid Rock, Bikers, And John McCain

The town of Sturgis, South Dakota will witness, on Monday, the rare fusion of drunken debauchery, public stripteasing, motorcycle rallying, a live performance by Kid Rock, and - last but not least - a veterans-themed speech by presidential candidate John McCain. Seriously.

On Sunday, the McCain campaign announced that the Senator will participate in the Sturgis Rally 2008 at Buffalo Chip in South Dakota, an annual tribute to American veterans. The event is up the Arizona Republican's wheelhouse, attracting thousands of active duty and former servicemen, many who have a natural affinity towards the Senator.

But it is hard not to notice the evocative, non-political sideshows that will literally surround McCain's speech. As the presumptive nominee takes the stage, the "Ringin' Wet & Wild" women's wrestling event will be taking place on the main amphitheater. Two hours before then, the "Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Pageant - Bikinis on the Beach" will be staged at a different venue. That affair is described by ESPN's Jim Caple as "essentially a topless beauty pageant. And occasionally bottomless, too."

"During a drenching rain Wednesday night, the contest broke up into smaller groups and one woman wound up dancing naked on a bar top. Her boyfriend/husband saw her and angrily dragged her away as she struggled to put her pants back on and muttered something about how, "It's only this one week a year.""

How sweet. Sadly, the pageant also sees its share of domestic abuse, which even the event's organizers admit to Caple is a major problem.

Following McCain's speech, country stars Kellie Pickler and Kid Rock will be taking the very same stage for their own live performances. Then at 12:30 a.m., there will be the semi-finals of the "Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Pageant," this time featuring Hawaiian Tropic Models.

The cultural crossroads that is the Sturgis Rally could actually be fertile political ground for the Republican presidential nominee. Hosted in a town of 5,500, the event sees upward of half a million bikers over the course of a week. Many of them, the founder of the campground is quoted as saying, have expressed interest in seeing the Senator, whose POW background makes him a fan favorite. How the religious right will react is a whole other bag.

Original here

Sole Black Reporter Booted from McCain Event

Tallahassee Democrat senior writer Stephen Price was singled outand asked to leave the area reserved for media at a rally for John McCain in Panama City, Florida, on Friday. He had showed his media credentials and employee i.d. in order to enter the area when a member of McCain's security detail asked him to leave.

"I explained I was with the state press, but the Secret Service man said that didn't matter and that I would have to go," Price said.

When another reporter asked why Price was being removed, she too was led out of the area. Other state reporters remained.

Price was the only black reporter among those surrounding McCain's bus ... was he being "profiled"?

Tallahassee Democrat Executive Editor Bob Gabordi said the incident was unwarranted.

"We're deeply concerned and disturbed that our reporter — of all of those in that area — was asked to move," Gabordi said. "My understanding is that Stephen was the only reporter approached and asked to leave the area, and the only reporter in that area who is black. Another reporter who stood up for Stephen was then asked to leave."

Jonathan Block of the McCain campaign, who was not there at the time of the incident, expressed regret, but stated,

"I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that race had nothing to do with it."

Block said the area where Price was standing was restricted to members of the traveling national press corps that accompanies McCain on the campaign trail.

Wow. Really. There's this story line going around that McCain loves to be "unscripted" and was always wandering into unprepared situations, giving the impression of "getting down to the people." Why was the black man singled out? And then why was the other reporter ousted for defending him? Why couldn't they simply tell them right then and there that this area is restricted to press that travels with McCain, if that was, in fact, true???

UPDATE: The next line from the Tallahassee Democrat is:

"At the end of the day, your reporter was in the wrong place. I do not know why the other reporters were not moved. The rest of the local press should have been moved as well," Block said.

Which looks like the McCain campaign's excuse strategy, and typical of such things for him. OK, it was just one of those things. But why does this happen now, this way, why always something against blacks? It both excuses and points out the issues in this incident.

I'm sure McCain really needs this sort of stuff to keep those "swing voters" wondering. First, he backs a bill in Arizona that would wipe out affirmative action as "quotas", a "reverse racism"-style proposition, to coddle the right-wing racist White First bloc. Then he accuses Obama of racism for mentioning in passing something that could be construed to mean Obama is black. And if McCain infers that he is older, we're supposed to accuse him of "age-ism", right? Now, his security detail is weeding out "suspects"??

And this isn't the first weird incident with McCain's security. Here you can check out how they kicked a librarian out of a public rally for holding a McCain=Bush sign, and charged her with trespassing.

The event, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, was billed as 'open to the public.' Yet Carole Kreck, a 61-year-old librarian carrying a 'McCain=Bush' sign, was taken away by police [on orders from McCain's security detail] for trespassing. A police officer told Kreck:
'You have two choices. You can keep your sign here and receive a ticket for trespassing, or you can remove the sign and stay in line and attend this town hall meeting.'
Kreck received a ticket for trespassing and her court date is July 23.

Security trumps free speech. Security trumps reporters' access to a candidate. Dissent and being a person of color seem to always land in the world of "security risk". One of the Republicans' biggest ticket issues is "increase Security." It plays to fear. It plays to the military. But, as this incident is a small but notable example, it doesn't play to our higher goals of fairness, openness, and actual freedom (not rhetorical "freedom" as in "freedom fries"). For McCain, it's a pattern he can't break free from. For the rest of us, it's an election we must weigh in on, in historic numbers, for the other, security-by-freedom, not security-vs-freedom, side.

Original here

McCain Lies About His Support For MLK Jr. Day in Arizona

Liar, liar, Grampa McSame pants on fire. Clearly, McCain is not used to the YouTube generation where you can no longer lie without a bunch of bloggers furiously fact-checking. And the facts for McCain, they don’t look so good.

Progressive Accountability:

McCain Defended Opposition Of Federal MLK Holiday By Saying He Supported Arizona’s State Holiday. During a press availability in Panama City, Florida, John McCain said, “I have supported hundreds of pieces of legislation, which would help Americans obtain an equal opportunity in America. I am proud of that record, from fighting for the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in my state to sponsoring specific legislation that would prevent discrimination in any shape or form in America today.” [McCain Press Availability In Panama City, Florida, 8/1/08]

  • FACT: McCain Supported Republican AZ Governor’s Decision To Rescind MLK Holiday. ABC News reported, “In Arizona, a bill to recognize a holiday honoring MLK failed in the legislature, so then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, declared one through executive order. In January 1987, the first act of Arizona’s new governor, Republican Evan Mecham, was to rescind the executive order by his predecessor to create an MLK holiday. Arizona’s stance became a national controversy. McCain backed the decision at the time.” [ABC News, 4/3/08]
  • FACT: McCain Supported Gov. Evan Mecham’s Decision In 1987 To Rescind Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, “In a vote likely to haunt him for the rest of his public career, McCain voted against 1983 legislation establishing the third Monday in January as the federal holiday marking King’s birthday. Back home in Arizona, he supported Gov. Evan Mecham’s decision in 1987 to rescind an executive order creating a state holiday for King, but later reversed his position.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/16/08]
  • FACT: McCain Voted Against Creating Martin Luther King Holiday. In 1983, McCain voted against a motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill to designate the third Monday of every January as a federal holiday in honor of the late civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The motion passed 89-77. [HR 3706, Vote 289, 8/2/83; CQ 1983]

He’s tried to back pedal that this was some youthful ignorance on his part, but he was 48 years old when he voted against the MLK holiday. As much as I’d like to characterize 48 as youthful–and trust me, nothing would make me happier, that just isn’t going to fly.

Original here

McCain: The Most Reprehensible Of The Keating Five

The story of "the Keating Five" has become a scandal rivaling Teapot Dome and Watergate

By Tom Fitzpatrick


You're John McCain, a fallen hero who wanted to become president so desperately that you sold yourself to Charlie Keating, the wealthy con man who bears such an incredible resemblance to The Joker.

Obviously, Keating thought you could make it to the White House, too.
He poured $112,000 into your political campaigns. He became your friend. He threw fund raisers in your honor. He even made a sweet shopping-center investment deal for your wife, Cindy. Your father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was cut in on the deal, too.

Nothing was too good for you. Why not? Keating saw you as a prime investment that would pay off in the future.

So he flew you and your family around the country in his private jets. Time after time, he put you up for serene, private vacations at his vast, palatial spa in the Bahamas. All of this was so grand. You were protected from what Thomas Hardy refers to as "the madding crowd." It was almost as though you were already staying at a presidential retreat.

Like the old song, that now seems "Long ago and far away." Since Keating's collapse, you find yourself doing obscene things to save yourself from the Senate Ethics Committee's investigation. As a matter of course, you engage in backbiting behavior that will turn you into an outcast in the Senate if you do survive.

They say that if you put five lobsters into a pot and give them a chance to escape, none will be able to do so before you light the fire. Each time a lobster tries to climb over the top, his fellow lobsters will pull him back down. It is the way of lobsters and threatened United States senators.

And, of course, that's the way it is with the Keating Five. You are all battling to save your own hides. So you, McCain, leak to reporters about who did Keating's bidding in pressuring federal regulators to change the rules for Lincoln Savings and Loan.

When the reporters fail to print your tips quickly enough--as in the case of your tip on Michigan Senator Donald Riegle--you call them back and remind them how important it is to get that information in the newspapers.

The story of "the Keating Five" has become a scandal rivaling Teapot Dome and Watergate. The outcome will be decided, not in a courtroom, but probably on national television.

Those who survive will be the sociopaths who can tell a lie with the most sincere, straight face. You are especially adept at this.

Last Friday night, on The John McLaughlin Show, which features well-known Washington journalists, the subject of the Keating Five was discussed. Panelist Jack Germond suggested that three of the Keating Five were probably already through in politics.

So you spend your days desperately trying to make sure you will be one of the survivors. You keep volunteering to go on radio and television stations to protest your innocence. Last week you made ABC's Nightline. Not long before that you somehow managed to get James Kilpatrick, the national columnist, to write a favorable paragraph about you. Last Sunday morning, you made it to national television again; this time on ABC's This Week With David Brinkley. You smiled at the panel with your usual studied insouciance. Sitting next to you was Senator John Glenn of Ohio.

Brinkley, Sam Donaldson, and George Will were the interrogators.
It was a sobering scene. There you sat with Glenn, both sweating before the cameras, waiting to answer questions: two badly tarnished American icons. No one forgets that Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. You won't let anyone forget that you were a prisoner of war. But you have played that tune too long. By now your constant reminders about your war record make you seem like a modern version of Arthur Miller's tragic failure Willy Loman.

Clearly, both you and Glenn sold your fame for Charles Keating's money. It was a Faustian bargain. It was also a bad joke on the rest of us and a disaster for many old people who lost their life's savings to Keating.

The money was never really Keating's to give. But he never would have got his hands on it if you and the rest of the Keating Five didn't halt the government takeover for two long years while Keating's people continued their looting.

And now, the tab for the Savings and Loan heist must be paid from taxpayer pockets.

On Sunday, Senators Dennis DeConcini, Alan Cranston, and Riegle refused offers to appear on the Brinkley show. What must we make of that?

You, the closest of them to Keating and the deepest in his debt, have chosen the path of the hard sell. You may even make it out of the pot, but to many, your protestations of innocence taste like gall.

You are determined to bluff your way. You will stick to your story that you were acting to help a constituent and intended to do nothing improper. The very fact you attended the meeting makes you guilty, just as every man who entered the Brinks vault went to prison.

You insist that an accounting firm Keating hired told you Lincoln was sound. Alan Greenspan, who Keating also hired, wrote a report saying it was sound. Why shouldn't you believe the people Keating hired? You were, after all, fellow employees.

Perhaps you might silence your own conscience about all this someday.
Just keep telling everyone that it was your wife's money invested in that shopping center with Keating and that you knew nothing about it. Keep saying that cynical newspaper people don't understand that every move you make has always been for the enrichment of Arizona . . . the education of our Native Americans on the reservations . . . for the love of the elderly in Sun City and Green Valley.

Keep telling them that it wasn't that you were bought off but that Charlie Keating got special help only because he was one of the biggest employers in the state.

Just keep sitting there and staring into the camera and denying that Keating bought you for money and jet plane trips and vacations.

So what if he gave you $112,000? Just keep smiling at the cameras and saying you did nothing wrong.

Maybe the voters will understand you took those tiring trips to Charlie's place in the Bahamas in their behalf. Certainly, they can understand you wanted to take your family along. A senator deserves to travel on private jets, removed from the awful crush of public transportation.

You sought out a master criminal like Keating and became his friend. Now you've discarded him. It shouldn't be surprising that you are now in the process of selling out your senatorial accomplices.

You're John McCain, clearly the guiltiest, most culpable and reprehensible of the Keating Five. But you know the power of television and you realize this is the only way you can possibly save your political career.

Original here

Obama camp responds: 'sad...juvenile antics'

Barack Obama's campaign responded sharply to a new McCain webad depicting Obama as a parody of a biblical prophet.

"It’s downright sad that on a day when we learned that 51,000 Americans lost their jobs, a candidate for the presidency is spending all of his time and the powerful platform he has on these sorts of juvenile antics," said spokesman Hari Sevugan. "Senator McCain can keep telling everyone how ‘proud’ he is of these political stunts which even his Republican friends and advisors have called ‘childish’, but Barack Obama will continue talking about his plan to jumpstart our economy by giving working families $1,000 of immediate relief."

The ad, released only on the Internet, is the latest in a series mocking the Democratic nominee.

"It should be known that in 2008 the world shall be blessed," begins the ad's deep-voiced narrator. Later, Obama emerges Godlike from the clouds.

The ad quotes Obama in both serious riffs telling a crowd "we are the ones we've been waiting for"; and in a sarcastic one, joking to an audience, "You will experience an epiphany and you will say to yourself, 'I have to vote for Barack.'"

The ad then shows Obama expressing his hope that America will look back at the 2008 election as the beginning of the end of global warming. The ad then cuts to an image a Charlton Heston, as Moses, parting the Red Sea, before concluding:

"Barack Obama may be The One, but is he ready to lead?"

Obama's campaign responded to McCain's webad after sending out a separate statement from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, whom McCain had praised in a speech at the Urban League today.

"In yet another dishonest attack at the Urban League, Senator McCain misled the American people about Senator Obama's record and his own," Booker, an Obama supporter, said, praising Obama's support for charter schools in Illinois, and attacking McCain's opposition to spending on a range of education programs.

"With that kind of track record, Senator McCain should be the last person lecturing Senator Obama about a commitment to quality education for our nation's children," he said.

Original here

McCain Mocked Idea of Obama on U.S. Currency...in JUNE

Andrew Sullivan, Chris Bodenner, and Eli Sanders all note that the McCain campaign's strategy on race is to (a) play the race card and then (b) accuse Obama of having played the race card.

The issue here, of course, is that John McCain claimed great umbrage at Barack Obama's lighthearted comment that Bush and McCain would emphasize that "he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

But if John McCain thinks that comment was playing the race card, then why did he play it first? One month ago -- in late June -- a McCain ad superimposed Obama's visage on a one hundred dollar bill as part of an effort to mock his supposed 'presumptuousness.'

McCain attack ad, released June 27, 2008:


YouTube link

(Side note: As you can see, the video's still image is of Obama on currency. Note that the image doesn't occur until about three-quarters of the way through the video. The way YouTube works, the default image occurs at the midpoint. In other words, McCain's campaign affirmatively choose this image.)

So let's just be clear: John McCain is injecting race into this the campaign, and he's doing so to serve his own political ambitions. As Chuck Todd says: "Anytime race is THE topic du jour in the campaign, it's a bad day for Obama. Period." And Josh Marshall adds, it's McCain's "only chance."

John McCain understands this is the only way he can win, and that's why he's playing this card, from allegations of reverse racism to transparent attempts to make Barack Obama seem "foreign."

Original here

McCain: racist, bigot & homophobe

John McCain, a member of the House of Representatives in the mid-1980s, often held court at a table near the bar at Bullfeathers, a popular Capitol Hill watering hole, telling jokes and matching hangers-on drink by drink.

As a Capitol Hill chief of staff, I often drank at Bullfeathers and was invited to join the throng at McCain's table one evening. A few minutes listening to the racism, bigotry and homophobia of the Arizona Congressman told me all I needed to know.

McCain loved to tell jokes about lesbians, blacks, Hispanics and the Vietnamese community that occupied a large section of Arlington County, Virginia, just south of the District of Columbia.

Of course, McCain didn't use polite language in the jokes: He used names like "fags" or "queers" or "dykes" or "niggers" or "spics" or "wetbacks" or "gooks."

A typical McCain joke (overheard at Bullfeathers):

Two dykes are talking at a bar and one leaves. As she walks toward the door, the other watches her leave and says out loud: "God, I've love to eat her out."

Two men are standing near by and one turns to the other and says: "I'd like to do the same. Guess that makes me a dyke."

Or another (also overheard at Bullfeathers):

Question: Why does Mexican beer have two "X's" on the label?

Answer: Because wetbacks always need a co-signer.

(McCain has a documented history of lesbian jokes. He's also come under fire for other jokes about rape.)

Exampe:

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?

Because Janet Reno is her father.

Another example:

Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, ‘Where is that marvelous ape?’

When he ran for the Senate, I attended a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy:

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I'll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won't give it a second thought.

McCain's so-called sense of humor has no limits when it comes to simple human decency. Shortly after former President Ronald Reagan announced he had Alzheimer's Disease, McCain told this joke at a GOP Fundraiser:

Do you know the best thing about having Alzheimer's?

You get to hide your own Easter eggs.

Even his wife is not immune. Writes Cliff Schecter in his book, The Real John McCain:

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.

This is the man the Republican Party thinks should be the next President of the United States. What else should we expect from a party that promotes racism, homophobia and discrimination against anyone with a different skin color, sexual orientation or ethnic origin?

So we shouldn't be surprised that McCain's campaign strategy seeks to raise racial fear about Barack Obama, the first African-American with a serious shot at the Presidency of the United States.

John McCain is a racist: Always has been, always will be. A retired Naval officer who says he served with McCain in the Navy says he treated black sailors with disrespect and scorn. McCain refuses to release his detailed military record and some sources say that record includes incidents that include issues with black sailors.

Such attitudes are part of his family history. As noted by a black poster in Talking Points Memo:

I can't love America the same way John McCain does. When his daddy was Admiral, my daddy was mopping floors. And when his granddaddy was Admiral, all the Blacks in the entire Navy were mopping floors. But they still volunteered and went to war, even when their commanders didn't think they were brave enough to fight. So who loves America more? The cook on the ship who couldn't vote in 15 states, or the Admiral who dined on the meals he slaved over?

McCain's collection of off-color jokes are riddled with racist words and sentiments. Advisors have toned down the raunchy rhetoric of his early years in Congress but close aides say his attitudes have not changed.

McCain opposed making the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King a national holiday. During his 2000 campaign for President, he told reporters on his "Straight Talk Express: "I hated the gooks (North Vietnamese). I will hate them as long as I live."

Katie Hong of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who reported the remark, wrote:

It is offensive because by using a racial epithet that has historically been used to demean all Asians to describe his captors, McCain failed to make a distinction between his torturers and an entire racial group.

It is alarming because a major candidate for president publicly used a racial epithet, refused to apologize for doing so and remains a legitimate contender.

For his 2000 campaign for President, McCain hired Richard Quinn, founder and editor in chief of Southern Heritage Magazine, to serve as his spokesman in South Carolina.

Notes Salon.Com:

Quinn's articles have called Nelson Mandela a "terrorist" and King a man "whose role in history was to lead his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state, a terrible bondage of body and soul." In another piece, Quinn said of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, "What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke?" though he did condemn Duke's bigotry.

Irwin A. Tank, author of Gook: John McCain's Racism, notes a long and sordid history of racism from the presumptive GOP nominee, including:

  • McCain's use of the anti-Asian slur "gook" publicly for 27 years before dropping the use for his current Presidential run;
  • McCain's endorsement of George Wallace Jr., a frequent speaker at white supremacist events;
  • His vote against establishing a holiday for Martin Luther King's birthday and then another vote to rescind the holiday.
  • In answering a question about divorced fathers and child support, McCain called the children "tar babies."

The list goes on and on.

What else do you expect from a racist, bigot and homophobe?

Original here

WSJ: Obama May Be Too Thin To Be President

The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick warns Barack Obama of another potentially elitist personal trait -- he's too thin:

Speaking to donors at a San Diego fund-raiser last month, Barack Obama reassured the crowd that he wouldn't give in to Republican tactics to throw his candidacy off track.


"Listen, I'm skinny but I'm tough," Sen. Obama said.

But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.

The candidate has been criticized by opponents for appearing elitist or out of touch with average Americans. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July shows Sen. Obama still lags behind Republican John McCain among white men and suburban women who say they can't relate to his background or perceived values.

Original here

50% Don’t Think Obama or McCain Can Lower Gas Prices

Rachel Maddow Leads Chorus Of Truth On 'Presumptuous' Accusation

Lots of commenters last night were asking for clips of Rachel Maddow and Michael Smerconish hailing down a rain of ownage on Pat Buchanan, so why not indulge them? At issue was Dana Milbank's article in yesterday's Washington Post, that "reported" on Barack Obama's "presumptuousness." Maddow was invited to take the matter on, and she led with this statement, "This issue is weird when you look at the facts on which it is based."

And she couldn't be more right! As I endeavored to explain yesterday, Milbank's Obama-is-presumptuous thesis was basically underpinned by nonsense: a laundry list of thoroughly commonplace activities that all presidential candidates engage in, coupled with a quote from the candidate that Milbank a) didn't hear, and yet b) sliced up into hash, anyway, transforming a humble statement into a self-aggrandizing one.

Pat Buchanan basically showed up for the show under the impression that Milbank's article was faithfully reported, and attempted to read Milbank's incorrect quote into the record. But Maddow wasn't having it:

BUCHANAN: Look, Rachel said there was humility, real humility here. Let me read his direct quote according to Dana Millbank. He's telling the Congressional guys, "This is the moment the world is waiting for. I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best tradition." Upon what meat has this our Caesar fed? He's sounding like America's hot dog.


MADDOW: The issue is that quote has been disproved today! That quote has been contradicted by multiple other sources, talking to Time Magazine, talking with other reporters, explaining...he did not say that at all.

GREGORY: Let me break in. Smerc, you're coming. Let me break in with what the actual quote is. The Politico reported on this. This is what Obama actually said according the the Politico: "It's becoming increasingly clear, in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, it's not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol." Smerc.

SMERCONISH: All right. Nobody was in a room from a journalistic standpoint when that statement was offered, but, The New York Times - I'm amazed that no one has brought this up so far - June 4, 2008, a direct quote from Senator Obama, "I love when I'm shaking hands on a rope line and I see a little old white lady and a big burly black guy and Latino girls and all their hands are entwined, and they are feeding on each other as much as on me. It's like I'm just the excuse." In other words, he's said it before, in the proper context. It's a feel good statement about the country and what he represents. We don't have to debate what he said behind closed doors because we have him on the record. And giving him the benefit of the doubt, he said the same thing yesterday that he told the Times on this day.

MADDOW: Which I would argue is a symbol of humility and not hubris. But people want to run with the hubris line.

[WATCH.]

It was a beautiful piece of work, but I want to add a dose of caution and attention, here, because after Buchanan had been beated all about the skull on this matter, he fell back on a line he had already advanced earlier in the show:

BUCHANAN: Everybody that's critical of Obama when he's in a rough patch. He's respending with angry ads that show the attacks are working.

Buchanan had leveled this comment at Maddow earlier in the show, suggesting that the very fact that the Obama campaign was compelled to respond -- and the very fact that Maddow had even reacted with objection -- was proof that the McCain attacks were "working." In other words, McCain wins if Obama even fights back! Watch closely, as this becomes part of the toxic conventional wisdom.

Original here

FBI seizes local Md. library computers

The FBI removed computer records from the C. Burr Artz Library this week, a library official confirmed Saturday.

Darrell Batson, director of Frederick County Public Libraries, said two FBI employees came to the downtown Frederick library either Wednesday or Thursday. The agents removed two public computers from the library's second floor. They told him they were taking the units back to their office in Washington, D.C., Batson said.

Batson expected the computers would be returned early this week, he said.

Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, would not comment Saturday on whether the agency had removed records from the library.

This was the third time in his 10 years with FCPL that the FBI has come to the library seeking records, Batson said. It was the first time they came without a court order.

The library's procedure for such requests usually requires a court order, however after the agent described the case and the situation, he was persuaded to give them access, Batson said.

"They had an awful lot of information," he said, but he was not allowed to discuss specifics.

"It was a decision I made on my experience and the information given to me," he said.

C. Burr Artz Library has several dozen public computers. The agents seemed to know which ones they needed access to, he said.

Anyone with a library card and a PIN number can use FCPL computers. Without a library card, a person can get a temporary pass to go online.

Batson said the agents made no mention of Bruce Ivins, anthrax or Fort Detrick.

"Obviously it coincided with the events everyone is talking about," he said.

(Copyright 2008 The Frederick News-Post. All rights reserved.)

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8 years ago today: Bush pledged to ‘uphold the honor and dignity of the office.’

bush.jpgEight years ago today, President Bush delivered his acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention. John Perr notes this pledge from Bush:

So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.

In the speech, Bush also said, “A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.” (The picture on the right is of Bush shaking hands with McCain at the conclusion of the 2000 RNC Convention.)

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McCain's Celebrity Ad: Frivolous, A Waste Of Money, A Waste Of Time

Kathy Hilton

I've been asked again and again for my response to the now infamous McCain celebrity ad. I actually have three responses. It is a complete waste of the money John McCain's contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country's time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States.

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Obama Opens the Door to Offshore Drilling

By Jonathan Weisman
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sen. Barack Obama suggested he could accept an expansion of offshore oil drilling today if it is in a broader package of energy measures that would free the logjam on energy bills in Congress.

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.

"If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage -- I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

Republicans have consistently said they could craft legislation that would expand oil exploration on the outer continental shelf without jeopardizing delicate shoreline habitats. But Democratic leaders in Congress have been ardently opposed. Environmental groups, a key constituency, have been unyielding in their opposition.

Instead, Democrats crafted a rhetorical answer to the GOP's drilling campaign, calling on the oil companies to begin oil drilling on the millions of acres both on and offshore that have already been leased to them but remain untapped. Obama has taken up that line as part of his standard stump speech.

But with rising gasoline prices, polls indicate the voters are increasingly with the Republicans, even here in Florida, where opposition to offshore drilling has always been strong. McCain switched his own position on the issue, and recently brought along with him Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been opposed.

Now Obama opened the door to his own shift.

"The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling," Obama said in the Post interview. "And so we don't want gridlock. We want to get something done."

Obama, through his Senate office, issued a written statement welcoming a proposal sent to Senate leaders Friday by 10 senators -- five from each party -- that would lift drilling bans in the eastern Gulf of Mexico within 50 miles of Florida's beaches and in the South Atlantic off Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, but only if a state agrees to the oil and gas development along its coast. The states would share in revenues from oil and gas development.
Drilling bans along the Pacific coast and the Northeast would remain in place under this compromise.

The compromise "would repeal tax breaks for oil companies so that we can invest billions in fuel-efficient cars, help our automakers re-tool, and make a genuine commitment to renewable sources of energy like wind power, solar power, and the next generation of clean, affordable biofuels," Obama noted.

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Senate bill would restrict Bush from secret executive orders

The President will no longer be able to change published executive orders in secret if a bill introduced to the Senate Thursday becomes law.

Sen. Russ Feingold, shown above, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sponsored the bill as a response to an unreleased statement from the Justice Department Office of Legal Council that the President can alter or deviate from a previous executive order without public or Congressional knowledge.

Whitehouse quoted the department's opinion during a speech about the "second-rate piece of legislation" known as the FISA bill, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new Executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous Executive order. Rather than violate an Executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it."

This means the President could extend his powers beyond the laws that restrict the executive branch without the public knowing.

In order to disallow the President from doing so, Feingold and Whitehouse created the Executive Order Integrity Act of 2008.

"No one disputes that a President can withdraw or revise an Executive Order at any time," Feingold said as he introduced the bill Thursday. "But abrogating a published Executive order without any public notice works a secret change in the law."

"Because the published Order stays on the books, it actively misleads Congress and the public as to what the law is," he said.

Feingold said the new bill would eliminate that problem by requiring a notice of any change within 30 days, though it "does not require the publication of any classified information."

"On rare occasions, national security can justify elected officials keeping some information secret," he said, "but it can never justify lying to the American people about what the law is. Maintaining two different sets of laws, one public and one secret, is just that -- deceiving the American people about what law applies to the government's conduct."

Feingold spoke out against the FISA bill earlier this month, trying to convince fellow congressmen that it would make it more difficult to hold the President "accountable."

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Kucinich seeks to bar US oil firms from Iraq

Nick Juliano

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has introduced a measure that would bar US oil companies from receiving contracts in Iraq.

The Ohio Democrat, who believes exploiting Iraq's massive oil reserves was the primary reason we invaded, introduced a measure he says aims to keep Iraq's oil wealth within the country.

“Iraq needs oil revenue now more than ever as they try to rebuild their country,” Kucinich said Thursday, unveiling the Oil for Iraq Liberation Act.

Kucinich noted Congress recently required Iraq to match US investments in the country's reconstruction, and he implied that Iraq's ability to contribute to its reconstruction was damaged because of its reliance on oil revenues.

"The invasion of Iraq was about oil, but it didn’t result in more oil or cheaper gas," Kucinich said on the House Floor. "It resulted in war profiteering by oil companies who benefited by keeping Iraqi oil off the market."

Recent reports have indicated that big oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, BP, Total and Shell are set to receive lucrative no-bid contracts to explore in Iraq.

It's unclear what effect, if any, Kucinich's proposal would have on companies like the former British Petroleum, which is headquartered in London; Total, based in Paris; or Royal Dutch Shell, headquartered in The Hague. Of the companies reportedly in line to receive contracts, only ExxonMobil and Chevron are based in the US, but both operate around the globe.

The State Department last week said its Inspector General would investigate the Iraqi contracts after four Democratic senators said government officials may have intervened to secure the contracts.

The full text of Kucinich's OIL Act had not been posted to the Library of Congress's legislative tracking Web site as of early Friday afternoon.

In his floor speech, he said the bill would "discourage US oil companies from profiting from the war and will stop the further theft of Iraq’s oil resources by the very interests who have profited from the war for oil: the US oil companies."

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Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News

The FBI's lead suspect in the September, 2001 anthrax attacks -- Bruce E. Ivins -- died Tuesday night, apparently by suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to charge him with responsibility for the attacks. For the last 18 years, Ivins was a top anthrax researcher at the U.S. Government's biological weapons research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, where he was one of the most elite government anthrax scientists on the research team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID).

The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax -- sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets -- that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks. This was the letter sent to Brokaw:


The letter sent to Leahy contained this message:

We have anthrax.

You die now.

Are you afraid?

Death to America.

Death to Israel.

Allah is great.

By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources" fed them information that was completely false -- false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein. And look where -- according to Brian Ross' report on October 28, 2001 -- these tests were conducted:

And despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.
Two days earlier, Ross went on ABC News' World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and, as the lead story, breathlessly reported:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere.
Clearly, Ross' allegedly four separate sources had to have some specific knowledge of the tests conducted and, if they were really "well-placed," one would presume that meant they had some connection to the laboratory where the tests were conducted -- Ft. Detrick. That means that the same Government lab where the anthrax attacks themselves came from was the same place where the false reports originated that blamed those attacks on Iraq.

It's extremely possible -- one could say highly likely -- that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain -- as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax -- is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s).

Seven years later, it's difficult for many people to recall, but, as I've amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and anthrax penetrated very deeply -- by design -- into our public discourse and into the public consciousness. Those reports were absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this country. As but one example: after Ross' lead report on the October 26, 2001 edition of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings claiming that the Government had found bentonite, this is what Jennings said into the camera:

This news about bentonite as the additive being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun.
That's exactly what happened. The Weekly Standard published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report -- insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks. In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:
On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give credit to the ABC website, ABCNews.com, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type -- is behind the germ warfare.
The Weekly Standard published a much lengthier and more dogmatic article in April, 2002 again pushing the ABC "bentonite" claims and arguing: "There is purely circumstantial though highly suggestive evidence that might seem to link Iraq with last fall's anthrax terrorism." The American Enterprise Institute's Laurie Mylroie (who had an AEI article linking Saddam to 9/11 ready for publication at the AEI on September 13) expressly claimed in November, 2001 that "there is also tremendous evidence that subsequent anthrax attacks are connected to Iraq" and based that accusation almost exclusively on the report from ABC and Ross ("Mylroie: Evidence Shows Saddam Is Behind Anthrax Attacks").

And then, when President Bush named Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech -- just two months after ABC's report, when the anthrax attacks were still very vividly on the minds of Americans -- he specifically touted this claim:

The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
Bush's invocation of Iraq was the only reference in the State of the Union address to the unsolved anthrax attacks. And the Iraq-anthrax connection was explicitly made by the President at a time when, as we now know, he was already eagerly planning an attack on Iraq.

There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks -- accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News and Brian Ross -- played a very significant role in how Americans perceived of the Islamic threat generally and Iraq specifically. As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":

I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.
Cohen -- in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq -- disclosed this:
Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore -- at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to be afraid.

The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.

For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same. Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .

In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed -- no more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk -- the anthrax letters started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to "them," whoever "they" were, grab them by the neck, and get them before they could get us. One of "them" was Saddam Hussein. He had messed around with anthrax . . . He was a nasty little fascist, and he needed to be dealt with.

That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in Iraq.

Cohen's mental process that led him to link anthrax to Iraq and then to support an attack on Iraq, warped as it is, was extremely common. Having heard ABC News in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack flamboyantly and repeatedly link Saddam to the anthrax attacks, followed by George Bush's making the same linkage (albeit more subtly) in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech, much of the public had implanted into their minds that Saddam Hussein was not just evil, but a severe threat to the U.S., likely the primary culprit behind the anthrax attacks. All along, though, the anthrax came from a U.S. Government/Army research lab.

Critically, ABC News never retracted its story (they merely noted, as they had done from the start, that the White House denied the reports). And thus, the linkage between Saddam and the anthrax attacks -- every bit as false as the linkage between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks -- persisted.

We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government -- from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.

Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside of the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.

ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.

They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.

UPDATE: One other fact to note here is how bizarrely inept the effort by the Bush DOJ to find the real attacker has been. Extremely suspicious behavior from Ivins -- including his having found and completely cleaned anthrax traces on a co-worker's desk at the Ft. Detrick lab without telling anyone that he did so and then offering extremely strange explanations for why -- was publicly reported as early as 2004 by The LA Times (Ivins "detected an apparent anthrax leak in December 2001, at the height of the anthrax mailings investigation, but did not report it. Ivins considered the problem solved when he cleaned the affected office with bleach").

In October 2004, USA Today reported that Ivins was involved in another similar incident, in April of 2002, when Ivins performed unauthorized tests to detect the origins of more anthrax residue found at Ft. Detrick. Yet rather than having that repeated, strange behavior lead the FBI to discover that he was involved in the attacks, there was a very public effort -- as Atrios notes here -- to blame the attacks on Iraq and then, ultimately, to blame Steven Hatfill. Amazingly, as Atrios notes here, very few people other than "a few crazy bloggers are even interested" in finding out what happened here and why -- at least to demand that ABC News report the vital information that it already has that will shed very significant light on much of this.

UPDATE II: Ivins' local paper, Frederick News in Maryland, has printed several Letters to the Editor written by Ivins over the years. Though the underlying ideology is a bit difficult to discern, he seems clearly driven by a belief in the need for Christian doctrine to govern our laws and political institutions, with a particular interest in Catholic dogma. He wrote things like this:

Today we frequently admonish people who oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide or capital punishment to keep their religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs to themselves.

Before dispensing such admonishments in the future, perhaps we should gratefully consider some of our country's most courageous, historical figures who refused to do so.

And then there's this rather cryptic message, published in 2006:
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."

By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."

It should be noted that the lawyer who had been representing Ivins in connection with the anthrax investigation categorically maintains Ivins' innocence and attributes his suicide to "the relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo."

On a note related to the main topic of the post, macgupta in comments notes the numerous prominent people in addition to those mentioned here -- including The Wall St. Jorunal Editors and former CIA Director James Woolsey -- who insisted rather emphatically from the beginning of the anthrax attacks that Saddam was likely to blame. Indeed, the WSJ Editorial Page -- along with others on the Right such as Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report and Fox News -- continued even into 2007 to insist that the FBI was erring by focusing on domestic suspects rather than Middle Easterners.

The Nation's Michael Massing noted at the time (in November, 2001) that as a direct result of the anthrax attacks, and the numerous claims insinuating that Iraq was behind them, "the political and journalistic establishment suddenly seems united in wanting to attack Iraq." There has long been an intense desire on the neoconservative Right to falsely link anthrax to Saddam specifically and Muslims generally. ABC News was, and (as a result of its inexcusable silence) continues to be, their best friend.

UPDATE III: See this important point from Atrios about Richard Cohen's admission that he was told before the anthrax attacks happened by a "high government official" to take cipro. Atrios writes: "now that we know that the US gov't believes that anthrax came from the inside, shouldn't Cohen be a wee bit curious about what this warning was based on?"

That applies to much of the Beltway class, including many well-connected journalists, who were quietly popping cipro back then because, like Cohen, they heard from Government sources that they should. Leave aside the ethical questions about the fact that these journalists kept those warnings to themselves. Wouldn't the most basic journalistic instincts lead them now -- in light of the claims by our Government that the attacks came from a Government scientist -- to wonder why and how their Government sources were warning about an anthrax attack? Then again, the most basic journalistic instincts would have led ABC News to reveal who concocted and fed them the false "Saddam/anthrax" reports in the first place, and yet we still are forced to guess at those questions because ABC News continues to cover up the identity of the perpetrators.

UPDATE IV: John McCain, on the David Letterman Show, October 18, 2001 (days before ABC News first broadcast their bentonite report):

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN: I think we're doing fine . . . I think we'll do fine. The second phase -- if I could just make one, very quickly -- the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may -- have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?

MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that's when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.

ThinkProgress has the video. Someone ought to ask McCain what "indication" he was referencing that the anthrax "may have come from Iraq."

After all, three days later, McCain and Joe Lieberman went on Meet the Press (on October 21, 2001) and both strongly suggested that we would have to attack Iraq. Lieberman said that the anthrax was so complex and potent that "there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program."

As I said, it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era. There are few news stories more significant, if there are any, than unveiling who the culprits were behind this deliberate propaganda. The fact that the current GOP presidential nominee claimed back then on national television to have some "indication" linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks makes it a bigger story still.

UPDATE V: I tried to be careful here to avoid accepting as True the matter of Ivins' guilt. Very early on in the article, I framed the analysis this way: "If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab," and I then noted in Update II that Ivins' lawyer vehemently maintains his innocence. My whole point here is that the U.S. Government now claims the anthrax attacks came from a Government scientist at a U.S. Army lab, and my conclusions follow from that premise, accepted as true only for purposes of this analysis.

It's worth underscoring that it is far from clear that Ivins had anything to do with the anthrax attacks, and someone in comments claiming (anonymously though credibly) that he knew Ivins personally asserts that Ivins was innocent and makes the case as to why the Government's accusations are suspect. As I see it, the more doubt there is about who was responsible for the anthrax attacks, the greater is the need for ABC News to reveal who fabricated their reports linking the attacks to Iraq.

UPDATE VI: I'll be on Rachel Maddow's radio show tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST to discuss this story. Local listings and live audio feed are here.

Numerous people have advised me in comments and via email that ABC News is deleting any mention of my piece today in the comment section to their article on the Ivins suicide (though many such comments now seem to be posted there). Last year, ABC was in full denial mode when responding to the stories I wrote about this issue. The key here, I think, will be to try to devise the right strategy to induce the right Congressional Committee to hold hearings on the false ABC News stories and the anthrax issue generally. I hope to have more details on that effort shortly.

Original here

One Month After 9/11, McCain Said Anthrax ‘May Have Come From Iraq,’ Warned Iraq Is ‘The Second Phase’

Today, the LA Times reports that the individual who may have been responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others apparently committed suicide. As Atrios recalls, shortly after 9/11, conservatives were pinning the blame for the anthrax attacks on Iraq, laying the groundwork for a subsequent invasion. John McCain was part of this fearmongering effort.

On October 18, 2001, McCain appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. When asked how the war in Afghanistan was progressing, McCain volunteered that the invasion of Iraq would be the “second phase” of the War on Terror. He preyed on the public’s fear at the time by claiming that the anthrax “may have come from Iraq”:

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN: I think we’re doing fine …. I think we’ll do fine. The second phase — if I could just make one, very quickly — the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?

MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that’s when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.

Watch it:

In the interview McCain tastelessly joked, in reference to the House adjourning until the Capitol could be cleared of the anthrax threat, that Congress members should “bring out their dead!” Less than a week later, two US Postal Service employees working in a facility that sorted mail destined for the Capitol would be dead.

McCain opened the interview by asking Letterman, “What is Osama bin Laden going to be for Halloween?” “Dead!” McCain said, delivering the punchline to his joke. Nearly seven Halloweens later, Osama bin Laden remains alive and free.

Later in the interview, McCain explained his counterterrorism approach: “The more serious these people [terrorists] think we are and believe we are – and we are serious – then I think they might, you know, go back to selling camels or whatever enterprise that they might want to engage in.”

Concluding the interview, McCain warned once again that Iraq was next. “The crunch time will be if – and emphasize if – we have to go after Iraq, and then that coalition could be strained,” he said. “But nothing succeeds like success. … World power politics is very interesting. People are very friendly when they know you’re the most powerful kid on the block.”

Original here

House Dems turn out the lights but GOP keeps talking

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House, turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders opposed the motion to adjourn the House, arguing that Pelosi's refusal to schedule a vote allowing offshore drilling is hurting the American economy. They have refused to leave the floor after the adjournment motion passed at 11:23 a.m., and they are busy bashing Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for leaving town for the August recess.

At one point, the lights went off in the House and the microphones were turned off in the chamber, meaning Republicans were talking in the dark. But as Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz..) was speaking, the lights went back on and the microphones were turned on shortly afterward.

But C-SPAN, which has no control over the cameras in the chamber, has stopped broadcasting the House floor, meaning no one was witnessing this except the assembled Republicans, their aides, and one Democrat, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has now left.

Only about a half-dozen Republicans were on the floor when this began, but the crowd has grown to about 20, according to Patrick O'Connor.

"This is the people's House," said Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.). "This is not Pelosi's politiburo."

Democratic aides were furious at the GOP stunt, and reporters were kicked out of the Speaker's Lobby, the space next to the House floor where they normally interview lawmakers.

"You're not covering this, are you?" complained one senior Democratic aide. Another called the Republicans "morons" for staying on the floor.

Update: The Capitol Police are now trying to kick reporters out of the press gallery above the floor, meaning we can't watch the Republicans anymore. But Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is now in the gallery talking to reporters, so the cops have held off for a minute. Clearly, Democrats don't want Republicans getting any press for this episode. GOP leaders are trying to find other Republicans to rotate in for Blunt so reporters aren't kicked out.

Update 2: This message was sent out by Blunt's office:

"Although this Democrat majority just adjourned for the Democrat 5-week vacation, House Republicans are continuing to fight on the House floor. Although the lights, mics and C-SPAN cameras have been turned off, House Republicans are on the floor speaking to the taxpayers in the gallery who, not surprisingly, agree with Republican energy proposals.

"All Republicans who are in town are encouraged to come to the House floor."

Update 3: Democrats just turned out the lights again. Republicans cheered.

Update 4: Republican leaders just sent out a notice looking for a bullhorn, and leadership aides are trying to corral all the members who are still in town to come speak on the floor and sustain this one-sided debate.

Also, Republicans can thank Shadegg for turning on the microphones the first time. Apparently, the fiesty Arizona conservative started typing random codes into the chamber's public address system and accidentally typed the correct code, allowing Republicans brief access to the microphone before it was turned off again.

"I love this," Shadegg told reporters up in the press gallery afterward. "Congress can be so boring. ... This is a kick."

Original here